Laws matter…and a good example why consent agendas are bad.

shadow-government May kudos to Select Board member Tia Hooper and then Select Board member Leo Aucoin for notifying the public on January 5, 2016 of a clear violation of RSA 91-A:2. The RSA is quite clear, (I) “For the purpose of this chapter, a “meeting” means the convening of a quorum of the membership of a public body, as defined in RSA 91-A:1-a, VI, or the majority of the members of such public body if the rules of that body define “quorum” as more than a majority of its members, whether in person, by means of telephone or electronic communication, or in any other manner such that all participating members are able to communicate with each other contemporaneously, subject to the provisions set forth in RSA 91-A:2, III, for the purpose of discussing or acting upon a matter or matters over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.” (read RSA here)

In short a “Public Bodies may deliberate on matters of official business only in meetings held pursuant to and in compliance with this RSA, which means properly noticed PUBLIC MEETINGS.

January 5, 2016: Agenda Item 11, (page 5, read here) Town Administrator’s report: It appears that Town Administrator Christine Trovato sent one text message to the ENTIRE Select Board regarding a matter of business under the jurisdiction of the Select Board. By sending this test message to the entire Select Board, Ms. Trovato sought to engage the entire board in a deliberation of a matter that would be put on the Consent Agenda for the January 5th meeting.

When Mr. Huftalen questioned the Town Administrator about this text message, Ms. Trovato confirmed that she did send text message communication to the board members. More importantly, the minutes reflect that Ms. Trovato chose to characterize the communication as, “individual messages” plural. (read here page 6)

Screen shots of the text message sent from Ms. Trovato’s phone clearly indicate that the text was sent as a group message to all board members at once so the communique could be contemporaneous, which is strictly controlled by the RSA.  The to header reads, Bob, Leo, Scott, Tia, Kris.  (read here pages 7-8-9)

To make matters worse, Chairman Blombeck and Select Board member Scott Osgood actually replied by text message, advising Ms. Trovato that they would indeed support the matter that was being placed on the Consent Agenda. (read pages 7-9 here).

Consent Agenda items are items that are routinely voted on by the board without deliberation. A Consent Agenda item can be deliberated at the request of any Select Board member.

It should frighten all of us that the entire Select Board is being sent text messages and quite possibly emails, with no record of what these communications contain and not being archived for public inspection.

I think that it is time for the voters of Henniker to take action.

 

 

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