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Town Counsel Finds Open Meeting Law Violation Against Selectman

After reviewing an open meeting law complaint, Town Counsel Dick Gelerman believes that Selectman Lorraine Brue did commit an open meeting law violation.

Foxboro Town Hall
Foxboro Town Hall

In the opinion of town counsel, the selectmen should respond to an open meet law complaint filed by a resident.

Addressing one of four alleged open meeting law violations filed by Foxboro resident Heather Harding, town counsel Dick Gelerman said in a letter to Harding that he believed an email sent on Oct. 25 by Selectman Lorraine Brue to the four members of the board and others constituted an open meeting law violation. 

In her complain, Harding claims that the email constituted a violation because it contained deliberations outside a public meeting and contains expression of Brue’s opinions.

The email featured a telephone conference Brue had with Special Counsel David DeLuca in anticipation of the Splitsville liquor license transfer application and a request by Gillette Stadium to expand the footprint of their liquor license to cover the Dana Farber Field House.

While the email was not disclosed or made part of the public record, it was Gelerman’s understanding that the substance of the email was discussed.

“While one could argue that the email constituted a distribution of a report to be discussed at a meeting, i.e., a report on Special Counsel’s research and opinions, we hesitate to make that argument because portions of the email could be constructed to have crossed the line into impermissible deliberations. In some portions of the email, it is unclear which statements are attributable to Attorney DeLuca’s findings and which are Ms. Brue’s interpretations of his statements,” Gelerman said in the letter.

Gelerman goes on to suggest that the most effective and complete way to cure this violation would be to fully disclose the existence of the email and make it part of the record on the application before the Board to which it applies. 

The Attorney General’s office also recommended that the selectmen should publicly read the email into the record.

The selectmen were scheduled to address the accusations of open meeting law violations on Dec. 17 but a snowstorm canceled the meeting and the issue has not been placed on an agenda since.

During last Thursday’s meeting of the selectmen, Selectman Jim DeVellis attempted to get the topic on a future agenda and asked Gelerman if he believed there was an open meeting law violation. Fears from acting town manager Bob Cuter of going off topic and possibly violating the open meeting law prevented that answer.

The town’s official response for the complaints was that there were no violations.

While Town Counsel may believe this is a violation, the opinion does not have a legal impact on the board. The other three accusations are currently being investigated by the Attorney General's office.

Deborah A Stewart January 29, 2014 at 07:10 AM
Thank you Dick and Jim. But it does appear that some on the board will be working behind "smoke and mirrors" for awhile yet or at least till the Atty General comes back with the ruler and slap their hands. BTW, anyone notice some changes to a few noses at the table. Oh Pinocchio you would have thought they would learn their lessons. "Sigh"!
Steve January 29, 2014 at 10:51 AM
Daniel, Your sentence "The town’s official response for the complaints was that there were no violations." is a bit misleading. Yes there were three responses to OML complaints that the town responded were not violations (actually one of those the response was it may have been a violation but it was cured by disclosure during the meeting) but the OML complaint that is the subject of this article, the "official" response from the town is that they believe there WAS an open meeting law violation. So that sentence is a bit misleading.
Steve January 29, 2014 at 10:53 AM
"After reviewing an open meeting law complaint, Town Counsel Dick Gelerman believes that Selectman Lorraine Brue did commit an open meeting law violation." That is the official response from the board of selectmen and the town that was sent to the AG office from the town.

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