Let’s continue with the theme of yesterday’s post about how it is that we can end up in a multi-million dollar lawsuit with million-dollar legal fees and no warning whatsoever.
Take a look at the minutes of the January 18, 2012 Selectmen’s meeting (The Central Committee). You will notice that Mr. Owen tells the Selectmen there is a need for a non-public session to “discuss litigation”. Look a little further down and you might see that Mr. Ford was present at that meeting. In reviewing ongoing capital projects it says:
“He noted that they are slowing down the flow to the RIB site based on a recent meeting with NH DES and will be using more spray to offset that reduction.”
Then Mr. Bowers asks him to contact the Chamber of Commerce because they expressed concern about the recent issues at the RIB site. It says Mr. Ford agreed to do that but:
“noted the issue with the site is that it isn’t working to the capacity that was built for, other than that it runs properly”
Got that? “It runs properly”.
In fact, what was disclosed at the trial today was that Wright Pierce had been working with the town to resolve the problems there and had made a proposal to the town to repair the site. I don’t have a copy of the proposal, and I don’t know if it was sound, how much it would have cost the town, or what other issues were involved at the time. Apparently the Selectmen deliberated over the offer during that non-public session and decided to sue Wright Pierce instead. That lawsuit was filed on April 2, 2012 – two and a half months later.
So when the Selectmen said they needed a non-public session to discuss litigation, they were actually discussing ongoing serious problems with the RIB system operation, considering a proposal by Wright-Pierce to fix the site, and considering whether to initiate a process to file a lawsuit several months later.
Does that sound like something that needs to be withheld from the public? Here is the Attorney General’s right-to-know pamphlet which covers the procedures for open public meetings and the reasons for and procedures for non-public sessions. The valid reasons for conducting business behind closed doors begin on page 14.
There is an exception for discussing litigation that is threatened against the town, but none for litigation that the town is contemplating filing as plaintiff. There is an exception for ongoing litigation, but here the actual lawsuit is months away. Further, the decision to litigate could have been separate from the discussion of serious RIB problems and consideration of the merits or lack thereof of the Wright Pierce proposal, which could have and should have been done in open public session.
Instead, Mr. Ford tells us that except for a capacity problem, everything is fine. Then the Selectmen usher out the public and talk about the real situation and decide for all of us whether to accept or reject the proposal from Wright Pierce.
Maybe it was a real bad deal for the town. If so, why hide it? Do they think we are too stupid to understand the situation?
Well comrades, now our fate is in the hands of 9 people who know less about this than any of us, and we have more than a million on the line to try and convince them that we did the right thing rejecting that proposal back in January of 2012. I hope the Central Committee knows what they are doing.