BURRILLVILLE – The Pascoag Fire District violated the state’s open meetings law when it failed to file minutes from December 2018 and January 2019 meetings within the required 21-day window, according to an opinion issued last week by the state Attorney General’s office.
The district filed the minutes to both meetings just past the deadline, a delay attorney Christopher Alger said was caused because a part-time, temporary staff member was responsible for submitting the document.
It’s a job that once fell to former Tax Collector Laurie McCutcheon who, after a year and a half long paid suspension, was officially let go by the district in May, following a vote by the Pascoag Fire Commission.
According to district commission Chairman Chris Toti, several staffing changes have since been made that will prevent such oversights from reoccurring. They include hiring a business manager familiar with open meetings law, as well as having a qualified attorney in place.
“He’s on top of it,” Toti said of Alger. “He’ll make sure things are done in a timely manner. That’s why we have a new administrative setup. There will be several eyes on it.”
At the district’s annual meeting on Monday, Sept. 9, Toti noted that a new treasurer, tax collector and tax assessor will be appointed following the election, and an administrative clerk will be hired.
Other complaints against the district over the past year and a half have resulted in ethics fines, and access to public records act violations.
“I think if you just have some people that are in leadership positions, and you have people with some experience, these things tend to take care of themselves,” Toti said, who was appointed to replace former chairman Robert Keable in May .
The complaint with the attorney general’s office was filed by resident Cynthia Lussier, who noted that the December meeting minutes were not posted until January 9, five days prior to the district’s next meeting. The January minutes were posted Feb. 8, three days before the next meeting.
Responding on behalf of the district, Alger noted that the minutes have since been filed on time.
The decision, issued August 21, notes that the circumstances do not indicate a willful and knowing violation, and that the office of the attorney general will not file suit.