Wareham Town Meeting tweaks charter
By Steve Decosta
November 02, 2010 12:00 AM
WAREHAM — Town Meeting slogged through a series of charter and bylaw changes Monday, making a series of minor modifications but leaving the more dramatic revisions to future sessions.
A fairly evenly divided body gave selectmen some check-and-balance power over their town administrator, but rejected other similar proposals.
For example, the body approved a charter change allowing selectmen to affirm or reject any appointment by the town administrator within 15 days, but rejected another proposal to make the salaries of town employees appointed by the town administrator subject to selectmen's approval.
"We're the ones who hear about it in the grocery store," Selectman Brenda Eckstrom said in arguing in favor of both proposals. "At least let us give our blessing or voice our opposition to it."
But Larry MacDonald suggested that the salary review article would "be taking a simple task and making it more complicated and adding a little politics as well."
Another charter change clarified what's meant by day-to-day involvement of selectmen in town affairs, prohibiting board members from "attempt(ing) to issue orders, instructions, commands or mandates to town employees," instead requiring them to "act by majority through the town administrator or the established policy directives or guidelines."
At the start of Monday's session, Eckstrom offered a motion to limit debate on any individual article to 10 minutes. Moderator Claire Smith declared that a voice vote had achieved the necessary two-thirds majority, but that was challenged and, on a hand count, the motion failed by a single vote.
Still remaining to be considered when Town Meeting reconvenes on Wednesday are further, more dramatic changes recommended by the Charter Review Committee, including proposals to expand the Board of Selectmen and School Committee to seven members, move the annual town election and Town Meeting and create a mechanism to transfer important Town Meeting votes to direct, binding referenda.
In other action Monday, Town Meeting:
Approved a charter change preventing any elected official from being appointed to any paid position of employment within 30 days of holding office.
Rejected a charter change to prevent any town administrator from being paid after his or her termination.
Rejected a charter change to require that the position of town administrator, when vacant, be filled within 12 months.
Rejected a charter change to authorize the review of the charter at least every five years, instead of the current 10 years.
Approved a charter change clarifying the procedure for recall elections.
Approved a charter change stipulating that all public records be maintained by the town clerk, with certified copies available in the Wareham Free Library.
Rejected a bylaw change to prevent any selectman from being an active employee of the town.
Rejected a bylaw change allowing selectmen to serve as nonvoting liaisons to other committees, even though such a system currently is in place.
The CRC was completely trounced last night. No doubt our side has been energized by the revelation that the town wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars on a witch hunt that led nowhere. Continue to attend town meeting and beat these fools.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, I must say I am impressed that the CRC, even though they were staunch supporters of the former board of dictators, recognized that their heroes did wrong and tried to implement proposals that would keep their buddies from doing wrong in the future.
The limit to hire a TA within a year (the previous board of dictators took 4 to hire the one we have now), the prevention of selectmen to interfere in day to day affairs - both a response to misdeeds by the former board of dictators.
Ultimately though these articles were defeated because people realized these actions were isolated incidents by a poor group of leaders, two have been replaced, two more will be replaced, and then hopefully these shenanigans won't happen again.