By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 10/5/20, the Fairhaven Board of Health addressed 18 Open Meeting Law complaints, all submitted by Amy Singelais.
Town Counsel Thomas Crotty told the board he had put together responses to four categories of the complaints. For 12 of them, he said the complaints did not arrive within the 30-day time limit so “no response is necessary,” he said.
Two others were not dated and signed, so the Attorney General’s office said the board does not have to address them. Two of the complaints referred to minutes that were not approved in a timely manner.
Mr. Crotty said that Ms. Singelais sent the requests to the wrong place, resulting in the delay. However, the end result was that the requests did not reach the BOH office in time, so the board did not have to respond to those specific requests.
Ms. Singelais tried to speak via Zoom, but was not allowed to, quickly getting muted by the IT person at the direction of BOH member Michael Ristuccia.
Eventually, Ms. Singelais was allowed to speak. She said she did send the requests to the town clerk and the BOH. She said she mailed them at the same time so she did not understand how they arrived at the clerk’s office, but not the BOH office.
Two complaints were for discussing something that was not on the agenda, in regards to a letter Mr. Ristuccia read and some comments on Facebook.
Mr. Crotty said the response should be that the matter was not anticipated when the agenda was created.
“In any event, there was no deliberation on that,” said Mr. Crotty, it was simply read into the record, so there was no violation.
Two complaints charged that former Health Agent Mary Freire-Kellogg, who was fired by the board, was not given enough notice by the board for a meeting.
Mr. Crotty also cleared up a misunderstanding that board members had about executive session minutes. He said they were required to approve the minutes, but that does not mean they have to release them to the public. He said if the board decides to table minutes or not approve them, they should state the reason for the record.
The board tabled the minutes from 7/920, 7/28/20, 7/30/20, because they were remotely accessed and Mr. Haworth said, “they were written in a way that they don’t seem accurate to the tapes.”
He said the tapes are being “reviewed” with the minutes.
The board voted to approve the letters that Mr. Crotty wrote for each of the items.
Board members also noted that all the complaints came from the same person who is Ms. Freire-Kellogg’s sister and is not a Fairhaven resident.
Mr. Haworth said the complaints were just “complaints in general” and not actual violations of the Open Meeting Law.
“It’s coming from a Marion resident who is the sister of the former health agent,” said Mr. Haworth. “I just want the public to know what’s really going on here.”
He added that it costs the town money to have town counsel involved for something that does not add up to a real complaint, and said it was “annoying” to get 18 complaints.
Ms. Singelais jumped in and said it was “annoying” that they have not accepted meeting minutes since May 28th.
Once again, said Mr. Haworth, the meeting was being interrupted by “childish shenanigans.”
Mr. Ristuccia said it took time away from “public health matters” that the board should be dealing with.
The board also took some time to say that the department was in a shambles three months ago, but all was running smoothly now.
“What you see in the Neighbor [sic] News and on Facebook is not what’s happening,” said Mr. DeTerra. “This Board of Health is running smooth.”
Mr. Ristuccia said when he got there three months ago phone calls were not being answered, no one was in the office, and permits were not being issue.
“It’s night and day,” he said, then sang the praises of Mr. Haworth, the newest member. “To think this department is not running well is an inaccurate statement….It’s just cruising. I’m excited about it.”
In other business, Interim Health Agent Sarah Dupont told the board that as of 9/30/20, Fairhaven had 11 active cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 274. She said the town was still yellow on the state map, which was not much of a change from last week, but did show a general rise from the previous week.
She said it was important for people to stay “vigilant,” and continue to wash hands, avoid touching their faces, practice social distancing and wear masks.
Ms. Dupont also noted that the state is now in step two of phase three of reopening the states businesses. Indoor and outdoor performance venues are now allowed to be open at 50% capacity, up to 250 people maximum, and most recreational businesses can also open, but with restrictions.
Mr. Haworth noted that he has noticed people are becoming lax about wearing masks. He said the office has received some complaints. He urged people to continue social distancing and to wear masks.
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