State Representative Adam Greshin, I-Warren, has introduced an amendment to Vermont’s Open Meeting Law excluding subcommittees of three or fewer members from having to warn their meetings and take minutes.
The proposed change in the Open Meeting Law was inspired by the Harwood Unified Union School District Board’s facilities subcommittee (workgroup), which has only three members. The subcommittee is one of four subcommittees of the larger six-town unified union school district.
Greshin has proposed that when subcommittees meet, they should be able to assemble without having to warn their meeting and without taking minutes. They would report their findings to the larger board. The larger board meetings are subject to warning agendas and keeping minutes per Vermont’s Open Meeting Law.
This is a solution looking for a problem and nothing that will serve the public at all. Easing open meeting laws for subcommittees could compromise the public’s right to know what elected and appointed officials are doing in their name and with their tax dollars.
In the instance of the HUUSD facilities subcommittee it is important for the public and press to see and understand how our representatives are thinking. If you exempt the facilities committee from the Open Meeting Law we won’t be able see how they think and talk about taking care of our public buildings.
For example, the committee could seek proposals to upgrade or repair a public building, receive three proposals, reject the one that cost $500 and the one that cost $5,000, and bring the one that cost $5 million back to the bigger governing board without ever having to mention the other two options or, more importantly, their discussion of those options.
It is important to be able to see and hear how they think and to watch the sausage get made. Being able to see and hear our elected officials think as they do their work (and as it is recorded via audiotapes and minutes) is a very critical voter accountability tool.
In the digital era, it’s hard to argue that posting agendas and electronically recording meetings is overly onerous or inconvenient, because it is not. Doing the people’s work requires working in public.