November 29, 2021

Seekonk Selectmen Frustrated By Town Charter Vote

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The Board of Selectmen expressed their frustration with the November 8 town meeting vote regarding proposed changes to the town’s Home Rule Charter. After much debate, the motion was made to indefinitely postpone a vote on the amendments.

Selectman Michael Healy said the vote was “very disappointing, very disheartening.”

“It was very disappointing to me that all this work was put into a document and then when it comes time to debate it, line by line, ‘we don’t want to do it’, ‘we want to make excuses, point the finger at everybody and throw it out the door,” Healy continued.

“It was a vote of no confidence,” said Selectman Adam Petronio, noting voters may have been hesitant to make radical changes in the way town government operates.

One of the changes read: “The town meeting may by by-law reorganize, create, consolidate or abolish departments, boards, commissions, and offices, in whole or in part; may 7 establish new departments, boards, commissions, or offices as deemed necessary; and may transfer powers, duties and responsibilities of one department, board, commission or office, to another.”

Michael Brady, a member of the Finance Committee, expressed reservations about the amendment: “It could change the entire form of government of the town. We could do anything by by-law. 51 percent of the people could change our form of government. 51 percent of the people could eliminate the School Committee, the Finance Committee, the Board of Health, the Conservation Commission, come up with a new board or commission, or transfer those powers to someone who may not be qualified or capable. In my opinion, this entire change needs to be eliminated.”

New language was proposed for Article 5, section 5: Appointment of Board and Committee Members  - “The Board of Selectmen shall be responsible to provide the charge, duties, and responsibilities of the committee or board appointed.  The Board of Selectmen must inform all members appointed of their duty to be sworn in by the Town Clerk prior to participation.”

“They were minor changes,” said Selectman David Andrade. “There was nothing sweeping in there.”

The Seekonk Charter Commission was elected at the annual town election in April 1994 under the provisions of the Home Rule Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution. The Charter was adopted in April 1995 and was amended on May 14, 2018.

A statement from the original Charter Commission reads: “The proposed charter will allow for flexibility, while providing for adequate checks and balances in the administration of the town’s government. As a result of this proposed design, we would anticipate this charter should serve the town well into the twenty-first century.”

Chairman Justin Sullivan proposed scheduling a special town meeting in order to make the charter changes. A date will be decided upon at a future meeting.



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