We actually arrived in the parking lot before 5:30 p.m. and sat in our car for a few minutes so we could see who entered the building. While we waited, we saw Attorney Green try to use the back door that is normally used by people who wish to attend meetings in Butler Hall. In fact, a sign on the back door says "Use back door for Town Board Meetings". Attorney Green couldn't get in through the back door because it was locked, so he went around to the side door and apparently got in. Thinking that Attorney Green might be able to let us in, we walked up to the back door...it was locked and Attorney Green was no where in sight.
While we stood outside, Councilwoman Krupa got out of her car and as she walked toward the side door, we told her the back doors where residents enter for town board meetings were locked. Her statement was...Is it? She then proceeded to let herself in by way of the side entrance, but then she just ignored us. We watched as Councilman Payne and Highway Superintendent Richard Sherman let themselves in the side entrance. Not one of them unlocked the doors to let us in. All these people normally use the back entrance, unlock the doors if they are not already unlocked and everyone outside is allowed to enter.
Finally at 5:52 p.m. Attorney Green let us in. When we walked in, Councilman Reynolds, and Councilman Woodland were already seated. We sat through the meeting until it was adjourned...a meeting that lasted 30 minutes until the executive session was called. Town Supervisor Reed said they would be going into executive session for a personnel matter. We stated we would wait outside and would like to be called back in after the executive session was over.
When we entered the foyer of Butler Hall, three people were outside trying to get into so they could attend the town board meeting. It appears that the town board never unlocked the doors at the start of the meeting; they merely opened them to let anyone in who was there before 6 p.m. and then left them locked throughout the rest of the meeting.
We let the people waiting outside in and told them the meeting was already over; we were merely waiting for the town board to end their executive session. How many others tried to gain entrance to the building after the meeting started and left because the doors were locked is anyone's guess.
As we waited in the foyer for the executive session to end, three more people tried to gain entrance to the back door of Butler Hall. They needed to go upstairs to a meeting; we recognized all three of them as people who would have town or village business and we let them in. None of them appeared to have keys. They have probably met at Butler Hall on other evenings when there was a town board meeting and the doors have always been unlocked during the meeting. If we were not in the foyer, they probably would not have been able to enter the building.
According to the Observer Dispatch report, N. Hartford board discusses safety in closed-door meeting:
The Town Board Wednesday night went into executive session for 45 minutes to discuss what its meeting agenda called an “investigation or prosecution of a potential criminal offense and matters which imperil public safety.” But town officials later said that public safety was not in jeopardy, and no town employee was suspected of any wrongdoing.That's funny, Town Supervisor Earle Reed first told the people in attendance at the meeting that the executive session was for a personnel matter even though the town board agenda clearly stated that the executive session was to "discuss information relating to a current/future investigation or prosecution of a potential criminal offense and matters which imperil public safety." Pretty strong words on the town board agenda that, by the way, was not made available until minutes before the meeting...and now Supervisor Reed says that the public safety was not in jeopardy. And if no town employee was suspected of any wrongdoing, how does the executive session qualify for a "personnel matter"?
When questioned by the reporter right after the meeting, Supervisor Reed continued to say it was a personnel matter; although he would not say what department was involved; he only stated that the town board, Town Attorney Jerry Green and Chief Philo were in attendance at the executive session. It must be that Supervisor Reed decided to change his story later in the evening.
The article goes on to say:
Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said some discussions relating to security cameras could be cause for an executive session and others could not.As Attorney Green was letting us in, we asked about the locked doors and under what authority they decided to lock the doors. He stated that the town board would need to be passing a resolution to handle that situation soon. A resolution to lock residents out of a meeting...or a board resolution to lock out certain people who bring information to the public and at the same time sort out the baloney that this town board frequently likes to try to get away with? Which is it? Let's take a guess.
If cameras were to be placed in such a way as to catch people involved in wrongdoing, then the discussions could be conducted behind closed doors.
Conversely, if the cameras would be used to monitor a particular area, and could act as a deterrent, that did not justify closing the meeting, he said. The same is true of discussions about specific employees in the building.
“If it’s a general discussion of safety of the public or employees, that kind of discussion takes place in public all the time,” he said.
So in order to retaliate against Concerned Citizens, Supervisor Reed along with the rest of the Town Board, the Town Attorney and Chief Philo, met in an apparent illegal executive meeting to discuss how they could make it appear that it is necessary to keep doors at Butler Hall locked. Let's see, perhaps the resolution will read something like:
Whereas, we are the exalted "leaders" of our progressive town, andConcerned Citizens believes the only thing residents in the Town of New Hartford should fear is those that like to call themselves our "leaders". Three of them are up for re-election in November 2009...Reed, Reynolds and Payne. You have the power to change the way things are done in the Town of New Hartford...
Whereas, the town board feels that the only way to combat those who used our own documents and statements (FOIL) to try to make us look like idiots by constantly shedding light on our misdeeds and ineptness, and
Whereas, all of "our people" already have keys to the side door of Butler Hall,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby declare that after the close of business on Town Board Meeting days no one may gain entrance to Butler Hall except in the minutes between 5:50 and 6:00 p.m.
By the way, doesn't Butler Hall already have security cameras?