Montpellier city council denies breach of public meeting law

MONTPELLIER, Vt. (WCAX) – Do municipal bodies have the possibility of limiting the time for public consultation?? According Vermont Open Meeting Lawthey can.

Montpelier City Council recently came under fire after an unruly resident accused them of breaking the rules.

Montpelier police removed resident Steve Whitaker from a town council meeting earlier this month. He was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and violating bail conditions.

“Mr Whitaker had become argumentative and caused a disturbance which prevented the City Council from moving forward with its business,” Montpellier Police Chief Brian Peete told Channel 3 shortly after. time after the incident.

By then, he was well over the two-minute speaking limit set by the board. Before he was removed from office, Mayor Anne Watson asked him to sit down or go.

“My job as mayor is really to enforce those rules and make sure we follow them fairly,” she told WCAX in an interview. Shortly after, Whitaker filed a lawsuit accusing the council of violating two open meeting laws.

The first accusation concerned the two-minute delay. We spoke to Secretary of State Jim Condos about Vermont’s open meeting law in early June. He says delays can be unfair, but not against the law.

“The board has the right to set reasonable limits. I don’t think two minutes is a reasonable amount of time for someone to speak, but you have to look at every situation,” Condos said.

The second accusation made by Whitaker against the Montpelier city council was to meet as a quorum out of public view.

Watson says the complaint refers to part of the meeting that took place after racially insensitive comments were made towards one of the councillors.

“We took a break from council business at that time. A few of us went there to meet her here and comfort her, so we weren’t taking any business out of town. said Watson.

Watson says they denied any wrongdoing at a special meeting held last week. If he wishes, Whitaker can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, which can assess the situation.

Which cities have open meeting law violations and when is hard to track because there is no requirement for them to keep a record. We reached out to 50 municipalities on June 10 and have followed up with many since then.

Of the thirteen responses, none keeps an official record of violations of the Open Meetings Act. A handful say it’s because they never had one, others simply choose not to have one.

Related stories:

How often is Vermont’s open meeting law violated? Why we may never know

Man arrested for disrupting Montpellier city council meeting

Copyright 2022 WCAX. All rights reserved.

Comments are closed.