For Immediate Release
January 5, 2015
Ryan Collard announced on Monday that a lawsuit had been filed against the Board of Selectmen. Joining Collard is Attorney David Miller, former selectmen and moderator, and Attorney Michael Walsh. The lawsuit claims that the Board of Selectmen have violated the Open Meeting Law in the hiring of new Town Administrator James Boudreau on November 3, 2014.
“There is no doubt that James Boudreau will make an excellent addition to the Town’s public service, but this is about more than that. This is about living in a democracy and making the system work like it is supposed to,” said Collard. Miller added that the suit did not target Boudreau or affect his start date or employment.
The law suit will be heard on an expedited basis because the Open Meeting Law requires that the Superior Court hear the complaint within 10 days. The law suit outlines a pattern of secrecy by the Board.
“When the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen can declare that public input is neither desired nor wanted, then something is gravely wrong,” said Miller. Miller had asked that the Board not rush to judgment in hiring a new administrator, to give the finalist candidates some public vetting, but was shot down by Chairman Dave Nelson.
The complaint also claims that the Board of Selectmen have violated the Open Meeting Law by interviewing finalist candidates in private. Walsh had previously asked the Town to investigate violations of the secrecy rules. Town Counsel Thomas Mullen had cleared the Selectmen of any wrongdoing, but recommended that the Board change procedure in the future to avoid the appearance of impropriety. The results of Mullen’s investigation were never released to the public.
Walsh noted that the Town’s entire approach to business could be seen in the handling of his complaint. The Board of Selectmen squelched any public knowledge of the Open Meeting Law complaint, violating the Open Meeting Law in responding to the Open Meeting Law complaint. “There is some cosmic irony here, but secrecy is such an ingrained response that it isn’t funny anymore,” said Walsh.
Since the adoption of the Town Administrator form of government, the Town Administrator handles much of the work privately. Town Administrators are exempt from the Open Meeting Law, which may increase efficiency but has the downside of less transparency.