Local Government and Politics, News

Saugus School Committee found to be in violation of open meeting law. Again.

SAUGUS — Attorney General Maura Healey determined the Saugus School Committee violated the Open Meeting Law again.

“Following our review, we find that the committee violated the Open Meeting Law by meeting in a location other than what was listed on the meeting notice and posting insufficiently detailed meeting notices,” Healey wrote in the finding. “Additionally, we find that the committee convened in executive session without a proper statutory purpose. However, we find that the Committee’s January 30 open session meeting minutes meet the minimum requirements of the Open Meeting Law.”

Mark Vogler, a Saugus Advocate reporter, filed a complaint in February alleging the committee failed to start a meeting in open session before moving to a closed-door executive session on Jan. 30. Committee members questioned his intent.

“I think he’s carrying out a personal vendetta,” said Chairwoman Jeannie Meredith in February. “That’s it.”

In the complaint filed with Healey’s office, Vogler said the meeting was supposed to convene in the Saugus School Committee room. All five members of the committee “emerged from a back hall that leads directly to the superintendent’s office” at 4:53 p.m.

“It was then apparent to me that the first part of the agenda, including the executive session, took place in some other part of the building, presumably in the superintendent’s private office,” Vogler said in the report. “There were no signs posted upon entry to the School Committee Room indicating the meeting had been moved nor was the agenda amended to indicate such.”

Vogler said he and other members of the public were denied the opportunity to be physically present at the start of the meeting to hear what was discussed during the initial open session portion.

He filed a second complaint, saying the agenda lacked specificity for the public to understand which unit contract negotiations would be discussed.

“The committee did not indicate what was resolved in the executive session nor what votes, if any, were taken,” he said. “With the lack of specificity and vague language in wording the agenda, I question whether this was no more than a budget discussion behind closed doors as the school committee has no involvement in non-union contract negotiations.”

The open session in the School Committee lasted just over two minutes, said Vogler.

Gaieski said she left her belongings in the School Committee room and returned to retrieve them at 3:28 p.m. She saw Volger in the meeting room, and she said he “had the opportunity to ask where the meeting was being held but did not do so.”

In January, Healey determined the committee violated the Open Meeting Law after former member Peter Manoogian filed a complaint that stated executive session minutes lacked sufficient detail.

At the time, Meredith said she only had one comment on the decision.

“As acknowledged in the finding of the Attorney General’s office, the committee has devoted the necessary resources to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future,” she said.

Healey ordered the committee to amend the executive session minutes to include missing details from a meeting last March and to comply with the Open Meeting Law moving forward. Should members fail to comply with the Open Meeting Law moving forward, violations would be considered evidence of intent to violate the law, said Healey.

A month later, Vogler filed his complaint.

Healey ordered the committee to comply with the law moving forward, cautioning that similar future violations may be considered evidence of intent to violate the law. The Jan. 30 executive session minutes must also be released within the next 30 days, because the executive session lacked a proper purpose.

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