Grafton board opts to make all VLCT correspondence public

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In what may have been a most surprising and quick boost to transparency in local government, a three-person quorum of the Grafton Select Board on Monday night unanimously agreed that correspondence between board members and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns be open to public inspection.

The issue on the agenda read: “Should correspondence from VLCT regarding a finance committee for the possible industrial wind proposal be a matter of public record?”

Board chair Gus Plummer told the public, “This has to do with the correspondence (board member) Skip (Lisle) had with Sarah Jarvis (a staff attorney with VLCT).” The board was looking for a copy of the original correspondence. Neither Lisle nor board member Ron Pilette was at Monday’s meeting. Plummer, Al Sands and Cynthia Gibbs were in attendance.

At its April 18 meeting, Lisle again questioned the validity of a committee formed by Town Treasurer Kim Record to look into possible financial benefits for the town should the Iberdrola wind project come to fruition

Lisle said that he had been emailing with a VLCT attorney on the issue, then read the email correspondence aloud. Although he had read the text of the email into the minutes, when asked for a copy, Lisle said that he needed to ask the VLCT attorney if it was all right to turn it over to The Telegraph.

The Telegraph obtained a copy of the edited correspondence after publication of its article on the meeting on April 20. Lisle had said that the editing was done to make it easier to follow the email conversation. A few words were changed as well, but Lisle could not be reached for comment on those changes. Click here for the edited version and here for the original printout. (The Telegraph added notations in red to make the original easier to navigate.)

Board member Al Sands then made a motion that the document should be public record “for transparency.” Before that could be seconded, member Cynthia Gibbs said, “I make a motion that any email correspondence between the board and the VLCT be made public.”

That motion was seconded and passed.

In a related matter, Rodney Record, husband of Treasurer Kim Record, asked that the board set the record straight about the purpose of the financial committee on wind, saying that, “Since Dec. 7, everyone on this committee has done nothing but fact-find and he (Lisle) made the committee look like it had done something inappropriate. This is fact-finding only.”

Plummer responded that the “confusion came over the letter that came from Iberdrola,” which had been addressed to Record. The letter outlined a possible escrow account that Iberdrola would set up for the Select Board to use to hire an attorney to negotiate on its behalf. At the last meeting, Plummer asked Town Administrator Emily Huff to contact Iberdrola and ask them to redirect the letter to the Select Board, which it did and you can read here.

During at least one board meeting and within the email correspondence, Lisle described the financial committee as “negotiating,” when Kim Record insisted that that was not the case.

Since the meeting of April 18, Record has separated herself from the committee and asked that the committee just provide her with updates.

The board also approved Plummer’s request that it contact town attorney Robin Stern to discuss the finance committee and pay any expenses incurred from that.

Joint meeting, re-opening town pool, liquor license for market

In other business, Eric Stevens of the Planning Commission reminded the audience that the commission’s next meeting will be held jointly with the Select Board. That meeting will be on 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10 at the Grafton Elementary School, 58 School St.

During the meeting, Fitzgerald Environmental Associates will address fluvial erosion hazard mapping (aka flash flooding). Stevens said that this will build on the mapping “done several years ago that looked at the Saxtons River watershed” in an effort to “better define risk area for flash-flood damage.”

The board also discussed the reopening of the town pond on Route 121, prompted by a letter from town Health Officer Jay Karpin, who outlined what needed to be done to make the town’s spring-fed swimming pond ready for humans. The pond is expected to open just after Memorial Day.

The town will be erecting warning signs and place a life ring and ropes, the Grafton Improvement Association has ordered a port-a-potty  and E. coli testing will also be done. Sands also suggested that when grass mowing is done around the pond that the grass be directed away from the water.

Also, the board approved a liquor license for the Grafton MKT, which did not use an earlier license that it had been approved for. The board then accepted the store’s intent to move from Townshend Street around the corner to its permanent home at 162 Main St.

And finally, in light of recent comments during board meetings, members Gibbs and Plummer each made pleas for more civility. Plummer said, “When you have a question or comment and when you are called up, treat everyone with respect … act like adults and stay calm.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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