Judge: Towns Failed to Follow Law - Observer Dispatch, December 14, 2007
The failure by two Herkimer County towns to follow state Open Meetings Law proved costly when a judge cited that as one factor in voiding their approvals of a wind-turbine project, court records show.AND
In addition, shutting out the public from key discussions on the project helped prompt state Supreme Court Justice Donald Greenwood to order the towns to pay the legal fees of the wind-turbine opponents who brought the lawsuit.Concerned Citizens does believe that closing of the Storm Water Advisory Group to the public is not in compliance with the Open Meetings Law. Ms. Krupa said shortly after her election that she would work with the town board to try to open the meetings to the public. Well, Ms. Krupa...we haven't heard from you yet.
Reasons for Executive Sessions are rarely fully disclosed prior to the vote by the New Hartford Town Board to close the meeting and enter "executive" mode. Three executive session items appeared on the December 12, 2007 Town Board Meeting Agenda...only one was a legitimate reason....under Personnel...Parks Contract. The other two executive session items seemed to not be explained.
For the second time this year, the New Hartford Town Board went into Executive Session to discuss Police Union Contract...the first time being on May 9, 2007. The current Police Contract is in effect until December 31, 2008...a year away...it is doubtful that they are in contract negotiations at this time.
Roger Cleveland also had a questionable reason for Executive Session that he didn't seem to want to say out loud. The town clerk asked for specifics and Roger mumbled something to her...however, when we asked for clarification of his reason...we were told that the town clerk didn't understand what he was saying. According to the Committee on Open Government...possible litigation is not acceptable:
With regard to the sufficiency of a motion to discuss litigation, it has been held that:"It is insufficient to merely regurgitate the statutory language; to wit, 'discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation'. This boilerplate recitation does not comply with the intent of the statute. To validly convene an executive session for discussion of proposed, pending or current litigation, the public body must identify with particularity the pending, proposed or current litigation to be discussed during the executive session" [Daily Gazette Co. , Inc. v. Town Board, Town of Cobleskill, 44 NYS 2d 44, 46 (1981), emphasis added by court].Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government wrote an Opinion on the disclosure of executive session discussions:
"...the public body must identify the subject matter to be discussed (See, Public Officers Law § 105 ), and it is apparent that this must be accomplished with some degree of particularity, i.e., merely reciting the statutory language is insufficient (see, Daily Gazette Co. v Town Bd., Town of Cobleskill, 111 Misc 2d 303, 304-305).No one is above the law and being right isn't merely a matter of "because we said so". Attorney Green had some mumble-jumble reason that the Stormwater Advisory Group should be closed and Attorney Green was present at the Town Board Meeting on December 12th, but he said nothing regarding the reasons being given for executive session.
It would appear that the New Hartford Town Board has an attorney who seems to think his role is to cover-up the misdeeds of the town board and make excuses for their "bad" behavior...might not be the best "strategy" Attorney Green.