BOS - October 26, 2005 - Charter Workshop

Moderator: Suzanne Kane

BOS - October 26, 2005 - Charter Workshop

Postby Suzanne Kane » Thu Oct 27, 2005 11:06 am

Board of Selectmen
Charter Workshop
October 26, 2005

Douglas Board of Selectmen
“Charter” Workshop Meeting Minutes
October 26, 2005

Call to Order: Madam Chair Shirley M. Mosczynski called the meeting to order at 6:30 pm in the Resource Room at the Municipal Center.
In Attendance: Paula Brouillette Vice-Chair, Richard E. Preston, David A. Furno, and Executive Administrator Michael J. Guzinski.
Others present: Pam Carter-Tax Collector, John Bombara, Lisa Mosczynski, Leon Mosczynski, MaryLynne Dube, Joe Saster-Water/Sewer Commissioner, Eben Chesborough, Tribune reporter Gus Steeves and other citizens.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss and review information in regards to a Town Charter. The Board of Selectmen has looked at bylaws over the past few years, has had recodification and feels the need to make important changes to get bylaws in order. The Board of Selectmen asked our Executive Administrator Michael J. Guzinski to gather information regarding a Charter to relay to the Board and residents of the Town.
Madam Chair Shirley M. Mosczynski introduced Mike. He had contacted the Mass Municipal Managers Association to get pros and cons and more information on a Charter. He introduced Mr. Jeffrey Nutting, Town Manager of Franklin, one of the most knowledgeable people in the State regarding Charters, who graciously accepted Mike’s invitation to come to Douglas and give his history of Charters and help kick off the review of this process.

Mr. Nutting stated he has no vested interest in Douglas, any comments made are generic. He suggested the Town talk to a lot more communities about what the good and bad things are, what would be done differently, elected officials, legal counsel and get input from the entire community to find out what will best serve the citizens. He has been in local government approximately 30 years and has worked with many communities on goal setting and conflict resolution. The first comment probably heard regarding a Charter will be it is a power grab, people fear and don’t like transition or the unknown, the Board of Selectmen or the Town Administrator will have all the power. Changing any part of government you leave people thinking something is wrong and they are not doing their job, a process has to be set up that reaches out to the community. Vast majority of things done are constrained by state law, federal law, bylaw, and budgetary constraints. Get everyone to grow in the same direction with a single set of goals-that’s good power. All boards, committees and employees are accountable to the public; the intent is to serve the interest of the tax payers.
-Charter requires 15% of the voters to put something on the ballot. Residents can take out nomination papers. The top nine folks get on the Charter Commission and have 18 months to give a report that goes on the ballot. The people say yeah or nay.
-Special act-
You can establish a committee that brings a report to Town Meeting, if it passes, it goes to legislature and then usually comes back for a ballot vote. You can change the Charter without a full Charter Commission in some respects, if you want to change a special act you have to go back through the process. Some Charters state that they’ll have a review every “X” number of years. So you don’t have to go out and get signatures every ten years.

You can establish a Charter Commission and decide to make no changes or one or more changes. It’s a periodic review of your government and how it functions as the world continues to change, you don’t have to include that in your Charter. Even if you have a Charter and you have an elected Town Clerk, for an example, you don’t have to go through a full charter provision if you want to make that position appointed you can go through a ballot process.

Each one of the processes has pros and cons as to how you want to proceed in looking at your government. You can start with a simple Government Study Committee and appoint 7 or 9 people and ask their opinions. It is also depends on how fast you want to proceed and what you want to accomplish. Do you want to do it all or incrementally change only one or two things and see how that works? Community decisions-make some positions appointed not elected can consolidate positions, by eliminating a job. Whatever the Charter Commission comes out as a majority report goes on the ballot, that’s why it’s an 18 month process. If you do a Special Act you can have a debate at Town Meeting to discuss likes and dislikes in the Special Act. No matter which path you take it is the voters’ decision as it should be. The employees work for the Town Administrator, the Town Administrator works for the Board of Selectmen, if they’re aggrieved by the Administrators performance (for example) they can just say thanks for working here, we think we’ll find someone else that’s more in tune with us. You have the right to terminate if you don’t believe it’s in the best interest of the citizens, with some reasonable notice, have a hearing, or give severance pay. The elected officials need to have the final say in the big policy questions. The Town Administrator hires the employees, you take the politics out of the day to day issues, get the most accountable employees.

