Some things during board meetings—especially meetings held over Zoom due to COVID-19—don’t go precisely as planned. Some of these minor glitches can be explained away by the challenges of holding a board meeting remotely, but other issues are potentially more serious.
Case in point: The February 2 remote meeting of the Bourne Board of Selectmen.
At the start of the discussion on the memorandum of understanding between the Town of Bourne and Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Admiral Francis McDonald said the MOU was a draft document that would be subject to tweaking and reworking.
However, shortly thereafter, Selectman Jared MacDonald made a motion that the board unanimously approved to accept the MOU, seemingly as a final document.
Additionally, Mr. MacDonald’s approved motion included only the sections pertaining to shared parking on Kendall Rae Place, access to Cadet Beach and office space at 320 Main Street.
There were several other matters included in the MOU, not the least of which was the admiral’s assurance of no taking of property by eminent domain by Mass Maritime.
This brought up several questions for our reporter: Where does the MOU stand now? Are only the items mentioned in the motion under agreement? Or is this still a working document that should not have been voted on—and approved—during the meeting?
The day after the meeting we approached Judith Froman, the board’s chairwoman, with those questions. Ms. Froman responded it was her sense that Admiral McDonald was open to further discussion, and he had suggested there could be benefits to future MOUs.
She also felt that Mr. MacDonald had heard enough discussion that he could make a motion, and the rest of the board members knew they were voting on the full MOU, as presented. Given that questions had been raised, however, she sought an opinion from Town Counsel Robert Troy.
Mr. Troy’s opinion stated that the board’s vote “approved all of the provisions of the MOU.” The selectmen, he said, were therefore authorized “to execute the document on behalf of the town.”
It is good to know that the selectmen are following proper procedures when a question is raised about a motion or a vote. It’s also important to remember how much care must be put into the proceedings of every board meeting, particularly now when the participants—including the reporters who cover those meetings—are physically distanced.