Attorney general says MVC violated Massachusetts Open Meeting Law
The state attorney general’s office has found the Martha’s Vineyard Commission violated Massachusetts open meeting laws during its modification review of the Harbor View Hotel project.
The state is requiring the commission to submit more substantial minutes from an executive session last year.
The notice of the violation comes after Harbor View filed a lawsuit against the commission on Sept. 14, 2021 appealing what they said were “unreasonable” conditions placed on an approved expansion project involving a 4,625-square-foot spa on hotel grounds.
At a commission meeting in July 2022, MVC chair Joan Malkin announced that the regional planning agency and the Harbor View Hotel had reached an out-of-court agreement.
But surrounding neighbors of the hotel raised concerns about the lack of transparency of the settlement.
The initial open meeting law complaint, filed by attorney Dylan Sanders on behalf of Harbor View abutters in October of last year, alleged that on July 7, 2022, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission failed to announce the reasoning of an executive session, along with failing to first convene in open session.
“The public has a right to witness these procedural steps in order to observe the vote and learn the purpose for the executive session,” the findings by the attorney general’s office states.
Sanders’ complaint also claims that during their July 7 meeting, the commission “discussed matters not appropriate for executive session.”
According to its findings on April 24, the office of the attorney general concurred with Sanders’ claims, in addition to finding the minutes of the executive session minutes in question to be insufficient. Specifically, “the minutes include[d] no summary of the discussions held during the almost hour-long meeting.”
The Massachusetts open meeting law was enacted “to eliminate much of the secrecy surrounding deliberations and decisions on which public policy is based,” the ruling of the attorney general states. “The minutes should contain enough detail and accuracy so that a member of the public who did not attend the meeting could read the minutes and have a clear understanding of what occurred.”
The commission has 30 days from the issuance of the attorney general’s findings to amend the minutes from the executive session in question and is obligated then to avail the public of the revised minutes.
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