SULLIVAN — The Sullivan Board of Selectmen next Monday will revisit its June 8 agenda after discovering that the virtual meeting’s early portion was not conducted in public as required under law due to an error in setting up the videoconferencing platform Zoom.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the board is using the online app to meet and allow residents and other interested parties to attend, comment and raise questions online as they do at in-person municipal proceedings.
On Tuesday, Sullivan Interim Town Manager Stacey Tozier confirmed a log-in error prevented the public from remotely attending the June 8 meeting’s first 15 minutes.
Local resident Candy Eaton had set up the selectmen’s meeting from home for the town. Eaton, who is former town manager Rob Eaton’s wife, became aware of and fixed the log-in mechanism, enabling the public to tune in for the remainder of the proceedings.
“Due to a technical error, the selectmen discovered that the meeting they believed to be open to the public for Zoom viewing was not available until after the meeting began,” Sullivan’s July Town Crier newsletter reports. “In the interest of transparency and the right of residents and taxpayers to view the selectmen as they conduct Sullivan’s business in open meeting, the selectmen will be voting on July 13 to render the minutes of the previous meeting null and void.”
Sullivan resident John Keenan, who is running for incumbent Selectman Russell Gordon’s expired seat, was unable to log in online at the scheduled start of the June 8 meeting. As a citizen, Keenan says he has tried but failed to ask questions or express his concerns during the designated public comment portion of the board’s previous Zoom meetings.
As a local resident, Keenan feels thwarted.
“I had called the clerk and asked her if I would be allowed to speak about the election process [during the meeting],” said Keenan. He said he had questions about the timely issuance of absentee ballots and the local ballot identifying certified candidates such as himself for vacant seats.
At the July 13 meeting, Tozier said selectmen plan to take up the June 8 agenda and vote again on any items requiring action.
At the June 8 meeting, selectmen vote 3-0 to hold the annual Town Meeting on Aug. 24. The board also voted 3-0 to deny a property tax abatement to James and Deborah Knowlton. Selectmen Russell Gordon and Roger Wakefield concurred that the current assessment is fair and that the property is not overvalued compared to similar ones in town.
At next Monday’s meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. in the town office, selectmen plan to review the Budget Committee’s recommended 2020-21 budget. The public can log in and attend that meeting via a Zoom link posted earlier at sullivanmaine.org.