Friday, February 27, 2009

Saga of the "tapes" continues

What does it say about those elected officials that are so concerned with information being available to the public, that they have to discuss ways to destroy the recorded minutes from public meetings, so that no one can question or provide positive proof that the written record from these public meetings is incomplete, inaccurate and is basically someone's version of what took place. Without checks and balances, there is no democracy.

*taken from recent BOS meeting minutes*

On April 9, 2003 the BOS voted to keep tapes of public meetings for 90 days. On October 10, 2007 the subject came up again and Chairman Tedford stated that he would like to discuss how long the tapes and notes are kept at a later meeting, which after researching we do not believe was readdressed. The State Statute makes clear that tape recordings of meeting minutes only need to be kept until written record is approved at the meeting. As soon as the minutes are approved, the tapes can either be reused or disposed. Chairman Tedford thinks it is only necessary to keep the tape until the minutes of that meeting are approved by the Board because once approved they are the official record of the meeting. Selectman Fraser disagrees and thinks it is useful to keep the tapes in case someone needs to reference something directly from a tape. When Selectman Fraser was the Town’s secretary she kept years of tapes in a box. Selectman Ruth thinks someone has requested the copy of a tape only two times since he’s been a selectman. Selectman Fraser believes there has only been one occurrence while she was secretary. Selectman Fraser would like the tapes kept at least until the official minutes have been posted, in case any one wants a copy of the tape. Selectman Whippie makes a motion to continue and/or restart keeping the tapes for 90 days and then destroy or reuse the tapes. Selectman Berthiaume seconds the motion and it passes 4-1. Chairman Tedford says it is the responsibility of the Board to review the minutes and approve them. The Board members all agree.


The Planning Board had this same conversation several months ago when it became evident to Margaret Sharra that we were gathering evidence from these tapes to use in our lawsuit against the board in the Van Dyke matter. Since several audio tapes of past meetings that were requested under the "Right To Know" law have somehow mysteriously disappeared from the Planning Board office, containing important information in regards to the current lawsuit before the Superior Court, we can only wonder what happened to them and who's responsible for their disappearance.

It would seem that since several of us have been requesting these tapes of meeting minutes for the past couple of years , we have ruffled the feathers of those who do not wish to have their word questioned and are just expected to believe whatever we are told. Meeting minutes by the way are not verbatim, they are a condensed version of the events of that meeting and from our own comparisons of written and the actual taped accounts, much information is either omitted or written in a manner to suggest a completely different meaning than what was intended. Therefore we contend that these taped meeting minutes are an important record of the events and should be saved, if not for any other reason, than to provide an accurate and detailed account of what transpired at a public meeting. As stated in the minutes above by BOS member Fraser, these tapes can easily be stored in a box for years to be referenced if needed to defend the town in a lawsuit as well as provide evidence of wrong doing if such is the case. Why the big rush to destroy them?

11 comments:

ONE OF THE TWENTY said...

This problem will be a thing of the past with Robert and Brian in the town hall. Even though we have a ton of for sale signs in Winchester the down turn in America hasn't hit this area as bad as other parts of the country, but its coming. You have a chance to get rid of the big spenders, and reestablish accountability Mar10Th its up to you. Every one has there one idea on how to run this town, they had there turn, ARE we still 4Th highest in the state?

RTE>119 said...

If you don't think its coming to a town near you, check out today's Sentinel[feb 27] page2 under BRIEFS NH, Claremonts in a bind and they are making the hard choices.

Pat said...

Little do people realize just how many times this town has been taken to court by Winchester residents over the past few years. There is an abuse of power in our town that needs to come to an end if we are ever going to change the image and reputation of Winchester. Missing tapes and "non-public meetings" raise many questions as to just what is going on at town hall is being hidden from it's citizens.

Anonymous said...

I agree, there are much more important things going on in town that our selectman should be concerning themselves with, that of course unless they too have something to hide. As for missing tapes, that makes me very suspicious and concerned enough to ask why the selectmen and Bob Gray haven't gotten involved and found out what happened to these tapes. What happens if the town is asked to produce these tapes at some court proceedings in the future, just what would the consequences for the town be?

the Winchester Informer said...

The town relies on what is called, the Certified Record. A compilation of meeting minutes and other paperwork that make up the record of a specific issue before a board or committee. This is a written record of the events that transpired, not an audio one and is not verbatim; but the edited version, usually done by the board or committee's secretary and them submitted to be voted on by all members of the board or committee to either except or amend at a later meeting. The problem with this method is that the person writing up this condensed version, can either by choice or accidentally leave out important information or testimony given if it suits them and unless other board members are very diligent and have their own notes in which to compare at the time these past minutes are brought up for approval ( not always at the next meeting and sometimes many weeks later ) this information and testimony are lost forever. Such is the case of the missing tapes from 3 Planning Board meetings of the Van Dyke hearings, last in the hands of the Planning Board chairperson. All that remains of these meetings is her written version of the events of those evenings which is being questioned by those who attended those meetings and who took their own notes and question the accuracy and content of the Certified Record which has been submitted to the court by the town in it's defense of a lawsuit brought by abutters of the Van Dyke project.

ONE OF THE TWENTY said...

I wonder if the same folks that want the tapes destroyed, have a hand in the way the planning & zoning board articles are written on the mar. 10th ballot. If they were deliberately trying to confuse us they did a dam good job. It would take a mo. of research to sort this mess out.BEWARE

Anonymous said...

Reading them over it's quite evident that the author(s) were intent on changing existing restrictions to make it easier for some land owners to be able to build multiple units on land currently deemed too steep or otherwise restricted by density. I would venture a wild guess that the person or people seeking these changes has/have property they want to build on but can't maximize their investment if they have to adhere to current regulations.

FOR SALE ? said...

In the[ tell you how to vote flier that you got in the mail today] the BOS and BC worked hard to produce the lower budget. What a crock, the dept. heads are happy as hell. All the other towns you read about in the paper are making real cuts. This must be a much richer town than i imagined.I guess time will tell, good luck folks.

someone who knows all said...

I see Margaret Sharra wrote into the Sentinel to plug her warrant articles and changes to the ZBA and planning board regulations she is trying to get passed. She's against anything that will help the town and continues to push her own agendas. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read how "they enforce all the regulations" what a crock of manure, they do nothing but pass out waivers like it's Christmas candy. I would suggest strongly that people go read all of the minutes of their past actions on that Van Dyke thing and you'll see just how they enforce their own rules. It's no wonder they have been taken to court and reported on by this web site, it's easy to see who she has been favoring and it sure isn't the people who pay her salary. I hope these people win their suit and just maybe the rest of the town will wake up.

joke of the week said...

Unemployment at a 25 year high, the town of Barrington NH sent a letter to there voters to vote NO on many warrant articles because there is no money to fund them, not as much money coming from the state. We get a letter telling us to spend because they worked hard to produce a lower budget. How did we get so rich when the rest of the world is broke?

Keep the Record Straight...It's the law .. said...

CHAPTER 91-A Right To Know
ACCESS TO GOVERNMENTAL RECORDS AND MEETINGS
Section 91-A:2

II. Subject to the provisions of RSA 91-A:3, all meetings, whether held in person, by means of telephone or electronic communication, or in any other manner, shall be open to the public. Except for town meetings, school district meetings, and elections, no vote while in open session may be taken by secret ballot. Any person shall be permitted to use recording devices, including, but not limited to, tape recorders, cameras, and videotape equipment, at such meetings.
Simple Solution..........