Election Preview-Accountability Vs Responsibility
January 19, 2018
To The Editor:
Too often in the past (3) three years we have witnessed clear violations of our Town Charter with respect to Board of Selectmen meetings, the Town Administrator and to some extent Town Meetings.
As per The Charter, (page 10; Section 2) General Powers and Duties it reads: The Executive Powers of the Town shall be vested in the Board of Selectmen. The Board shall have all the Executive Powers given to Boards of Selectmen by statute and by this Charter. It further states in basic terms that members of the Board of Selectmen whether individually or nor by majority shall at any time attempt to become involved in the day to day administration of affairs of the town but shall act through the established policies, directives and guidelines which are to be implemented by officers and employees. When have you heard any member of the Board refer to policy? When have you heard directives? Yes, there have been guidelines offered and suggestions made but clear directives to the Town Administrator have been too few.
This reader understands this section of the Charter to mean the responsibility of the Board of Selectmen is not to interfere with operations of the Town, but it does not diminish their authority to ensure our town government is run properly. Directives and guidelines as well as policy requires accountability. Assurances of accountability require asking questions in open meetings and expecting timely and accurate answers.
All too often instead of asking questions we have been hearing “that’s micromanaging”. Well, truth be told, that’s just an excuse. Asking questions of the Town Administrator is their job and a measurement of the Administrator’s accountability. The Town Administrator shall keep the Board and the Finance Committee fully informed as to the financial condition and needs of the town and shall make such recommendations to the Board for actions to be taken as he deems to be necessary, advisable or expedient. (Charter, page 12, sub section (F). The Board of Selectmen have the final vote. The Administrator’s interaction with the Finance Committee has been almost nonexistent. When questioned by the Finance Committee about Legal Fees, the Town Administrator has yet to comply. The request is now a year old. When a minority report was given at Town Meeting by a Finance Committee Member the Administrator’s response misled the audience. He stated, “a suggestion” was made by the Finance Committee Member and it could not be followed. I know this to be untrue because I gave the minority report and a suggestion on Legal Fees was never made. I simply asked for accountability. The Board of Selectmen knew this as well. No support, no comment, no accountability, your tax dollars.
The Town Administrator shall be the Chief Procurement Officer for the town. (Charter, page 12, sub section (K). Once again, subject to the approval of the Board of Selectmen. During the budget preparation for this fiscal year did anyone hear of buying new furniture for town hall? While the furniture may be pleasing to the eye what did it cost the taxpayers of the town? This purchase, by definition, is a Capital Expense item. Did the Selectmen approve this expenditure? Was it on an agenda? Was there a vote? No support, no comment, no accountability, your tax dollars.
The annual budget presentation according to the Charter (page 16, section 6) reads, “The Board of Selectmen shall be responsible for presenting the proposed budget at the spring session of town meeting for appropriate action.” Clearly this has not been followed. No support, No comment, No accountability, your tax dollars.