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Airport panel cited for lost minutes

Chenier terms it 'a good learning lesson'

August 15, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The town's first complaint under the new Open Meeting Law was decided in favor of the citizen who raised the issue, without needing state involvement.

James Sottile first raised concerns in late spring that the Airport Commission didn't properly keep minutes of last year's meetings. In a letter to Sottile dated Aug. 5, Town Manager Christopher Clark essentially agreed that was the case.

"I have reviewed the chairman's write-up and the account of time delay that occurred for production of the 2009 minutes and find that it is not conducive to compliance with the law," Clark wrote, referring to commission Chairman George Chenier. "I believe in educating first and disciplining second, therefore I will be monitoring the Airport Commission for future compliance of the Open Meeting Law. Also, it is my intent to send a stern letter of warning to the chairman and its members advising them that it is imperative they keep pace with the production of minutes in order to ensure transparencies in our governmental structure."

Although Sottile first sought them in April, it took until late July to find the minutes in question.

"I understand fully what the town manager had to do. It was a legitimate complaint," Chenier said.

He attributed the problem to two things. First, his board has very rarely had anybody ask to see its minutes, so it got "lax in what gets done," he said. Second, most of his board members — like many others on town committees — are volunteers who have jobs, including commission Secretary Robert Lecour. (Chenier himself is an exception; he's retired.)

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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