Open Meeting Law Complaint Leveled Against Cotuit Fire District

King F. Lowe, former chairman of the Cotuit Fire District Prudential Committee, filed an Open Meeting Law complaint against prudential committee member Amy M. Kates earlier this summer for not taking proper minutes at eight meetings between January and May this year of the district’s Policy Advisory Subcommittee.

Ms. Kates is chairman of the Policy Advisory Subcommittee and was, at the time of the complaint, chairman of the prudential committee.

This week, the prudential committee addressed the complaint and voted that minutes would be taken in the future at all subcommittee meetings.

Mr. Lowe initialed filed the complaint June 11 when he heard that the policy subcommittee was discussing things like labor issues that are not in their purview.

He asked to see the minutes of their meetings and was told there were none.

That is when he filed the complaint with the attorney general.

The new opening meeting law asks complainants to specify what actions they would like to see taken to address the complaint.

Mr. Lowe asked that minutes be provided, plus an explanation of why discussions took place that were not on the agenda.

In response, Ms. Kates on July 6 provided Mr. Lowe with 15 pages of handwritten notes she took at the eight meetings.

Finding those notes insufficient, Mr. Lowe corresponded with the attorney general’s office on July 24 and was advised to re-file his complaint for the full prudential committee to address, which he did on August 11.

The new chairman of the prudential committee, Laurie C. Hadley, took Ms. Kates to task at the prudential committee meeting Monday evening about the lack of proper minutes. “I have copies of what you provided and they are in no way in compliance,” Ms. Hadley said.

Ms. Kates said that she did not believe the meeting required official minutes because there is no quorum of any fire district committee on the subcommittee. “It is a study group,” she said. “There are no decisions made and no votes.”

She also said she did not have a clerk for the meeting.Ms. Hadley was not satisfied by the explanation.

“It boggles my mind that you thought you didn’t have to keep minutes,” she said.

“Thank you for your feedback,” Ms. Kates said.

The third member of the prudential committee,Richard G. Barry, made a motion that minutes be taken for any advisory committee to the fire district and that a copy be given to the prudential committee.

“Let’s do it right,” he said.

The vote was unanimous in favor.

The committee also took a vote that any request for paperwork must go through the district’s clerk, Charles W. Eager III.

There seems to be some confusion about where paperwork such as Open Meeting Law complaints are filed with the Cotuit Fire District.

The district clerk, Mr. Eager said he thought that Barnstable Town Clerk Linda Hutchenrider kept copies of the complaints. Ms. Hutchenrider said her office is not the repository for fire district complaints and Mr. Eager needed to keep those.

Mr. Eager said he did not have copies of the complaints, but Mr. Lowe said the June 11 complaint and the July 24 letter to the attorney general’s office were sent by e-mail to Mr. Eager and the three members of the prudential committee.

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