Vermont PTV Board approves tighter open-meeting rules

By Dru Sefton

The Vermont Public Television Board adopted new open-meeting requirements Wednesday following two investigations into allegations of more than 20 improperly closed meetings.

The investigations by the board’s audit committee and CPB temporarily halted the station’s eligibility to use about $667,000 of its fiscal 2014 Community Service Grant from CPB.

The audit committee determined that each of the meetings in question “involved sensitive personnel matters and therefore was properly closed in accordance with CPB’s open meeting requirements.” The board oversees one employee, VPT President John King.

The board erred when it did not provide explanations on VPT’s website following each meeting of why the sessions were closed, the committee found.

An anonymous Dec. 24 letter to CPB and VPT alleged that Board Chair Pamela Mackenzie and Vice Chair Rob Hofmann had met multiple times since July 2011 with no notice to the public or other board members and no minutes of their meetings recorded. Directors Jim Wyant and Scott Milne resigned from the 16-member board, citing disagreement with board leadership over those meetings.

The 10 rules adopted this week include designating two individuals, the station president and the chair of the board’s governance committee, to oversee open-meeting compliance; and providing all board members with annual training and briefing on adherence.  The station will also post an “enhanced open meetings policy” on its website explaining acceptable reasons for closed meetings.

The audit committee also issued explanations for closure of 26 meetings between July 28, 2011, and Aug. 19, 2013. All involved personnel issues; 15 also involved legal advice from counsel, and three included contractual business discussions.

“At no time did the board or a committee hold a meeting in closed session that should have been open to the public,” the committee said in its report.

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org

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