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Open Meeting Law Complaint Filed Against Chelmsford Board of Health

September 22, 2018

CHELMSFORD -- The Sun has filed an Open Meeting Law complaint with the Board of Health for an improper closed-door session on Tuesday.

On Sept. 14, the board posted an agenda for a Tuesday meeting to begin with an executive session at 6:15 p.m., followed by an open session at 6:45 p.m. to discuss nuisance complaints regarding unpermitted chickens and a Town Meeting article that seeks to reduce the square-footage required to have such small animals.

The agenda did not list a reason or provision under state law for the purpose of the executive session.

A reporter went to the meeting location early to ask about the reason for the executive session. Board members and town employees said to wait for Board of Health Chairwoman Annmarie Roark to provide an answer.

Roark arrived at 6:15 p.m. She told a reporter she would provide a reason for the executive session after they met. The door to the meeting room was closed.

A gathering of a majority of the members of a board constitutes a meeting under state law. Those meetings must be held in public session, unless there is an allowed exemption. To close a meeting, a board must publicly state the exemption, and hold a roll call vote. Neither happened.

The public and press were not allowed in until the open session began around 6:45 p.m.

Toward the end of the public session, Roark again was asked why the initial meeting was closed. Roark said it was not an executive session, but a discussion about how to prepare for how to handle the open session. Such activity is not among the allowable reasons for an executive session under state law.

“Chelmsford officials should know better,” said Jim Campanini, The Sun’s editor. “The Board of Health clearly violated the public’s trust by holding a secret meeting so they could hide their true thoughts and feelings. We are sure the state -- and the voters of Chelmsford -- will hold these members accountable.”

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.

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