By Katina Caraganis
ASHBY -- The Board of Selectmen violated the state's Open Meeting Law last year when it conducted business during a meeting that was not posted, according to a ruling from the Attorney General's Office.
The violation occurred during a meeting held at 6:30 p.m., on April 18, 2012, in which the board granted a liquor license to the Fitchburg Rod and Gun club.
The liquor-license vote was originally scheduled to take place during a selectmen meeting scheduled at 2 p.m. earlier that day. That meeting's agenda was properly posted April 12.
The afternoon meeting had to be canceled, however, when two members of the board failed to show up. Peter McMurray, the board's chairman at the time, decided to move the agenda item to the meeting scheduled for later that night.
In a letter to the Attorney General's office, then-Town Administrator Doug Briggs wrote that the liquor license in question was for an event happening that weekend. He said the vote could not be postponed to another day.
Sclarsic ruled in his decision that meeting at 6:30 p.m. was improper, according to his report.
"The board anticipated discussing the liquor license requests as early as April 12, 2012, when it posted notice for the April 18, 2012, meeting and listed the license requests as a topic for discussion," he wrote.
Municipal boards can call an emergency meeting for a "sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action," according to the Open Meeting Law. But Sclarsic wrote that the meeting "did not constitute an emergency justifying deviation from the standard policy requirements."
"We order immediate and future compliance with the law, and caution the board that a finding of a similar future violation may be considered evidence of an intentional violation of the law," Sclarsic wrote in his finding, while noting that his office considers the matter closed.
Resident Lillian Whitney filed the Open Meeting Law complaint with the Attorney General's Office.
Bob Hanson, Ashby's town administrator, was not working for the town at the time of the April 2012 meeting.
When reached by phone Wednesday, he would not address the Attorney General's decision but did say that Whitney was not out of bounds in filing the complaint.
"The only thing I would say on the subject is anyone has the right to file if they feel that is an appropriate action," he said. "What result they get remains to be seen, depending on the given circumstances."
McMurray, Dan Meunier, and Joseph Casey, who all were on the Board of Selectmen at that time of the violation, did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday. Briggs also did not return a message left at his office Wednesday.
Current Selectman Steve Ingerson was not on the board then but said Wednesday afternoon that he ran his campaign on honest politics.
"Those types of conditions in that complaint will not be allowed during my three-year-term," he said. "I plan on following the letter of the law. I'm not into dishonesty. I want people to know the truth. I have no intention of letting this board run this way."
Ingerson added that he was "very happy to see that letter had such a threatening view. The people in town need to know this is their government with your money and your trust."
Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.