Transparency Still Lacking In Town Government

Meghan Perry •

To the editor: Another open meeting law violation by a board representing the Town of Nantucket, this time by the Affordable Housing Trust, the organization in charge of $84 million in taxpayer money and who is asking for more.

The state’s attorney general yet again sided with a private citizen’s open meeting law complaint, taking nine months to review, deliberate, and deliver a decision.

She found that the open meeting law was broken when the trust went into executive session under false pretenses and decided to discuss (for 12 minutes) and vote behind closed doors to recommend the town drop the appeal of Surfside Crossing. A matter in which the trust was not a party to or involved in.

The trust is made up of members of the community who sit on multiple boards, including the Select Board and the Planning Board. When the chair of the Select Board and the chair of the Planning Board (both up for re-election) are setting the agendas and partaking in these meetings, in my opinion, it appears as though the problem might stem from the top. Something to keep in mind when you cast your vote.

Why is it OK to violate the law? Why do members of these boards and the staff advising them feel that this is the only and necessary method to accomplish their goals? Makes you wonder what’s going on and what other violations are occurring in closed-door meetings.

When board members and staff decide to go into executive session under false pretenses, discuss matters, and take a vote on them as a method for making major governmental decisions, it further erodes the public trust in town government and is a huge slap in the face of democracy. Some wonder why many members of the community file Freedom of Information Act requests. That appears to be the only way for the public to be informed about what boards are doing. A little transparency might help decrease the number of public record requests.

In my opinion, there clearly is an issue in our town with government transparency, respect for democracy, respect for the citizens of Nantucket, and respect for the laws. These issues are compounded by the identities of the staff involved in and advising both of the open meeting law violations.

Furthermore, this demonstrates yet another time when town counsel has ill-advised its “client” and the advice has been overturned, either in the courts or by the attorney general, dropping the appeal of Surfside Crossing, the Ward case, NP& EDC open meeting law violation and now Affordable Housing Trust open meeting law violation.

The trust in town government has been deeply eroded. Change needs to happen now.

Meghan Perry

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