AG's Office Notified of S. Burlington Open Meeting Allegation

By Staci DaSilva |

Published 02/25 2014 06:40PM

Updated 02/25 2014 06:47PM

S. Burlington City Council Accused of Open Meeting Violations
S. Burlington City Council Accused of Open Meeting Violations

An investigation is now on the Vermont Attorney General's radar that’s accusing 3 South Burlington City Council members of violating the Open Meeting Law.

On February 15th, 3 of the 5 South Burlington City Councilors, Chris Shaw, Pat Nowak and Chair Pam Mackenzie attended an Energy Committee event.

Doing that, has lead to them being accused of violating Vermont state law.

That's because, according to the Vermont Secretary of State's Office: "Whenever a quorum, or a majority, of a public body meets to discuss the business of the board or to take action, the open meeting law will apply. This means that if a majority of a board find themselves together at a social function, they must take care not to discuss the business of the board."

City Manager Kevin Dorn says in this case, city business was never discussed. 

“I talked to the City Councilors about what happened. They weren't sitting together,” said City Manager Kevin Dorn. “They were sitting in different areas. They did not go there for the purpose of conducting city business. Merely being in the same room together does not violate the Open Meeting Law."

South Burlington resident and attorney James Marc Leas disagrees. He's requested an investigation by the state Attorney General's Office .

“We had a quorum of councilors present and discussing the issue,” said James Marc Leas. “How can you not be very concerned if you're a City Councilor or a citizen that this violated the Open Meeting Law?"

 Reps at the AG’s office say they've reviewed the materials and will be responding this week.

While Leas does not expect there was any ill intent at the Energy Committee meeting, he fears it opens up the door for the future.

“If the law is degraded, merely because they went to a Energy Committee meeting then the law is degraded for all meetings,” said Leas.

“They've been trained in the Open Meeting Law and they did not conduct City Council business at that event,” said Dorn.

If the Attorney General's office were to find a violation, the City Council could be fined.

South Burlington City Council Chair Pam Mackenzie is part of a hearing on Wednesday for a different open meeting case.

This one involving her role as Chair of Vermont Public Television.

We will be at Wednesday’s hearing and will let you know what happens.

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