Police Are Called To Selectboard Meeting

Front Page / Feb. 17, 2011 12:19pm EST

By Kevin Paquet

For the second time in less than a month, police were called to a public meeting Tuesday night.

On Jan. 31, police had been called to an educational meeting of the school supervisory union.

This week on Tuesday, the final act of a selectboard meeting, already marked by acrimony, was an attempted executive session that ended with the police being called.

The executive session, which was not listed on the selectboard meeting agenda, was to be about the contract the town has with Town Manager Gary Champy.

The board only narrowly voted to enter the session, 3-2. Dissenting Selectmen Larry Townsend and Stephen Webster both left the room at that point.

“I would wish the record show that I leave at this point,” said Townsend, who has resigned. This was his last meeting. Webster left without comment.

Some Refuse to Leave

At this point, the executive session was to begin, and Town Manager’s Secretary Cindy Spaulding told the cameraman to turn off his equipment. However, seven or eight members of the remaining crowd refused to leave, claiming that the meeting, having not been warned, was illegal.

Former Selectboard member Joe Voci said that they couldn’t be made to leave, and told the board to call 911. At that point, Selectboard member Carol Flint did indeed call the police.

“They’re sitting there quietly,” she explained on the phone. “It’s civil disobedience.” The call was followed by a 25-minute wait, during which the assembled groups talked among themselves.

The arriving officer was Sgt. Samuel Lambert, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who asked the board and the protesting audience members what the problem was.

Audience member Nan Gwin, who is running for lister this year, said that the board had just changed the warning.

Richburg, however, said that he had asked for the executive session to be listed on the warning, and accused Champy and Spaulding of not adding it, saying that Spaulding had told him it wasn’t necessary.

He visited town offices Monday, Feb. 14 and had requested that the executive session be added to the warning, he said.

Having heard from both parties, Sgt. Lambert told the board he couldn’t make the audience leave, but added that the board could go elsewhere if it desired.

‘Gray Area’

According to an official at the secretary of state’s office, warning for an executive session falls into a legal gray area. A selectboard must provide an agenda to interested persons before the meeting takes place, but it’s unclear what conditions there may be for changing the agenda.

Adding an agenda item at the meeting is not an uncommon practice, however.

In fact, Atty. Paul Gillies, writing to the board about the town manager’s contract (see other story), specifically wrote that in a regular selectboard meeting, “there appears to be no problem with adding (an) item the night of the meeting.”

After the officer told the board that it couldn’t send the audience away, Selectboard member Carol Flint moved to go out of executive session. Webster then returned to the meeting for formal adjournment.

On the way out of the meeting, Richburg got into a heated discussion with Bill Kevan, in which Richburg said he was trying to protect the town, and Kevan accused him of trying to protect RACDC. “We’re not doing anything (in executive session),” Richburg said. “We’re talking!”

Kevan then said that the board would have to come out and tell the crowd what it talked about, a claim not supported by the secretary of state’s office.

Then the town officials left, with Richburg arguing with Champy on the stairway about why the executive session for personnel matters was not inserted in the warning.

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