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Recordergate continues at Sewer and Water

November 26, 2013

For the second meeting in a row, Walpole Sewer and Water Commissioner Pat Fasanello walked out of a Commission meeting this week, because he could not persuade his colleagues to record the meeting.

Fasanello did the same thing at the Commission’s October 28 meeting, after he argued that the Commission’s September 23 meeting minutes were not accurate, and was unable to get the Commission to vote to record its meetings. He walked out of that meeting in protest, and vowed afterward, in a conversation with 180, to do the same at every meeting in the future until they are recorded.

Commissioner Jimmy Taylor also walked out of last night’s meeting to support Fasanello. Because of their absences, along with the absence of Commissioner Ken Fettig, the five-member Commission was left without a quorum to conduct its business. The Commission had an extensive agenda, including a conversation about water quality issues with residents of Morningside Drive, and discussion with developer Michael Viano about sewer work at his new development at the old Sunnyrock Farm.

There is no state law preventing a small group of town board members from meeting informally and even taking straw votes on issues, but this would not be considered an official meeting, and no votes can be taken. Any votes that are taken could potentially be overturned by lawsuits. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, which most government boards use to conduct their meetings, the only business that a committee may conduct without a quorum present is a vote to adjourn, a vote to fix another time to which to adjourn, a vote to recess, or a vote to take measures to obtain a quorum.

After Taylor and Fasanello left, the Commission proceeded through a few agenda items, but had to postpone their appointment with Viano, and other agenda items, to a future meeting.

Fasanello told 180 last night, after he walked out, that he wants to send a message that more transparency is needed. In many cases, members of the public do not even attend Sewer and Water Commission meetings, meaning that meeting minutes are currently the only way for the public to know what occurs at those meetings.

“I feel like anything we do at that meeting, unless it’s recorded, is bogus,” he said.

Fasanello said he plans to walk out of the next Commission meeting in December as well, if it is not recorded. But in January, if he still doesn’t get his way, he will bring his own recorder and will start recording meetings on his own. Under the state’s Open Meeting Law, anyone is allowed to record a public meeting as long as no one in the room objects all individuals in the room are aware. The recorder could not be used as the Commission’s official record, however Fasanello would be allowed to refer to it during discussions on meeting minutes.

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