Brandon selectboard dismisses open meeting complaint

BRANDON — In a special meeting last Wednesday, July 21, the town’s former animal control officer and former editor of the Brandon Reporter accused the Select Board of violating the state’s open meeting law regarding a meeting held about a year ago. The board denied the allegation.

Reading from a prepared statement, Lee Kahrs alleged that, “On July 27, 2020, the Brandon Select Board adopted an updated Animal Control Ordinance, including the addition of eight points approved by the Board as an addendum to the town’s existing animal control ordinance. We contend that those eight points were never uploaded to the town’s website and that the town Select Board and the Town Manager changed the expectations of the ACO position, after the eight points were adopted, without holding the required public hearing or public meeting needed to do so.”

 “We request that the Select Board and the town manager acknowledge that the town Animal Control Ordinance was amended without public knowledge, comment or approval, thus violating Vermont’s Open Meeting Law,” stated Kahrs. “We also request that the Board rectify the situation by scheduling a public hearing on the issue, which would clarify exactly what Brandon’s Animal Welfare Ordinance is and is not.”

Board Chair Seth Hopkins said upon receiving an open meeting law complaint, he scheduled a special meeting within the 10 days the town had to respond, during which the board voted unanimously to dismiss the allegation. In that statement, the selectboard maintained that the “eight points” in the document that Kahrs cited was not part of the ordinance, but that it was a policy document meant to guide the town manager’s oversight of the animal control officer.

The selectboard’s statement said: “The Vermont League of Cities and Towns provides in its Select Board Handbook the following definition of an ordinance from a Vermont court case which has stood as precedent for more than one hundred years: an ordinance is “an expression of the municipal will, affecting the conduct of the inhabitants generally, or a number of them under some general designation. Ordinances, in other words, are outward-facing (public-oriented) and apply to the general population of the Town. Policies, on the other hand, are inward-facing (internally-oriented) and apply to not the public but to a limited class, such as, in the case you raise in your letter, a single appointee of the board.”

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