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OML complaint filed with state over Groton town-manager review

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GROTON — Selectmen likely violated the public’s Open Meeting Law during its March review of Town Manager Mark Haddad’s performance, Selectmen Chairman Josh Degen said this week.

Last weekend, Groton Line Editor Art Campbell filed a meeting-law complaint with the state, arguing that the manager was not reviewed in public as the law requires.

Degen said during Monday night’s meeting that he had been approached by Selectman Jack Petropoulos about the possible violation, and had met with the town’s lawyer.

The lawyer determined the board’s reviews have not followed the law, he said.

“Based on that meeting, it appeared that the Board of Selectmen had indeed violated the Open Meeting Law and I have been working directly with counsel to come up with a way to remedy the violation,” Degen said.

That March meeting came several weeks after every town official was required to attend a seminar on the meeting law. The seminar was held after selectmen were found at fault in its handling of permit fees for Blood Farm, which was rebuilding after a fire that destroyed a slaughterhouse.

Selectmen voted to require that all employees who could not attend the seminar present a certificate as proof that they had either attended a seminar on the Open Meeting Law in person or online.

Degen said Petropoulos shared his information about the manager review to Campbell, who filed the complaint.

“I spoke to the AG’s office which, after I described how we conducted the evaluation, gave me their opinion that it should have been done in open meeting and all the information developed as part of the review released,” said Petropoulos. “So I contacted Mr. Campbell and told him about the AG’s decision and gave selectmen a chance to release the information. Campbell decided that he wanted to go ahead and file his complaint anyway. But my effort was to try to get him answers and avoid having a complaint filed.”

Selectman Peter Cunningham, who was chairman in March, said the board had followed the same procedure for several years. Selectmen submit their evaluations, which the chairman uses to create a composite. He said the proposed correction will be to attach individual summaries to the meeting minutes.

Selectmen are scheduled to make a public response to the complaint on Monday, Dec. 15.

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