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North Adams Airport Commission Missing Decades of Meeting Minutes

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An Open Meeting Law complaint revealed that the Airport Commission has failed to retain more than 30 years of meeting minutes. 
Gerrit Blauvelt of Williamstown was looking for minutes related to Harriman & West Airport's easements in Williamstown and the runway expansion project about 20 years ago. 
In his complaint to the attorney general's office on Dec. 15, Blauvelt said he had also appealed to the secretary of the commonwealth's office "as the City of North Adams responded to my request for meeting minutes from the North Adams Airport Commission that no meeting minutes exist from June 18, 1982, until what appears to be August 2017 because of confusion over filing meeting minutes with the city clerk prior to a city ordinance change." 
The ordinance change in 2017 requires boards and commissions to provide minutes to the city clerk's office within two weeks of a meeting, even if they are unofficial. It had been noted that certain bodies would sometimes go months or longer before approving or submitting minutes for the record. 
Blauvelt was particularly interested in minutes from 2000 and 2001 when the commissioners discussed removing trees on the glide path to the runway. Williamstown residents with property abutting the airport had been adamantly opposed to what they felt was drastic overcutting. The city and town had come to a compromise that ended a looming court battle. 
In the 1990s, it appeared the Airport Commission believed it was responsible for replacing vegetation and that new Williamstown easements were needed, he wrote, but in the early 2000s, it began to believe the 1964 easements were valid although they had been found unlawful by the attorney general.
"What led to this change in view regarding only the Williamstown easements? Who made this determination?" Blauvelt asked.
He had hoped to find the answer to that and other questions in the minutes but was told they do not exist. They are also missing from October 1969 to January 1973, according to his complaint. The only other minutes are from an October meeting in 2003 in response to an Open Meeting Law complaint.
"I believe the burden should be on the North Adams Airport Commission to prove that this continued lack of retaining meeting minutes for over thirty years was not intentional and a violation of Open Meeting Law," Blauvelt wrote. 
At its meeting last week held to address the complaint, Chairman Jeffrey Naughton said a complaint must be filed within 30 days of the violation according to state law. The filing far exceeds this threshold.
The commission voted to honor the request and to continue to record minutes per the Open Meeting Law. Naughton said the commission will work with city staff to seek out and catalog past minutes that can be recovered.
One of Blauvelt's concerns was that there was no way to determine if the commission had been acting appropriately all those years and what special interests may have influenced decision making. 
"The people without representation both did not have a vote and no longer have a window into the deliberations, votes, and decisions of this public body," he wrote. 

Tags: airport commission,   open meeting complaint,   

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