Second open meeting law complaint filed against Rockport selectmen this month

Michael Cronin, Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.
·2 min read

Feb. 23—ROCKPORT — Former Fire Chief James Doyle's lawyer has filed a second open meeting law complaint against the Rockport Board of Selectmen, this time regarding Doyle's termination hearing on Feb. 3.

According to the complaint, the town violated open meeting law by updating the Zoom meeting link a day prior to when the meeting was scheduled.

The town previously stated it needed to change the link once its Zoom account was upgraded. The termination hearing was originally scheduled for Jan. 28, but selectmen were forced to end it prematurely as their Zoom account capped virtual meetings to 300 attendees. When more than 300 people tried to log on, selectmen voted to end the virtual meeting, only minutes after the hearing had started, and decided to reschedule.

With its new Zoom account, the town was able to host just over 690 viewers at Doyle's rescheduled hearing on Feb. 3.

The hearing opened with Doyle's lawyer, Liam O'Connell, inquiring about the link change. Town Counsel Darren Klein denied any wrongdoing by the town.

"We are more than comfortable with exactly how the town proceeded," Klein said during the hearing, "and that is by posting it as soon as they had the chance with the correct link in. Anyone can go to the town website and see the correct link."

On Facebook, Selectwoman Sarah Wilkinson described the link change as "the same as a note on a door switching a room."

O'Connell disagrees. One of the exhibits presented in his complaint shows a screenshot "of what the originally noticed location/Zoom Meeting ID looked like during the Feb. 3 public meeting." The image shows a pop-up message on an iPad that reads "The host has another meeting in progress."

"The original Zoom Meeting ID location did not have anything posted notifying the public that the location had changed. Likewise, members of the public were not redirected to the amended location/Zoom Meeting ID," O'Connell wrote. "This was not the 'same as a note on a door switching a room.'"

O'Connell on Feb. 1 filed an open meeting law complaint regarding the failed Jan. 28 hearing. Town Counsel Michele Randazzo submitted a written defense on the town's behalf, arguing no "substantive discussion" was held during the nearly eight minutes before selectmen adjourned.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.