Letter: Why I would Not Sign Several County Policy Statements

from County Commissioner Ron Beaty

Editor,

Regarding recent news that I refused to sign several Barnstable County Policy Documents, I can confirm that after our County Commissioners’ Meeting had adjourned yesterday, without any advanced notice, three separate policy statements were distributed to each of the Commissioners apparently for discussion and their respective signatures: the County Social Media Policy, the County Vehicle Use Policy, as well as the County Sexual Harassment Policy. 

Despite the fact that the matter was NOT on our meeting agenda, and the meeting had already formally adjourned, a discussion began to ensue among the Commissioners and some staff regarding the said policy statements. 

Since we were no longer participating in a posted meeting, and a deliberation and action by our public body was apparently taking place in violation of the Open Meeting Law, I refused to take part in any way, shape or form. 

In response to my refusal to discuss or sign said documents at that particular point in time, Chairman Cakounes said he would make the fact public. I said that was fine. He then made mention about County Counsel advising me on the matter as well. I said that would also be fine. 

I said as little as possible so that I would not be a part of what I believe to have been an illegal deliberation, though I do not believe it was done intentionally. 

In addition, to the issue of a possible OML Violation regarding the deliberation and action in question, I must also state that every citizen, elected official or otherwise, has the right, if not the duty, to question authority whenever necessary.

Unless I am mistaken, I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who once said, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” 

I am only doing what our forefathers advised us to do as American citizens. Moreover, as elected public officials we also have a duty to adhere to the requirements of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law as well.

Transparency is of the utmost importance.

Finally, I do not think it is appropriate for anyone to try and force another person to sign a document under duress or against their will, especially under the highly questionable circumstances previously noted. 

I likely may discuss the aforementioned policy statements with the rest of our Board, and possibly sign them when it is appropriate to do so in compliance with the Open Meeting Law, and not when being placed under duress by one or more other persons.

With that said, I have no further comment to make about this topic at this time. 

Thank you. 

____________________________

RONALD BEATY   

Vice-Chairman, Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners 


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