Former board president files Open Meeting Law complaint against Jones Library trustees

  • Jones Library

Staff Writer
Published: 3/21/2017 4:07:42 PM

AMHERST — A leading opponent of the project to expand and renovate the Jones Library filed a complaint Monday alleging the six current library trustees violated the state’s Open Meeting Law during a February meeting.

Sarah McKee, past president of the library trustees, alleges that prior to the Feb. 22 meeting, members of the board deliberated out of session when they discussed the contents of a letter responding to her correspondence, in which she argued that Library Director Sharon Sharry twice violated the town’s personnel procedures manual.

“I filed this complaint in the interests of transparency in Amherst government,” McKee said. “The public has a right to know the issues before its public officials, and how they decide each issue.”

The complaint was filed with the town clerk, board of trustees and attorney general’s office.

Trustees president Austin Sarat declined to comment on the complaint, though trustees must respond within 14 business days of the complaint, according to the law. Trustees next meet at 5:30 p.m. March 28.

Based on consultation with Human Resources Director Deborah Radway, trustees determined that McKee’s original correspondence about Sharry had no merit. McKee had alleged in writing that Sharry had made disparaging remarks about her in a report filed with the Massachusetts Historical Commission and at a department heads meeting.

In a Feb. 22 response from the board, signed by Sarat, “the board found that your allegations against Director Sharry, even if accurate as to the alleged facts, do not constitute a violation of any of the provisions of the personnel procedures manual.”

Based on information supplied by those in attendance at the Feb. 22 meeting, though, McKee wrote in her complaint that trustees took the vote on the letter “as if they had discussed it already and had made a determination concerning it.”

Observing that McKee is a member of the Save Our Library group, Matt Blumenfeld, a financial consultant assisting trustees, said he suspects her complaint may be an attempt to undermine the elected trustees and their work.

“It seems like another in a series of unjustified attacks by a small group of people, for personal reasons, who don’t want to participate in a process to do something good for the community,” Blumenfeld said.

Six residents are running for library trustee next week, with three incumbents supporting an approximately $36 million library expansion and renovation project and three challengers opposing the plans.

“The timing of such a filing smacks of tactics Donald Trump would use,” Blumenfeld said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




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