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Missing Hudson minutes prompts talk of hiring secretary

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The Hudson Common Council voted in favor of a resolution calling on state representatives to allow communities to vote on possible rent stabilization.
June 5, 2019 09:09 am

HUDSON — More than two dozen minutes for city Common Council committee meetings have not been submitted in the past two years and are likely lost.

Recording and submitting committee minutes is the responsibility of Common Council members who serve as committee chairs. But several months worth of minutes have not been submitted by those committee chairs to the city clerk’s office for the official record, according to records maintained by the City Clerk’s Office. The city clerk records minutes of formal Common Council meetings.

Common Council President Thomas DePietro said at May’s formal Common Council meeting that he is considering hiring a secretary to keep minutes at committee meetings in response to the lack of recordkeeping.

DePietro clarified after the meeting that he is looking into several options, including purchasing recording devices for use by committee chairs. Another reason a secretary is being considered is that some who have been submitting their minutes have not kept a thorough record of the meetings, DePietro said.

The following minutes were not submitted by committee chairs to the Clerk’s Office as of May 1:

n First Ward Alderman Kamal Johnson: Chair of Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation; meeting minutes were not submitted five times in 2018; and once in 2019.

n Second Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga: Housing and Transportation; minutes were not submitted eight times in 2018.

n Fifth Ward Alderwoman Eileen Halloran: Chair of the DPW and Parks Committee Meeting; all minutes were submitted in 2018 and 2019.

n First Ward Alderman Rob Bujan: Chair of the Finance Committee; minutes were not submitted for one meeting in September 2018.

n Fourth Ward Alderman John Rosenthal: Chair of the Legal Committee; minutes were not submitted eight times in 2018; twice in 2019.

n Fourth Ward Alderman Rich Volo: Chair of the Economic Development Committee; All minutes were submitted in 2018 and 2019.

n Fifth Ward Alderman Dominic Merante: Chair of the Fire Committee; Minutes were not submitted three times in 2018.

n Johnson: Chair of the Police Committee; Minutes were not submitted seven times in 2018; and twice in 2019.

n Fourth Ward Alderman Rich Volo: Chair of the Tourism Board; minutes were submitted for all meetings in 2018 and 2019, with the exception of the August 2018 meeting.

Garriga said she has minutes for her meetings but they have yet to be approved by the committee. She said she has not had as many meetings owing to injuries she sustained in 2018. Garriga said she is not the only one who did not keep minutes and pointed to Rosenthal, who co-chairs the Housing and Transportation Committee, for not taking minutes.

Despite unsubmitted minutes, Garriga said important work was done at those meetings, including resolutions supporting rent stabilization and driver’s licenses for immigrants at the state level, all of which were passed by the Common Council.

Hiring a secretary would free up committee chairs and improve interaction between committee members and the public, “rather than constantly stopping to make sure you jot down correct information which can sometimes be a distraction,” Garriga said.

Rosenthal has been in talks with the Common Council president about the issue and praised DePietro for looking into solutions. The issue of keeping minutes at committee meetings is not specific to the Hudson council, Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said he was not trying to shirk his responsibility to the public, but said he has struggled at recent meetings to keep minutes due partly to the large turnout for complex issues like short-term rentals. At any time, Legal Committee meetings can have up to 50 people in attendance and there is a lot of back-and-forth discussion, he said.

“The group (Tourism Board) was very new and we had made no decisions as it was the second or third meeting of the new board and we hadn’t decided anything at that point,” Volo said, alluding as to why Tourism Board minutes from August 2018 were not submitted.

Fire Committee meeting minutes not submitted in 2018 and 2019 were not recorded due to a lack of quorum, so no business was conducted, Merante said.

First Ward Alderman Kamal Johnson did not return calls for comment.

“We have a little over six months of meetings remaining for this term and I’m not sure having a secretary paid for by the taxpayers is something I support at this time,” Merante said. “It’s like asking someone else to do your homework. Maybe in 2020 a workshop can be offered to guide a proper note-taking protocol as everyone is different in their styles.”

Records of city meeting minutes date back to the late 1700s. In many cases, DePietro doesn’t think the minutes that were not submitted will likely be recovered, and are possibly lost for good.

At the end of the May meeting, DePietro asked which committee chairs would be interested in having a secretary keep minutes. Halloran, Volo, Bujan and Merante offered to keep their own minutes. Garriga, Johnson and Rosenthal preferred a secretary.

The next meeting of the Common Council is 7 p.m. June 10 at City Hall, 520 Warren St.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.