Mass Town Challenges Open Meetings Violation

The Town of Southampton, Massachusetts, embroiled in a wrongful termination lawsuit by former deputy chief, is challenging an attorney general’s office determination that it violated the state’s open meetings law.

The violation allegedly occurred when the town’s Board of Selectmen met in executive session on September 20, 2016 to “indirectly affect the employment status” of then Deputy Chief Kyle Miltimore.

Chief Miltimore had been at odds with Fire Chief John C. Workman since 2015, when Miltimore claims he refused the chief’s request to falsely report he witnessed an altercation. Following the September 20, 2016 meeting, Chief Workman submitted final paperwork that terminated Chief Miltimore. More on that story.

The Selectmen disagree with Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Sclarsic’s March 13, 2017 determination that their actions on September 20, 2016 violated the state’s open meetings requirement. They are also fighting to keep the minutes from the executive session sealed. Chief Miltimore has been seeking copies of the minutes as part of his lawsuit.

As was the case with regard to Chief Miltimore’s lawsuit, understanding what is going on in this case is difficult. Masslive reports that the town’s attorney, Michele Randazzo, claims the vote taken on September 20 involved another employee, not Chief Miltimore. She claims releasing the minutes to Chief Miltimore would violate the other employee’s rights.

Later in the same article, MassLive references town administrator Robert Markel, who claims that Chief Miltimore was no longer an employee of the town on September 20, and thus had no right as an employee to notice of the executive session, or an opportunity to participate.

The town is appealing the decision to Suffolk County Superior Court.

More on the story.

UPDATED: Here is the Attorney General’s decision: OML-2017-39-Southampton-Board-of-Selectmen (2)

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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