Members of the Warren Sanitary District were asked to adjourn and seek a meeting with legal counsel to review the town's bylaws during their March 18 gathering.

Trustee Jay Sawyer requested the motion after he discovered that on Page 2; Section 6 of the town bylaws it notes that all meetings must be posted at least seven days in advance of a scheduled meeting with an attached agenda.

Sawyer went on to request further discussion be postponed and the executive director post a proper notice of a meeting as directed in the bylaws.

"On that agenda I would like to include a meeting with our district lawyer," he added.

"Is that a motion?" asked member Mark Anderson.

"This meeting was not posted as directed in the bylaws," said Sawyer.

He requested a meeting with the district lawyer to discuss the bylaws and board conduct.

"I have discussed these bylaws with our executive director after our last meeting," Sawyer said, "and I would totally invite him to share with the audience what his response was to me when I asked him this specific question."

"I don't even recall what I said Jay, so feel free to say what I said," LaFlamme said.

"No, I've already said what I'm going to say. I've made a motion and I think there's enough there for the board to act on it," Sawyer said.

"If you want to do this I think we should set it up for the next meeting with the full board," said Secretary Clayton Winchenbach.

Not present for the meeting were Chairman Edward Courtenay and Vice Chairman John Cooke.

"This is a legal meeting Clay," said Sawyer. "There's three people on this board right here so we have a quorum. Just like some other quorums that were mentioned, this is a legal meeting."

"Or legal meeting as far as the quorum is concerned," Sawyer said. "I'm wondering if it's even legal because we don't meet this order in our policy manual."

"I'm questioning the legality of it," said Sawyer. "But we do have a quorum of the board and in my opinion this is our meeting."

"Now the board's got to either shoot this down or O.K. it?" Winchenbach questioned.

"So the motion has been made that we are not operating a legal meeting here, because it wasn't posted properly," said Anderson.

"Which is a First Amendment issue," said Sawyer, "I don't think it's one that this district wants to get caught in any situation having to defend ourselves."

"A Constitutional First Amendment?" Anderson said.

"This is public notice," said Sawyer.

"Any other discussion? Ed?" said Anderson.

"I'll let it play out the way it plays out," LaFlamme said. "I think there are certain ramifications to the action that I think you're about to take, but it's up to you guys. I'll do whatever you say."

"I'm going to vote against this," said Winchenbach. "And have it with the full board here. I know this might be a legal meeting, but I think they should be included in the consult."

"That has nothing to do with the issue at hand," said Anderson. "I don't see anything terribly important on this agenda other than the fact a warrant to be signed and none of these checks can be paid without that being signed."

"Nothing important?" Sawyer said. "I don't see how you can say that. But my motion stands."

"If there's nothing important, then it would be easier to err on the side of caution," said Sawyer.

"That's what I'm getting at," said Anderson. "There's nothing pressing here."

"Wish we had some legal here," Anderson said after a moment of silence as the board tried to figure out the next move.

"That's one more reason it makes it easy," said Sawyer.

"I'm not a user of the district, but I am the public and being that I didn't even get notified of the meeting being a townsperson. And not having any solid notification that you were having the meeting, and even then when I did know there was a meeting I didn't even know where it was," Bob Williams.

"Just odd that it wouldn't be more publicized," said Williams.

"What Jay's done is fine," said Winchenbach, "I just think we should transfer it over to the next meeting. If he wants a lawyer here. Whatever we have to do. We can sit here all night, but nothing further happens."

"I'd like to do that before any further business is taken, Clayton," said Sawyer. "I'd like to speak with our lawyer."

"I still think that all the trustees should be here," said Winchenbach.

"I have no issues with those guys not being here. It has no bearing on what's been raised here," said Anderson.

"All I can look at is this is the way it's been conducted for the 14 years I've been on this board," said Anderson. "I mean nothing has changed."

"And that's called precedence," said Sawyer. "So that's the choice, precedence or by the law. And that's what we are doing and that is exactly my issue. I don't think it qualifies as a legal meeting going by precedence. And not just for this meeting but others as well."

"I want to know we are in a legal meeting before the other issues are handled," said Sawyer.

"What about our previous meetings?" said Anderson.

"This is the law book that was given to me when I joined the board," Sawyer said. "I went to the town office and took an oath to serve this elected position. This is my first one. And when I swore that oath, I believe it was to uphold these bylaws, not any precedence that has been set at previous meetings."

"I don't want to get in a pissing contest with you," said Anderson to Sawyer, "but precedence has worked fine, up until recently with this board."

"Mark, I think you're answering your own questions. I think your concerns may be the same as mine," said Sawyer. "We may not be talking the same language, but I think we have some concerns that are valid. And I have been doing a little bit of homework and their are concerns, but before I attempt to handle it I think the first step is to assure that this meeting is legal."

"I think that I've just demonstrated, and Ed has answered that it wasn't posted as these bylaws tell us. They might be written in 1992 but they are our bylaws. This is the rule book. This is a state statute. Precedence doesn't count," Sawyer said.

"I guess I understand that, but it has served this community well up until this date," said Anderson.

LaFlamme said he disagreed that bylaws are state statute. Sawyer agreed, noting that he stood corrected.

We've run these meetings here like we should," Winchenbach said. "Nobody's had any problems with it. So let's put it in the next meeting. What we've done in the past we can correct in the next meeting.

"It can't be done in one meeting," said Anderson.

"Well, we've got to start somewhere," said Winchenbach.

"I just need to find a way to get this meeting completed, but I'm not getting any help anywhere here," Anderson said.

"If you're asking me," said LaFlamme, "the motion hasn't been seconded. If it isn't seconded, it dies. If it is seconded, before the motion is carried it has to be 3-0 because it's got to be a unanimous vote to carry it."

"There's a warrant there that's got a lot of paychecks on it," said Anderson. "And if we don't have a meeting and get this warrant signed, those paychecks won't go out."

"Is there any way, Jay, that you can find to carry through this meeting?" asked Anderson. "Is something lost in your agenda to go to another meeting to complete this one and have your issues come into the next meeting?"

"I see what you're saying, but we've gotta start somewhere," said Sawyer. "We might as well get started."

Debate was had on voting on the motion or adjourning the meeting and then signing the warrant for the payment of the checks. The board had adjourned in the past and signed the agenda.

"The point that I'm trying to make is we have bylaws that are not being followed on several issues," said Sawyer. "And a lot of these manuals have cobwebs on them and here we go. It's just perpetuating it into who knows what."

 

The vote to adjourn then sign the warrant was held. The motion was accepted to have next meeting properly posted and notification given to the public.

"At some point we've got to get real here," said Sawyer.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.