AG: Executive session broke rule

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AUBURN – Councilors erred in January, going into an executive session when they did not have the votes, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

But Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner said the action did not void a council vote to appoint a Citizens Budget Committee. In a letter to Ed Desgrosseilliers, chair of the tax reform group United Citizens of Auburn, Gardiner wrote that she had discussed the matter with City Clerk Mary Lou Magno and City Attorney Patrick Scully.

“Having been specifically counseled on this matter, we expect compliance to be improved in the future,” she wrote. The matter did not warrant fines or any punishments against the city.

Desgrosseilliers filed a Freedom of Access complaint against the city after the Jan. 25 meeting.

According to the minutes of the meeting, Mayor Normand Guay presented a list of names he wanted to appoint. Councilor Belinda Gerry challenged him, saying Guay did not have the authority to make appointments on his own. She moved to enter executive session, and Councilor Donna Lyons Rowell seconded the motion. Councilors Bethel Shields, Bob Hayes and Kelly Matzen voted against the executive session, leaving the vote at four in favor, three against.

According to Gardiner’s letter, councilors need a minimum of five yes votes to enter into executive session.

Gerry said Monday that councilors discussed the names on Guay’s list in executive session.

“There were names there that I was unfamiliar with, and I wanted to know who they were before I voted on them,” Gerry said.

Councilors then returned to the regular meeting to vote.

It was an honest mistake, according to Gardiner’s letter.

“The violation in this instance does not appear to have been willful, and thus does not, in our view, warrant enforcement,” she wrote.

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