Superintendent acknowledges illegal meeting

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LIVERMORE FALLS — RSU 36 Superintendent Judith Harvey and school board Chairman Ashley O’Brien acknowledged Friday that an interview with a superintendent candidate Thursday night was not conducted in a legal executive session.

When the Sun Journal objected to the unannounced interview, O’Brien said the board was advised it didn’t have to announce it to the public beforehand, and Harvey concurred.

O‘Brien noted the Sun reporter’s objection.

On Friday, Harvey acknowledged in an e-mail to the Sun Journal that directors should have announced their interview session to the public, opened the meeting and then voted to go into executive session.

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“I have to beg forgiveness for contradicting you last night about the executive session,” Harvey wrote Friday. “I have reviewed the law and realize now that you were correct. This has not been my experience in the past, but that was obviously colored by incorrect practice. I did call our attorneys and they said that, indeed, boards handle things differently all over the state. But, the fact remains that it should have been an executive session and I should have directed Ashley in that way. Many apologies.”

O’Brien concurred.

“You were right and I was wrong,” O’Brien wrote in his e-mail. “Drummond and Woodsum was asked today about the way in which last night’s interview was handled. Their opinion is that most importantly the nomination for the superintendent’s position was handled in public.

“But the letter of the law requires a public meeting and a vote to go into executive session. Although I was acting on the advice of others, it is still my responsibility to ensure that the board complies with the law and any and all blame is mine alone. As part of my next chairman’s report I will be offering an apology to you and the public and will ensure that it becomes part of the minutes.”

The Maine Freedom of Access Act, which governs public proceedings and records, states that whenever a public body meets, that meeting is presumptively open.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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