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Selectmen challenged over posting of meeting minutes

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ASHBY — Selectmen fielded questions on several fronts from Finance Committee member Denny Hayes, but not all of his questions could be answered easily.

Hayes had several criticisms at the April 30 meeting. After looking over the town Web site, he said, “some of the minutes are very, very sketchy. Anyone who did not attend the meeting should know what’s going on.”

“Why aren’t the executive minutes on the fire truck available?” he asked.

Selectman Geoff Woollacott, newly named as chairman, said that the Board of Selectmen has had two meetings about how to handle the loss of nearly $350,000 the town paid for a fire truck that was not delivered because the manufacturer went out of business. “It is still in litigation. We have to be careful,” Woollacott said. “So, yes, we will be in executive sessions on this for the foreseeable future.”

Hayes told Woollacott to look into the law stating that all minutes are supposed to be made public.

“You are challenging my integrity. The insinuations in what you have been doing is more than a friendly request,” said Woollacott.

“Look at it all you want,” the selectman continued. “I’ll bet you a steak dinner at the Outback there’s nothing in there you haven’t heard about, as long as there’s nothing about what our options are going forward.”

Town administrator Linda Sanders said no information can be released that could compromise the legal strategies the town is pursuing in regards to the fire truck. No personnel discussions from executive sessions are allowed to be published, either.

Hayes said he was not aware until the last minute of the question-and-answer session held earlier in the evening with the selectmen and a citizen’s committee looking into the purchasing processes of the town, concentrating on the fire truck purchase.

Hayes suggested that meetings should be posted on the Web site. “One of the things that I’ve heard a lot of people talking about is communications,” Hayes said. “Unless I’m coming in for a meeting, I don’t normally stop and look at the board and see what’s there.”

Paul McGrail, chairman of the Technology and Systems Strategy Group, was broadcasting the meeting for cable. He said that it would take about an hour to set up an online meeting calendar, then people would need to update it. He said he’d be willing to assist Alan Pease, who volunteers to keep the site up to date, in setting up the calendar.

McGrail also said that it would not be difficult for each department to post meeting minutes online. Woollacott said that there would still be a delay of at least two weeks, since minutes had to be approved before being published. Sometimes this delay could be even longer.

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