Minutes of Charter Commission meeting July 21, 2009
Present: Andy Nebenzahl, Allen Garf, Paul Peital, Suzi Peck, Paul Izzo, Peg Arguimbau
Consultant Mike Curran Late arrivals – Colleen tuck, Abigail Marsters
Discussion began about a spreadsheet comprised of Charters from the Civic League: Franklin, Saugus, and Brookline relating to the Town Administrator’s job. Topic of Salary and benefits – specifically the severance issue. Mike had put in Article 4 a limit of 6 months salary. Mr. Izzo wondered how we deal with the language of “indefinite term” in the draft version. Mr. Curran explained the difference between indefinite term and a contract for a period of years – 2,3,4, etc. Nothing prohibits the BOS from setting a specific time frame. One would want the indefinite term, but the benefits are laid out in terms of years. Mr Izzo explained severance might be an issue and a 1 year salary severance may help. Most of the group agreed.
Discussion about whether to include such items in the Charter. That would limit the flexibility to change things from one person to another. Mr. Izzo agreed that the charter should not have employment stipulations in it. Mr. Curran stated that he thought case law said the term of an appointment may not be longer than the term of office of the appointing authority.
The Commission was poled as to whether they believe salary/benefit issue to be charter worthy.. AG – no, PI – no, PP – no, PA – no, AN – no, SP – yes
Then the group was asked about a Piggy-back by-law allowing the extension of the salary/benefit issue beyond the term of office the appointing authority…. AN, AG, PI, said no, PP, PA, SP thought it should be in there somewhere.
Colleen Tuck arrives to the meeting. A re-cap of discussion is provided for her and the group continues on the spreadsheet. The topic of language for job performance:
Ms. Peck had concerns about the specific language. The last sentence of the section was most important for her and the fact that processes have to be followed.
As for hiring and firing – in a memo dated 7/20 indicates that only one candidate is sent to the hiring authority – committee has filtered out the candidates prior to that. The screening committee is okay for that, as long as there are no BOS on there, as they are the hiring authority. The Town Clerk position should be reviewed by the screening committee and the BOS should appoint the Town Clerk not the Town Manager. Ms. Tuck thought other dept. heads should be appointed by the BOS. Mr. Curran offered that BOS appointment may be for political reasons. Discussion about supervising elections and the fact that the town clerk’s responsibilities are split : ˝ of the job reports to the BOS, but the election part needs to be independent. Mention of other boards status – appointed or elected and to whom they answer.
Continued to review the handout comparing how boards/positions get established now. Ms. Peck pointed out that certain positions work fro various appointed boards now so may want to have some input from those boards when hiring new positions. Mr. Izzo pointed out that in our discussions, this has not come up as something we need to fix. If we say to a Dept. Head, that we’re establishing a committee to help you hire your people, that may cause folks to oppose the charter. Mr. Peital pointed out that this was part of the subcommittee discussion and was intended as an aid in establishing hiring practices - the Finance Director example. Ms. Tuck was adamant about leaving the Dept. Heads to their own hiring. If they need help with it, they know where to get it. Ms. Peck thought there should be something in the bylaw that “shared-board positions” get a say in the appointment. This engendered discussion about inter-relations between boards and how that will work. Mr. Nebenzahl questioned what was the harm in having those people represented at the table when those instances occur in hiring? Mr. Izzo asked if they were included now and the answer was no, they are shut out of the process. Mr. Curran scolded the group that this topic was not “charter worthy” and we should move on – way behind in our schedule.
Moved on to the middle column. Long and intense discussion followed of the role of Town Administrator in hiring/appointing and its relation to the appointing done by the BOS. The consensus was that the BOS would appoint the independent boards. Move on….Ms. Peck pointed out there was something in Art.4 that allows the Town Administrator (TA) to delegate power to Dept. Heads to hire below them; that was something we wanted. Mr. Nebenzahl thought Art. 5 may be a better place to take this up.
Abigail Marsters arrives.
The Chair stated it was important that both sections be harmonized to match what we say. Ms. Peck continued with the section of the sheet about organizational structure. Mr.Curran’s version has 4-2n. We wanted approval by the legislative branch – does this match that? Mr.Curran assured us that it was in there (Hoover Commission) and told us that the Committee we’re talking about will be spelled out in Art. 6. Ms. Peck wanted the language used in NCL for Art. 4 Powers and Duties and the group continued to hash out changes /revisions to wording. The Chair asked Mr. Curran to send us out a final draft of Art.4 and anyone with suggested amendments should them to the Chair so we can try to adopt Art. 4 in a final version by next Monday.
The Chair asked Mr. Curran to speak to us about the Special Acts list. He said that certain categories cannot be changed. Other Acts were one-shot deals and over and done with. Under law, the Acts stay in effect unless repealed. Doing a Charter is a good time to get the ones we no longer need repealed and clean up the document. The Chair offered to take care of the list – what we need to keep and what we could dispense with - once Mr. Curran brought it to his office.
Long discussion regarding the legislative branch. Consensus reached about a “9 member body” (9MB) who would act with full authority of town Meeting. Yet to be determined how to appeal its decision to the greater town meeting. Mr. Curran also suggested that the 9MB could send something to the town meeting on its own. Pointed out that the 9MB is replacing town meeting so not all the issues will be on a warrant. Discussion about how to amend budget items – a need to be able to do that and Mr. Peital explained that the pool of money may be X which is not amendable, but within that pool of X there may be changes made as to how it gets distributed. Silly to have simply up or down on the issues of Art.5 (budget). Ms. Arguimbau questioned about topics going to town meeting automatically; budget, zoning…. Ms. Peck talked about thresholds for getting topic to town meeting. Mr. Izzo stated he thought support, in the form of signatures, should come from around the town, not just neighborhoods, should not be onerous though, not like 70% of the voters, and process should not take a long time as the voted action of the 9MB is suspended while this is happening. He voiced concern that this would affect the acceptability of the charter and that Representative Town Meeting was still the best option. Ms. Peck stated that 50 signatures was too few. Ms. Arguimbau spoke in defense of the right to protect one’s neighborhood. Mr. Izzo stated that the 9MB had already come to a decision representing the precincts so the number needed to appeal the decision should not be easy to gather– defeats the purpose. Suggested we deal with percentages and Mr. Curran suggested we refer to most recent election for total voter numbers from which to figure percentage. Mr. Peital suggested 3% which figures out to be 360. Ms. Marsters moved: To require 3% of voters signatures to carry an appeal to town Meeting. A minimum of ˝ of one percent of those signatures need to be from each precinct and collected within 21 days of the 9MB’s decision being filed. Ms. Tuck seconded. All approved.
Discussion for next Monday’s meeting -
1) Approval of Articles 3 and 4. Get comments on both to the Chair before Monday.
3) Scope of composition of Priorities, Capitol, interdepartmental boards
4) Role of Fin Comm
Ms. Tuck pointed out she would not be here for next meeting and cautioned the group about construction of a building committee. State Building committee has its own regulations and the standing Building Comm. has been through hoops to satisfy them. Be sure to talk to School Comm. and BOS before this group does any changing to that.
The Chair said we would also try to finish Art. 2 at the next meeting.
Ms. Marsters moved to adjourn at 10:15 PM. Mr. Izzo seconded. Voted unanimously.