By Martin Langeveld
A few questions have been asked in the Vernon Facebook group recently about how to attend Zoom meetings of the Selectboard and other town boards and committees. All of these meetings have been held on Zoom in recent months and will continue to be held that way in the foreseeable future.
To receive the warning (notification) for all meetings, email Tim Arsenault, the Town Clerk, and ask to be placed on the email notification list. You will then receive warnings of regular meetings and special meetings, as well as emergency meetings when possible. The warning will include a Zoom link to attend. Tim’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need assistance accessing Zoom, Tim can help.
Warnings of all regular and special meetings are also posted on the bulletin board on the outside of the Town Office building, next to the east entrance (Gov. Hunt Road side). In addition, they are posted outside the Vernon Post Officer and the Cold Brook General Store. Emailed warnings of all meetings include the agenda for the meeting, and for regular Selectboard meetings, the minutes of the previous meeting are also included.
Selectboard meetings are being held in distanced fashion in the Town Office building basement (not the more constricted Selectboard meeting room). As an alternative to tuning in digitally via Zoom, members of the public may attend in person, and the Zoom attendees are projected on a screen. Seating is widely spaced and masks are required.
Regular Selectboard meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, at 6:30 p.m. For regular meetings, the agenda will be circulated (via the email list described above, and on the bulletin boards) at least 48 hours in advance. (Since the Town Office is closed Friday through Sunday, typically this means it goes out on the preceding Thursday.)
Special meetings (which are simply meetings not held on the regular meeting dates and times) require warnings and agendas to be circulated 24 hours in advance.
Emergency meetings may be held entirely without warnings, but some form of notice should be issued if at all possible. This was done (via the email list and the bulletin boards) in the case of both recent emergency meetings. Emergency meetings should only happen in response to “an unforeseen occurrence or condition requiring immediate attention,” according to the Open Meetings Law.
There are no “secret meetings.” All meetings are open meetings which the public has the right to attend. However, during any meeting, a board or committee may enter into executive session, meaning that the public is excluded from that portion. The Open Meeting Law limits the circumstances under which executive sessions may take place, and no votes may take place in executive session.
Please note also that all Selectboard meetings are video-recorded by BCTV and posted on their website as well as on the unofficial town website, usually a couple of days after the meeting.
For further information about the Open Meeting Law, including the list of permissible reasons for executive session, here’s a link to the Secretary of State’s Guide to Open Meetings:
If you have any questions about all this, email me (email@example.com) and I’ll attempt to answer.