Thursday morning (Feb 7) at 7:30 a.m. Cohasset Governance will discuss changes to the Town Manager Act suggested by the Town Counsel including part of the original act that allows the Town Manager complete assess to privileged documents and personal information. (See preceding blog.)
At Monday night’s meeting (Feb. 4) Town Counsel Paul DeRensis noted that the Town’s appointing authority, the Troika (comprised of the chairman of the board of selectmen, chairman of the advisory committee and the town moderator) needs to be brought into compliance with “what is going on.” Minutes and possibly lack of minutes were alluded to. DeRensis said an argument could be made to have the Moderator make the appointments, and the chairman of the board of selectmen and advisory chair could still have input. “Sometimes there needs to be candid discussions about people –that is and it might be a hard sell as no other town had one” He said having a one person appointing committee made posting meetings unnecessary, and more candid discussions possible.
Linguistic changes recommended by DeRensis:
A. Governance should only require a majority vote of those present and voting, not a vote of the majority (5 members) in all parts of the document where they have proposed the same.
B. Policies and guidelines by definition are not enforceable. “You need to establish some mandatory guidelines that trigger the Town Manager’s performance. In 8 C1 – the time when the budget should be submitted should be in the Town Manger’s Act. Wordage would be: “He shall do this by the date established in the budget process document” He added that selectmen should include a timeline as established by town bylaws.
C. Town Manager and the School Committee: The town manager or the selectmen issue a memo to the school committee – that’s a guideline. It still allows the school committee to come back with a higher figure. Guidelines get you through a balanced budget.
a. 10C – By law, the Town Manager has a role in collective bargaining for the schools. By law the Town Manager sits as a member of the school committee, but the school committee creates a bargaining team, but the town manager is not allowed under state law to be a member of the bargaining team; by state law the town manager is not part of the bargaining team. However, the school committee could make him part of the bargaining team. Or, the Town Manager’s Act can supersede state law and make him part of the negotiating team.
b. If the school committee asks town meeting to reject the town manager’s balanced budget, the town manager has recourse. “Don’t underestimate his power.” He could refuse to fund it (the school’s unbalanced part of the budget) and the schools would have to lay off teachers.
D. DeRensis asked the committee to reconsider its format for changes. This draft would repeat the existing Town Manager Act and replace with a new town manager act that could require a ballot question. You want to avoid a ballot question. Reformat it, other wise on the third reading it will look like a new act. Call it “An Act to Amend the Town Manager’s Act.”