Vermont joins other states in celebrating Sunshine Week, March 16-22. It’s a celebration of open government that brings focus on how important open and transparent government is to shining the light of public scrutiny where it needs to be shone, but also making sure that all citizens have access to public records and information that gives context to the actions of elected and appointed officials.
Locally, our select boards, planning commission, development review board and conservation commission members are excellent at adhering to Vermont’s Open Meeting Laws.
Our tri-town Mad River Valley Planning District and its subcommittee working toward a local option tax is scrupulous about following the laws, as is the tri-town select board committee that was working on developing the legal structure to adopt a local option tax, should that come about.
There was some name calling and nay-saying about the comportment of the planning district subcommittee on social media in recent days that took that group to task for meeting the day after Town Meeting. A proposal for Waitsfield to change its charter to allow voters – at a later date and separate vote – to adopt a local option tax was rejected by voters.
The fact that members of this subcommittee working toward a local option tax proposal met at their regular time (posted on the mrvlot.org website) in a public place (Waitsfield town office lunch room) was interpreted by a few in our community to represent something nefarious, given that a charter change was rejected by voters the day before.
That subcommittee is subject to the same open meeting laws that all our boards and committees are. But, there was not a quorum in attendance. That means that the group cannot legally convene and cannot take any action. Hence there are no minutes taken from this gathering because nothing could happen without a quorum.
Celebrating Sunshine Week means recognizing all the good efforts that local elected and appointed officials have made and continue to make to operate openly and transparently.
We all need to be vigilant to keep it that way, and we all need to avoid piling on when conspiracy theories suggest that these public servants have done something wrong in holding their regularly scheduled and warned meeting.