By Kathleen Sloan
The Village of Williamsburg on Thursday, July 19, held a special meeting, although the agenda said “regular.” It was to make up for the last minute cancellation of their regular meeting of Thursday, July 12, which claimed “lack of a quorum” on the door. Evidently other attendees had some other means of information, because this reporter was the only one who showed up last week.
This meeting was not unlike watching one of those modern abstract plays, such as those by Ionesco, in which characters enact an obscure exercise, only hinted at, leaving the audience wondering. No discussion, just a brief statement from Mayor Carole Schuling, such as, “The next resolution is on infrastructure capital. Do I have a motion?” The motion was made, seconded and passed, always unanimously, for six resolutions on the agenda. The whole meeting took a half hour.
If one needed further proof that the trustees had obviously discussed and decided every issue beforehand, Schuling provided it. When the resolution to approve the final budget came up on the agenda, she said, “That’s right, we’re going to table this for further adjustment.” Just such a motion followed and was passed.
The agenda, in the absence of any explanation and discussion, becomes even more important to the citizen attempting to remain informed of the actions taken by their “representative” government. One of the very few attendees, blurted out during this maze of motions, “Can we get copies of this, because it doesn’t say what it is here,” holding up the hard to decode agenda. According to the Open Meetings Act, agendas must offer enough specificity to be understandable.
The press packet has become more encrypted, too. Expenditures, if that is indeed what they are, the document titled only “June 15, 2012,” are listed under columns labeled “vendor,” “line item,” “total” and “check.” For example, one is “Quill, 101-10-5570, 156.45,” and is initialed by Trustees Paul McCauley and Majorie Powey. One line states: “Citizens Bank 50,384.06.” Deputy Secretary Jerry McCauley says this indicates the Village “closed an account at Compass and opened it at Citizens.”
The initials by the two trustees is evidence that the two trustees are looking over the finances, together or apart, although no finance committee with bylaws has been formed in a public meeting and no notice of a subcommittee of the governing board has been given. According to the Open Meetings Act, elected officials are not supposed to meet to discuss municipality business, unless noticed. Subcommittees can be formed, but they are subject to the same meeting notice requirements as the governing board, according to the OMA.
The agenda, as usual for the last six months or so, included executive session, citing OMA State Law 10-15-1 (H) as that which gives them the authority. But that part of the law merely says: “The provisions of Subsections A, B and G of this section do not apply to:”
The Village must list a specific exemption for holding a closed meeting, but they do not.
The OMA also requires that agendas be specific, even more important for closed-door meetings. The Village inadequately states: “Personnel (possible action,” and “Contracts/Agreements.”)
The trustees did not call for executive session. Nevertheless, after adjourning the meeting, they remained for about half an hour.
Ironically, the Village passed a very well drafted Open Meetings Act resolution at this same meeting that addresses how regular, special and emergency meetings will be noticed. The Village goes beyond the norm by adopting the provision that regular meetings will be noticed “at least seven days in advance.” Unfortunately, the agenda will be available the usual 24 hours in advance, although some municipalities release them three days in advance.
No matter when the agenda is released, if it lacks specificity, it is not in compliance with the OMA.
The following are other actions taken on Thursday:
•Trustees denied the Williamsburg Fire Department’s nomination of Monica Mishler as Fire Chief.
After the meeting, fireman Brian Hollenbeck said among its 16 volunteer members, either they didn’t want to do the paperwork or were not qualified to do the job.
Daniel Montoya resigned the post after about six months service, and Mishler is their only prospect.
•Trustees passed a resolution that “defines the methods and standards of procurement.”
•Trustees passed a resolution that reestablishes the Village as a member of South Central Council of Governments. The membership fee is $500 and Trustee Deborah Stubblefield is the representative.
•Trustees passed a resolution that adopts the “attached Infrastructure Capital Improvements Plan,” but no such plan was attached.
•Trustees mentioned but did not pass a motion on a contract for animal control services with Sierra Animal Shelter. Pressed for details by a resident, trustees said the fee is $200 per month and the contract expires end of June next year. That covers housing stray animals and disposal if euthanized, they said.