By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard had a busy night on Tuesday, 1/24.
In a joint meeting with the Planning Board, the two boards appointed Bryan Deschamps to replace a vacancy on the PB created by the resignation of Richard Forand.
The Selectboard also gave Mr. Forand a citation for his 50+ years of service to the town and community. Mr. Forand recently resigned, saying he wanted to give others a chance to serve.
The Selectboard held off on appointing a member of the Housing Authority, a vacancy created by the resignation of James Madruga.
Two people sent letters of interest for that seat: Sandra Bettencourt and Andrew Gomes. The board wants to interview both candidates and will decide at a joint meeting with the AHA.
The board heard from Town Clerk Pamela Labonte and Town Administrator Brian Noble on the town’s new Public Records Compliance Policy and the requirements of the new public records law.
Ms. Labonte and Mr. Noble are the town’s Records Access Officers, but the school department will name its own RAO because their privacy requirements are different than other town departments. The Police Chief and Fire Chief are also RAO’s for their departments.
The new law also places limits on how much a town can charge citizens for records and specifies what can be redacted and why.
Mr. Noble created a form to make it easy for departments to comply with the law. The form will be on the website for citizens to fill out online and submit requests.
Town Departments will also move to put as much information as possible on the website, such as agendas, minutes, and other documents used in meetings.
Selectboard Chairperson Garry Rawcliffe said that would be the best thing, because the more that is online, the less reason people have to request it from town hall, if they can pull it all off the website.
Ms. Labonte said, however, that the town needed to change the bylaw, which currently requires the selectboard to keep its own records.
Ms. Labonte also noted that the new law does not make a distinction between written and oral requests.
“I cannot mandate” that a request be made in writing, she said.
Most requests are complied with immediately, some require more time. The law requires that they are addressed in 10 business days.
“We had some requests that were time consuming,” said Ms. Labonte. “The information is public information, it should be made available. Unfortunately, we have some individuals who abuse the system and don’t realize how time consuming [the requests can be].”
The policy will be on the website after it is approved by the board. Mr. Noble said that the website will need to be redesigned to accommodate the changes and the additional records.
Click here to download the entire 1/26/17 issue: 01-26-17 KindnessChall