The state attorney general’s office has ruled that the Edgartown conservation commission violated the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law by meeting in executive session to discuss the termination of the Trustees of Reservations lease at Katama Farm last summer.

In a letter addressed to town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport April 29, assistant attorney general Elizabeth Carnes Flynn said after a review of minutes from four executive sessions held in late July and early August, the state determined that none of the meetings qualified under the 10 reasons spelled out in the law by which a public body can meet in executive session.

According to Ms. Flynn, the review came in response to a complaint filed by Edgartown resident Jonathan Chatinover on Sept. 16, which claimed that the Trustees lease was terminated without proper public participation. The state evaluated the complaint, a response from the commission, as well as minutes, notices and recordings of executive and open session meetings held on July 22, July 27, August 5 and August 13.

Ms. Flynn said the review by the state found that the commission posted notices for the four executive sessions by citing the section of the open meeting that allows closed-door sessions to discuss pending real estate negotiations, and also possible litigation.

But after a review of the record, it was determined that none of the discussions that took place in executive session met the test.

“Instead, the commission discussed the pros and cons of terminating the Trustee’s lease of Katama Farm, a lease signed years prior and for which all terms had been settled and agreed upon,” Ms. Flynn wrote. “The commission did not discuss an intent to renegotiate the lease, nor was there any indication that holding the discussions in open session would have been detrimental to any negotiating position the commission might have had with respect to the lease.”

Additionally, the meeting notice was improperly vague and did not include the specific real property to be discussed, the state found.

“When noticing an executive session to be held . . . a public body must identify the property to be discussed if doing so would not compromise the purpose for which the executive session was called,” Ms. Flynn wrote.

The state also found that while the commission violated open meeting law by improperly discussing the lease termination behind closed doors, the violation was unintentional, in part because town counsel sought advice from the state on the matter.

“Although ultimately we find that the specific matters discussed were not appropriate for executive session, we find that the commission sincerely but mistakenly believed that it had proper reason to meet in executive session on July 22, July 27, August 5, and August 13. Therefore, we do not find that the commission intentionally violated the open meeting law,” Ms. Flynn wrote.

The conservation commission has been ordered to release minutes from the four executive session meetings in July and August when the lease termination at the farm was discussed. The minutes must be released within 30 days of April 29.

The state also warned the commission about future infractions.

“Future similar violations may be considered evidence of an intent to violate the law,” the letter says.

Discussion about the lease at Katama Farm dates to February 2020, when tensions between the conservation commission and the Trustees over use of the 180-acre town-owned farm boiled over at public meetings.

The town has owned the farm since 1977, with the conservation commission serving as landlord.

The Trustees took over the nonprofit Farm Institute and its long-term lease at the farm in 2016.

Tensions over the use of the farm continued through last summer, eventually resulting in an eviction notice from the town to the Trustees last August.

The eviction was later stayed and the lease extended through the winter, as the conservation commission formed a committee to discuss a new approach to the farm that splits the agricultural enterprise and educational programs into separate parts.

The commission recently put out a request for proposals to achieve that objective; an outcome is expected before summer.

In her letter, Ms. Flynn said the matter of the open meeting law violations is now considered resolved.