TALERMAN RESPONDS: Town counsel, BOH circle the wagons on Open Meeting Law complaint
KINGSTON- “Social meetings among members of a public body are not “meetings” unless “deliberation” is taking place.” That was Town Counsel Jay Talerman’s (pictured) response to KJ.com News Editor Bradford Randall’s assertion that the Board of Health (BOH) had committed an open-meeting law violation after a meeting about shadow flicker in April.
According to Talerman’s response to Randall, BOH-chairman Joe Casna also has “no recollection of discussions…about any matter that is pending before the BOH” stemming from the night of April 22 when the BOH met executives from No Fossil Fuel’s —with a quorum– at Finna’s Tavern.
Casna could also “not recall any specific discussions” about former-BOH member Dan Sapir “but hypothesized he may have possibly expressed some general frustrations with Mr. Sapir,” according to Talerman’s response.
In regards to Randall’s assertion that the BOH was actively discussing wind-turbine strategy regarding Dan Sapir and town meeting, “Mr. Casna pointed out that town meeting had already occurred.”
“Thus, it seems unlikely that they could have possibly been ‘deliberating’ on any such matter,” Talerman writes.
In the response, Talerman also writes of BOH-member Jack Breen corroborating Casna’s lack of recollection– “Mr. Breen, who informed me that you were twenty feet away from them, corroborated Mr. Casna’s account and did not recall any discussion of pending or prospective BOH matters.”
Breen, according to Talerman, could also not recall any discussion relevant to Sapir but “if such a conversation existed, he hypothesized” that the discussion may have pertained to Sapir’s involvement at April’s town meeting regarding Anytime Fitness and the BOH-bylaw.
“Mr. Kavol had a similar recollection to Mr. Breen and Mr. Casna and could not recall any conversation as you have described it,” Talerman writes.
Kavol also notes to Talerman that he doesn’t drink alcohol and paid cash for his one soft drink. Casna also claims to have paid cash for his share of the bill. Jack Breen’s portion of the bill, however, remains unaccounted for.
While Talerman admits that “there is no dispute that the gathering of three BOH members constitutes a quorum,” he goes on to write, “based upon the facts…I am unable to conclude that a “deliberation” has taken place. In fact, it does not appear that any conversation reguarding pending BOH matters occurred.”
Talerman writes that he is “cognizant of the significant controversy regarding the turbines in town.” Talerman continues, “I am also aware that many residents have attended BOH meetings to request enforcement action, which the BOH has declined to undertake.”
“However, there is no indication from you or anyone else that Mr. Casna, Mr. Breen and Mr. Kavol discussed the BOH’s involvement in turbine matters that evening,” Talerman writes.
Talerman also writes that it is “noteworthy that Mr. Casna has known the owner of the turbines (Mary O’Donnell) for many, many years.”
“Based upon the foregoing, there is insufficient evidence to allow me to conclude that an Open Meeting Law violation has occurred,” Talerman writes before he goes on to warn the BOH “to continue to be cautious about the nature of discussions that may occur outside of formal meetings.”
Talerman filed his response one day past the Attorney General’s deadline on Tuesday