Questions, Comments, Thoughts:
-Richard E. Preston-Did Franklin go through the Charter process?
The Town had one in 1978 and a couple since, but now has a Town Counsel form of Government. When they started it was based on the population, with population growing the Counsel was up to 17 people and found it wasn’t working so they revised the Charter.
-Richard E. Preston-In Douglas we have an open Town Meeting, with nine counselors it would be a radical change!
Keep the things about the government you like and that serves the interest of the community, and change those that you think will bring a better result. It will become absolutely more efficient, responsive and effective.
-Richard E. Preston-In your experience in Town Government were you an Administrator with a Town that had gone through that process?
Not as an employee. On the Government Study Committee after leaving the Board of Selectmen and it took the Town three times to vote it in.
-Richard E. Preston-What are some of the objections in your experience that come about from the community when people start this process?
A lot of things mentioned earlier-objections from those working and volunteering-what’s wrong with us? Giving heart and soul, doing the best we can, now you want to make me appointed instead of elected, etc. Try to explain it’s not about the individual it’s about the organization.
-Richard E. Preston-Now you have a Charter, what would you do to have to change that?
Under statue of the Council or Selectmen (in our case) you can go through a public process-to hear all sides-hold a hearing, notice all the citizens and then put it on a ballot as a question-this can be done without a Charter. If you don’t want a full blown Charter and you just want to pick out one thing there’s a mechanism for doing that.

-Eben Chesbrough-Complimented Mr. Nutting on his overview of the Charter process.
Requested Shirley be more specific regarding the statement made earlier that important changes are needed.
-Her personal opinion-The Town has a $20 Million dollar-budget, is over eight thousand people and growing, yes we have an Executive Administrator in place, a Town Accountant in place, but her goal (if we go this route) is to have a more efficient run system and look at what we’re doing and how we can do it better.
-Mr. Nutting expressed again the fear of the people that one person is in charge. In Town Government everyone knows what everyone is doing.
-Mr. Chesebrough-If this process seems to gain favor, what would the next logical steps be, where would you go from here?
There is no time table at this point, Mike has representatives from other communities coming.
-Paula Brouillette-How this discussion started was with the recodification of bylaws, there was no mention of Executive Administrator. Manage the process and how we deliver government services most effectively. Pieces that don’t connect anymore, look at new form of government that’s how the beginning of this conversation started.
-Shirley M. Mosczynski stated that the five Selectmen were voted at Town meeting but were not placed in the Bylaws.
-Joseph Saster-Water/Sewer Commission Department Head/Chair-concerned about his position and being replaced.
-Mr. Nutting told him it would be a decision of the community. A Government Study Committee could like it the way we have it already, or it could be under the DPW, there are different options for each community.
-Mr. Saster-The Water/Sewer Commission is an enterprise, would that still be under DPW?
-Mr. Nuttting is not sure of the Water/Sewer’s authority in Douglas. It could become an advisory board to the Board of Selectmen or to the Town Administrator because Mr. Saster has been on the commission a long time and understands the system. To make government efficient, all employees have to be accountable to one person, not to individual boards, committees or commissions. You need to set goals and expectations, and meet on a regular basis. In a lot of towns the employees are treated differently, in different departments, from tradition or history, relationships they have with the folks they work with. The decision would be up to the voters after a thorough process.
-Mr. Nutting confirmed Lisa Mosczynski’s question that a Government Study Committee and Charter Commission are two different things.
-Lisa Mosczynski-What does a Government Study Committee look like make up wise and do you know of any communities that have them on going right now?
The Town citizens could talk to Mr. Nutting or call MMA. The Charter Commission is very structured and formalized, established by law. A Government Study is as simple as the Board of Selectmen chooses. Seven citizens could be appointed, have a Town Meeting or the Moderator brought up on a warrant article as broad or a simple as you make or decide. A Charter binds you to yes or no. A Government Study is more flexible.
-Pam Holmes-Better for a community to do this pro-actively rather than re-actively, and rather than waiting until you find you have tremendous embedded problems within your system.
1-no perfect government, no matter what you do
2-government is only as good as the people involved in it

