Commission Violated Open Meeting Law In Hiring Process For Nantucket Planning Director

Jason Graziadei •

The Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission violated the state's open meeting law in the process of hiring Leslie Snell as the town's director of planning last year, according to a determination released Wednesday by the state Attorney General's office. 

The commission failed to properly disclose Snell's name in the posting of two closed-door executive session meetings it conducted in early 2023 to discuss her promotion and new contract. In those two meetings, the commission learned of former planning director Andrew Vorce's intention to retire, and a new contract was negotiated with Snell. Both developments were only disclosed publicly during the NP&EDC's open meeting months later on May 22. 

Nantucket Planning Director Leslie Snell

"The Open Meeting Law does not permit a public body to execute a contract behind closed doors where the public cannot witness the agreement," wrote Assistant Attorney General Matthew Lindberg in his determination. "The vote to execute an agreed-upon contract must take place in open session...The Commission’s simultaneous public announcement on May 22 of the director’s retirement and appointment of his successor gave the impression of a fait accompli crafted behind closed doors and is not permitted by the Open Meeting Law.

"This violation was compounded by the Commission’s other violation, insufficient notice, as the public received no notice that the Deputy Director was even participating in negotiations with the Commission," Lindberg added. 

The open meeting law complaint was originally filed by island resident Meghan Perry Glowacki. 

"This is about the lack of honesty and transparency of the Nantucket government and it has got to stop!" Perry Glowacki wrote in an email response to the Current about the state AG's determination. "Given that Nantucket government is one of the largest employers on the island it should not be left up to a private citizen to demand officials do their jobs with integrity and play by the rules. This decision further supports the need for Article 92 (Perry's citizen petition to have the planning director report to the town administration rather than the NP&EDC) at the upcoming town meeting.

"It is upsetting that the NP&EDC thinks it’s ok to hand out a contract for Director of Planning and Director of PLUS behind closed doors, in violation of the open meeting law and without a public search," Perry Glowacki continued. She emphasized that the AG's determination underscored and suggested the need to run a "proper public national search" for the planning director position and that the search should start from the beginning.

But it appears that is not going to happen. The NP&EDC has scheduled a meeting for Monday, March 18th at 5 p.m. to review the state's open meeting law violation determination and have a "discussion of hiring Leslie Snell as the Director of Planning and vote to approve and ratify the contract with Leslie Snell as the Director of Planning," according to the publicly posted agenda

Contacted by the Current about the determination, Snell stated: "I just received the response from the Attorney General this afternoon and haven’t had enough time yet to thoroughly consider it for comment. However, I will say that the procedure that was followed for posting the executive session was consistent with town of Nantucket meeting postings to discuss contracts with non-union personnel...I expect that the Commission will take whatever action is necessary to address this matter in a way that responds to the directive provided by the Attorney General."

Select Board member Matt Fee was the only board member to mention the open meeting law violation during Wednesday night's meeting. 

"The hiring 15 years ago was botched and this one seems to be similar," Fee said, referring to Vorce's hiring in 2005. "Nothing against the planning directors, they may have been the ones in the process to be hired, but we should be striving as a town to follow good practices. I’m embarrassed for us and our administration that we didn't follow it (the open meeting law)."

The Attorney General's office ordered the NP&EDC to post an adequate notice, discuss the hiring of the director of planning in an open session, and vote to approve the contract within the next 45 days. 

"If the Commission fails to vote to approve the contract within 45 days, the approval that was voted at its May 22 meeting shall be nullified," Lindberg wrote. "We are cognizant that Ms. Snell has served as Director for more than eight months and we do not underestimate the impact of our order. However, a public body which acts in disregard of the Open Meeting Law, especially in executing one of its core functions, appointment of its director, does so at its own peril."

Asked why the Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission had conducted the hiring process in violation of the open meeting law, chair Mary Longacre stated: "There was no intent to conduct the process in a way that violates Open Meeting Law. However the AG is the arbiter and we will apply what was learned from their determination to future conduct."

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