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Williamstown's Monday Committees Take a Break
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
12:47AM / Monday, September 14, 2020
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It will be a quiet evening in town government on Monday with two high-profile committees electing not to hold previously scheduled meetings.
The Select Board last week canceled its regular twice-monthly meeting due to a lack of public business to conduct, and the Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee decided to take a week off after holding a midweek session last Wednesday.
"The only agenda item for a public session would have been to approve some minutes, so we decided not to convene just for that," Select Board Chair Jane Patton said in an email replying to a request for comment about the cancellation.
Her board has been more active than usual over the last month, but most of that activity has occurred in executive sessions since the Aug. 12 announcement of a federal lawsuit against the town, town manager and chief of police.
The Select Board met in executive session on Aug. 17, 20 and 26 and on Sept. 8 and 10 with another executive session meeting scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m.
The closed-door meetings have been held for two purposes allowed under the commonwealth's Open Meeting Law: to discuss the body's strategy with respect to litigation or to discuss the personnel matters, including possible discipline of an employee.
Those executive sessions have yielded two public statements from the Select Board, issued on Aug. 18 and Aug. 27.
The DIRE Committee, which was formed earlier this summer, has been pushing the Select Board for more transparency and action in response to the lawsuit with its explosive allegations of racism and sexual misconduct in the Williamstown Police Department.
The DIRE group has been meeting weekly since its creation but was thrown a little off-cycle last week by the first Monday holiday since its creation. The panel moved its weekly meeting from Labor Day to Wednesday and did not feel it could adequately prepare for the quick turnaround to meet again on Monday.
"We would have needed to have the agenda ready by Thursday to abide by the Open Meeting Laws for a Monday meeting," Mohammed Memfis wrote in answer to an email seeking comment. "We wouldn't be able to meet that for a Monday meeting as everyone (including myself) was trying to compile the follow up resources and agenda item details.
"We could have theoretically decided to meet on another day next week but everyone's schedules were a bit scrambled, so pushing to the following Monday (which everyone has blocked off), made more sense."
The DIRE Committee is scheduled to meet on Sept. 21. Both DIRE and the Select Board are scheduled for public meetings on Sept. 28.
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