In your experience, what is the size of the community, or does it matter when you say or communities suddenly say we’ve grown to this size and we find we need some change?
-Mr. Nutting doesn’t think size is relevant. The issue is what do the citizens think is going to best serve their interest? A Town Administrator form of government, and then whether they want to debate the change of their legislative body. Does the administrative end of your government need to change and what’s the process? More effective and efficient for the Town.
-Richard E. Preston-Directed to Pam Holmes-she thought the Town was doing well and for intense purposes he agrees. But sometimes you get into norms where things work well but what he is afraid of is that the thing that works well is not supported by the Bylaws. Legal support needs to be there. Holes, things are missing, ripple effect as Paula mentioned. No mention of Administrator, the five Selectmen, mention of a town report that wasn’t correct, foundation is shaky and we need to know the options. Firmly believe in a serious and comprehensive review.
-Shirley M. Mosczynski-stated it is functioning well but agreed with Rich the foundation is shaky and we need to give this some serious thought as to what needs to be done.
-Mr. Nutting-No guarantee that all will get along and share a common value, based on personality and relationships. Citizens want an organization that’s consistent.
-John Bombara-Do you still have Town Meetings in Franklin? No!
-How do you correspond to the general public?
-Have a very public budget process; Selectmen have goals, puts budgets together, makes recommendations, public process, and hearings. The Counsel and Fincom have public hearings. Build safe guards into your government. There are nine members on the Council now before it was 17. Very important in our form of government to have checks and balances that can be in the Charter, protect the citizens interest, a right of appeal in some cases.
Have department heads report to the Town Administrator, he’ll be in charge of personnel, CEO of the Town to get things done, accountable to a Board of Selectmen. Government works best with a Board of Directors.
-Richard E. Preston-Open Town meeting is very important in our community. Surprised if someone seriously proposed to move to a Representative Town meeting.
-Mr. Nutting asked the citizens what they thought the Board of Selectmen should do? Pursue or not?
-Have a study Committee, have more speakers come in.
-John Bombara-He agreed with Rich, voting part in this town is very important.
-Lisa Mosczynski-worked on the Committee for recodification of the Bylaws and would like to see a Government Study Committee formed A.S.A.P. Pam Holmes-seconded.
-John Bombara stressed that those on the committee should be knowledgeable.
-Eben Chesbrough-Make it clear what the expectations are, what’s broken and what are we trying to fix? People have to understand where you’re coming from, where you’re going and why.

Shirley thanked Mr. Nutting for coming and all his input as well as the others for their attendance. She encouraged anyone with questions or comments to contact either Mike or a member of the Board of Selectmen

Shirley stated the Boards’ intent is to look at what’s out there and how can we make it work better. We need to appoint people that are knowledge to boards. We need and encourage more volunteers. Better government and make it work better

Joe Saster-addressed the Chair- Suggested if the Town is going to make this a public hearing get this same gentleman back.

Motion to Adjourn: 8:30 pm by Richard E. Preston
Seconded by: David A. Furno

Respectfully submitted,

Jane L. Brule
Administrative Secretary
Suzanne Kane
Posts: 615
Joined: Wed May 25, 2005 2:01 pm

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