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Britz on defensive regarding retreat

Fredonia Trustee Roger Britz made the Village Board’s clearest defense yet this week of an April retreat, as Trustee James Lynden continued to criticize it.

Lynden, the only trustee who did not attend the retreat, has since said on numerous occasions that decisions were made during the event that should have been made publicly, violating the state Open Meetings Law. Britz’s statements at Monday’s board meeting were spurred by another round of criticism by Lynden, who used the time alloted for his committee reports to do so.

“As a matter of public information, the mayor and trustees have received from our village attorneys a memorandum that includes a description of how to make changes to our village charter, drafts of three local laws, and a copy of what was presented for the retreat of April 24, 2021,” Lynden began. “I’m bringing this up because this is actions that was not discussed in public, to request the drafting of these laws. Our attorneys work on an hourly rate, so money is being expended.”

Lynden said Trustees EvaDawn Bashaw and Britz, along with Melanie Beardsley from the village’s law firm, acknowledged that information in emails.

He added a bit later, “It’s worth mentioning that retreats can be held outside the (Open) Meetings Law, but only for purposes of gaining education and training and only to cover general municipal issues, and it has to be presented without the intent of conducting public business. But clearly the discussion went far beyond that and Open Meetings Law would have applied. Decisions were made that would make amendments to the charter, the decisions involve policy regarding the duties and functions of officers and committees, and the establishment of a management team into the charter.”

Lynden makes similar accusations, though with more specifics about the emails, in a letter he sent to the OBSERVER. It appears in full in today’s Opinion section on Page A4.

In the letter, Lynden states, “The retreat was nothing less than a convenient secret meeting where the charter and possible amendments to it were discussed and requested, and decisions to ‘move expeditiously forward’ were made. Those 4 (trustees that attended) knew that ANY discussion of the Village Charter had to be in public, yet they went ahead with it. They just didn’t care.”

He also writes that Mayor Doug Essek had “a complete dereliction of duty” when he did nothing to address the board’s actions. Lynden adds that the three other trustees remaining after Heidi Powell resigned — Bashaw, Britz and Scott Johnston — “have a pre-set agenda and are moving forward with it, no matter what.”

On Monday, Lynden said the three drafted laws he referred to were as follows:

1. A charter amendment that would clarify that a trustee vacancy can be filled by a majority of sitting board members, not a majority of the board in total.

2. Another amendment to the charter clarifying who may retrain and supervise contractors and employees.

3. A charter addition that establishes the village management team.

“Those were never asked for by this board … where they come from, I don’t know which specific person, but I do have acknowledgements from emails,” Lynden concluded.

Britz’s committee report time started immediately thereafter, and he began: “I’ll just address Jim’s public service announcement.

“At the April 24 board retreat, members of the board and the mayor reviewed and discussed various parts of the charter,” Britz said. “During this process, there were questions about clarification and language and-or amending the charter.

“After being advised by our legal counsel as how the changes could be made, our attorney was asked to draft a local law for consideration by the entire board in the future,” he continued.

“Upon receiving the draft documents, should we, the entire board, decide to proceed, the public will be made aware of the proposed draft and have the opportunity to question and provide input throughout the public hearing. As required by law, any changes will be considered and made in public session of the Village Board.”

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