By Tanna Kasperowicz
This Monday Cohasset’s Governance Committee will be e-mailing questions to appointed and elected town committee heads asking them a number of questions about their operations. Responses are due August 15. After the information is compiled, the committee will discuss possible “tweaks,” and plan to deal with areas of confusion. One new question was added: where do the committees meet? According to committee members, some committees are meeting in private homes. This blogger has had reports from customers at Mr. Dooley’s and the Gunny in Hull that a quorum of some Cohasset committees are meeting in those establishments after their public meetings.
Governance named these areas for review:
- Financial governance.
- Review of Town Committees (see paragraph above)
- By-Laws and Town Manager Act
- Enterprise Funds – added by Jack Keniley of Capital Budget.
It’s difficult to know what the “confusion” among members actually is.
The Strong Town Manager’s Act simply supersedes whatever was there before. If the Selectmen did it before 1997, and the Town Manager’s Act says the Town Manger does it now…the Town Manager does it now. The Town’s bylaws seem to be pretty much in order, having been updated and revised through the years.
Selectman Chair Paul Carlson said he felt Selectmen should be involved in hiring of three key positions, the Financial Director and the Police and Fire Chiefs. Under the Strong Town Manager Act the Town Manager is in charge of selecting these positions, with the selectmen getting veto power.
George Chamillard, a member of Governance an the Advisory Committee, said he would like governance to visit the qualifications of the Town Manager Act that stipulates that the Town Manager cannot have held any elective or appointed position within the Town for a period of one year before being appointed. Chamillard said eliminating this requirement might be handled by a by-law change requiring a majority vote at Town Meeting.
Others say the Strong Town Manger Act is a State Act and materially changing the Act would require a two-thirds vote of town meeting and than have to go before the state legislature. This change is being considered because Selectmen would like to appoint Mike Milanoski, Acting Town Manager, as Town Manager.
Town Counsel has ruled that Milanoski would have to be separated from the town for one year before he could be appointed Town Manager.
Another consideration, not talked about at this meeting, is returning to a Town Administrator form of government, or a Weak Town Manager. It’s unclear what a Weak Town Manager actually is – I guess just a Strong Town Manger stripped of all his powers?
Acting Town Manger Mike Milanoski said he would be in favor of combining water and sewer into a five-person commission – an article he had proposed but not filed at Annual Town Meeting. Bafflingly, Milanoski did not support a citizens’ petition which would have accomplished the same at May Annual Town Meeting.
Member George Chamillard, also a member of the Advisory Committee may be breaking the town bylaws by serving on two committees. Advisors are supposed to serve only on the advisory committee. Article 5, Section 1. (c) Members shall be registered voters of the Town and shall hold no other elective or appointive office. No member shall serve more than two consecutive full terms. If you’re gong to serve on the Governance Committee, a committee that is attempting to set the bar for town government, shouldn’t you abide by the current bar?
Former Town Manager Mike Coughlin had presented these ideas for change to the committee. Coughlin’s recommendations were part of the discussion, but were not addressed selectively.
The Coughlin Advisory:
- The Town Manger should be included in policy formulation – and not lay that at the feet of the Finance Director.
- There should be monthly financial meetings; the Town Manager will bring in the Finance Director.
- A Finance Committee should replace the Advisory Committee. It would have the statutory powers of a true Finance committee, namely to recommend the budget to Town Meeting. Since it would be a legislative committee its members would be appointed by the Town Moderator. Coughlin said most towns follow this model.
- Coughlin recommended that the Capital Budget Committee, which recommends the Capital Budget to Town Meeting, should be appointed by the Town Moderator, not the Selectmen. It’s purpose is to advise Town Meeting.
- Advisory (Finance) should present the operating budget to the town meeting floor. It would be Advisory’s budget, with both the Town Manager and the School Superintendent having the right to offer amendments.
The next Governance Committee meeting is slated for Thursday, August 9. The meeting usually begins at 7:30 a.m.