Committee member may be reprimanded Tuesday, November 15, 2005
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- The committee studying social services may go behind closed doors next week to talk about one member's controversial visit to the shelter downtown, though there is some division over whether to drop the matter entirely.

The PILOT committee could not satisfy the 48 hours' notice requirement for its meeting tonight, forcing any executive session about Steve Orr's actions to take place next week.  A closed-door meeting would require a roll-call vote of the committee.

The group voted at its last meeting against discussing the matter in an open session after Chairman Bob Berman suggested doing so in public.  He said yesterday that after researching the matter, a closed-door meeting would be legal.

"I really think people just want to resolve this and move on," he said.

Orr and another Town Meeting member tried to inspect the wet shelter on Irving Street at the end of October, triggering complaints from selectmen and officials at SMOC, the agency that runs it.  Berman also suggested that Orr's actions may hurt the committee's work.

In fact, committee member Wes Ritchie said yesterday he received an e-mail from a "well-known" social service provider, which he declined to name, encouraging other agencies not to respond to the committee's survey until Orr is removed.

"I think Steve needs to be reprimanded in public," said Ritchie, who called for a public meeting.  "I think what he did reflected poorly on the committee.  I think it will influence our end result, and I think social service agencies could potentially respond differently."

If the committee goes into executive session, its options include voting to censure Orr and asking the appointing authority that he be removed, according to Berman.  He did not know yesterday whether the results of the meeting would be made public.  Town Moderator Ed Noonan appointed Orr.

But Orr, who maintains he did nothing wrong, said there is "consensus" on the committee to not discuss the matter.  Committee member Laurie Lee said she wants to see the whole thing dropped.

"It has nothing to do with the work of the committee.  None of it does," she said.

The state's Open Meeting Law allows a committee to go into executive session to consider discipline or dismissal of "a public officer, employee or staff member, or individual" or hear complaints or charges brought against that person.

Berman said a discussion about Orr would fall under this exemption.

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