Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Live reporting - Town Council workshop

Present: Vallee, Pfeffer, Roy, Jones, Kelly, Dellorco, Bissanti, Powderly
Nutting, Cerel, Kinehart

Absent: Mercer

Workshop - first year with the charter change that the Council doesn't get sworn in until next week.

Copy of charter provided. Bylaws are online. Mark Cerel undergoing a review of the bylaws to bring them up to current terminology

Council procedure manual - typically approved at one of the first meetings

Mark Cerel to touch base on open meeting law, conflicts of interest, etc.

open meeting law presentation
memo addressing email use

quorum in case of council would be five members, meetings doesn't have to be in person to qualify, email qualifies whether in serial or all at once. There is case law on this with a Boston case where their council was shuffling in and out of the meeting.

demands for public records do include personal email if referencing town business
think twice before email
commenting on public internet sites you are representing yourself as an individual citizen, not a representative of the position
posting does require 48 hour notice although there can be an emergency but there are requirements around what constitutes an emergency
sanctions for open meeting law can be significant civil fine as well as possibly setting aside the law/resolution that was the result of it

issuance of a new alcohol license or for a violation, know what is relevant and not, allow for an impartial hearing. even when you do everything right, you may still end up in litigation. We have insurance for this but the first 10,000 is still on us with the deductible we have.

Ethic law was passed in 2009, what changed was the penalty. Ethic law is a criminal statue. This is serious business. Upon swearing in, you will be given an online requirement for training. The training that was initially released was something not pertinent to local town business. A revision should be ready for the next cycle.

By definition of the statue, council members are "municipal employees" - statue applies to you and your immediate family... The family definition is extensive. Need to be aware of the prohibitions. Bribery or gifts and solicitations are targeted. Public official are prohibited from accepting or soliciting.

Compensation can be goods or services. The council is a licensing authority, if you are out to dinner and the owner of the establishment sends over some freebies, be careful. Can't do that. There is a fine line between the actual gift and the perception of a gift.

Ethic Commission has two functions, one is as an adviser. You can provide a circumstance and they can let you know what the situation would be.  The safest way to go is to check with them. The Ethic Commission will take anonymous tips. They have the ability to fine up to $25,000 as well as imprisonment.

You can't use your position to gain a benefit. "Do you know who I am?" are the six most dangerous words.

The general improvement of downtown is one thing but if the benefit would be substantial for an individual, then that would be dangerous and the individual should recuse themselves.

The standards now include prohibitions on the following:

  1. Accepting compensable employment which is "inherently incompatible" with one's public responsibilities
  2. Soliciting or receiving anything of substantial value (value of $50) or using official position to secure favorable treatment
  3. Acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person to conclude that official can be improperly influenced. (Liability can be avoided by filing of written disclosure.)

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