City Councilors Jeremy Denlea and Walter Thibodeau did not violate the state's open meeting law when they privately discussed a possible solution to parking enforcement problems in Attleboro, City Solicitor Robert Mangiaratti wrote in a letter submitted Monday to Council President Frank Cook and Mayor Kevin Dumas.
[The letter is attached to this article]
Councilor Richard Conti that the law had been violated.
Denlea applauded Mangiaratti's opinion and slammed Conti in an email to Attleboro-Seekonk Patch.
"I will not allow a fellow city councilor to bully me," Denlea wrote. "I will continue to work hard for the residents of Attleboro. I will continue to work with fellow councilors and the administration to find compromises that benefit the city as a whole."
He added, "Mr. Conti's allegations were intentionally dishonest and malicious in nature. The city solicitor found there to be no legal basis for these allegations whatsoever."
Conti said it was "dumb" to call him a bully.
"This is all about public access," Conti said. "I am a champion of fresh air and sunlight in government, and boy does Attleboro need it."
The councilor said "secret meetings" are frequent among Attleboro city officials. He said an example of this is that city councilors gather at local restaurants after the weekly public meetings.
"Thankfully, I don't get invited to the secret meetings, so I don't have to turn them down," Conti said.
The open meeting law prohibits a majority of a public body from talking in private about city business. Denlea and Thibodeau sit on the council's three-member Committee on Transportation and Traffic.
Mangiaratti determined Thibodeau and Denlea did not violate the law because the issue had not been assigned to a committee, so the councilors were communicating as two members of the 11-member council rather than as a majority of a three-member committee.
He added, "After Councilor Denlea drafted the proposed ordinance, Councilor Thibodeau's only communication was that he would agree to co-sponsor it. He expressed no opinion about the details of the proposal, electing to defer discussion until the time of an open meeting. In these circumstances Councilors Thibodeau and Denlea did not violate the letter or the spirit of the law."
Regarding this conclusion, Conti said, "I have to agree with the city solicitor. I'm not a lawyer."
However, Conti was more interested in another statement in the opinion.
Mangiaratti wrote, "I advise that a group of councilors should not conduct secret meetings to work out precise details of proposed legislation even if the matter is not officially on the council's docket."