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SU71 Committee member Valerie Hall, left, said she was angry that ethical charges had been brought against the board because of a member's actions.

SU71 Committee Reacts to Open Meeting Law Complaint

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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The SU71 Committee acknowledged an Open Meeting complaint against Committee member Robert Barton of Lanesborough and suggested he retake training on the law.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Superintendency Union 71 Committee on Wednesday acknowledged an Open Meeting Law complaint against one of its members and decided that member should undergo further training in the provisions of that law.
Lanesborough representative Robert Barton was the subject of a complaint filed by fellow resident Richard Cohen in reaction to Barton's actions at the Feb. 24 SU71 meeting.
According to Cohen's complaint, Barton violated the law by repeatedly — and against the advice of legal counsel present at the meeting — attempting to engage the committee in the discussion of a personnel matter during a public session.
"Mr. Barton stated the employee's name twice and then proceeded to repeat, and expanded upon, these charges and complaints, even after the committee's legal counsel, Fred Dupere, warned him three times that he had violated the OML," Cohen's complaint reads in part.
On Wednesday, the committee voted to send an acknowledgment to the office of the attorney general.
The six-member SU71 Committee is made up of representatives from the Williamstown and Lanesborough school committees. The superintendency union oversees the shared administrative services between the two towns' elementary schools.
Four of the SU71 Committee members, including Barton, attended Wednesday's meeting.
Barton voted with the other three members to forward to Boston an acknowledgement of the complaint.
He abstained from a vote on a separate motion by committee member Valerie Hall of Williamstown, who proposed the committee require Barton to undergo Open Meeting Law training.
"I'm angry we have to be here because of the actions of one of our members," Hall said. "I'm angry that ethical charges have been brought against our board.
"We requested counsel to attend every meeting we have to check this kind of behavior, but it wasn't checked."
SU-71 Committee Chairwoman Regina Dilego clarified that Barton's behavior was "checked" in the sense that Dupere attempted to correct it, but Barton continued his violations after being advised by counsel.
On Wednesday night, Barton did not comment on the specifics of the complaint. But he did say in response to a question from Dilego that he had taken the standard OML training when he was elected and that he was open to the idea of discussing the Feb. 24 meeting with Dupere.
Dilego said the committee would follow whatever recommendations the AG's office recommends in addition to the training the committee required on Wednesday night.
Cohen's complaint requests three remedies: a public apology, an investigation by an independent person or agency to determine whether Barton violated the OML in a Feb. 24 executive session of the committee, and a review by the attorney general of Barton's emails on file at SU-71 to see if any fines should be imposed on Barton.

Tags: open meeting complaint,   school union,   SU71,   

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