Sudbury Vision

The Place for Sudbury's Citizen Reporters

So whatever happened to all that "further study" on expanding the Board of Selectmen from three to five??

So--now that the article petitioning the legislature to increase Sudbury's Board of Selectmen from three to five has passed, where did all the passion for study go?  Surely if the town is at risk for dire unintended consequences we should be attempting to identify and mitigate them.  If "further study" was not just a delaying tactic, but was a result of genuine concern about negative effects on town government, we should even now be investigating the effects of expanding the Board of Selectmen from three to five.  Right?  


Here are a couple things you can do.

1) Check the bylaws for unintended consequences.

That one's easy.  The Town Clerk's documents page is here:

Expand the Bylaws and you will have a link to both the Zoning and the General Bylaws of the Town of Sudbury.

Search for the references to "selectmen" in these articles.  Section 6330 of the Zoning Bylaw requires a unanimous decision of the Board of Selectmen for site plan approval--but I can't find any other reference to the number of selectmen.  If unanimous is right for three, but wrong for five, then the Board would propose a change in the bylaw to Town Meeting, explaining why this is the case.  Until then, site plan approval would require a unanimous vote of the Board of Selectmen.

So, what's the ambiguity?  "Unanimous" has a specific meaning regardless of the number of selectmen on the board.  So does "quorum" or "majority", again regardless of the number of selectmen.  

What in our bylaws would not apply clearly and precisely if we magically had five selectmen tomorrow?

I can't find anything.  Can you?

2) Check the policies of the selectmen for unintended consequences.

Good luck with that one.  The selectmen have policies which I believe you can view in a binder in the Selectmen's office during working hours.  It's hard-copy, so there's no search capability.  However, I'm sure that all the people whose concern for unintended consequences was expressed at Town Meeting would be happy to peruse those pages and let us know what they find.  I assume we've heard nothing because they've found nothing.

Alternatively, the Board of Selectmen could make their policies available online in an easy-to-find place, and we could all take a look.  It would also be easier to abide by the policies if we knew what they were.

3) List other documents and procedures which could have "gotcha's" going from three to five.  

Contracts?  Plans?  Best practices?  Regulations?  What else?  Again, do citizens have access to these?  How would we even know they exist?

Carry on, team.  If you find anything, please post it here.

Here's the "discussion of Article 4" at the September 24 special town meeting:

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Comment by Bulldog Friday on October 10, 2012 at 1:34pm

Oddly, the Town Manager's contract stipulates in Section III on page 2:

The Board may suspend the Town Manager with full pay and benefits at any time during the term of this Agreement, but only if:(1) the Board and the Town Manager agree, or (2) after a public hearing, if the Board votes unanimously (if a three member board) or by a supermajority of four out of a five member board, votes to suspend the Town Manager, and the Town Manager is given written notice setting forth any charges at least ten days prior to such hearing by the Board members bringing such charges.

We can debate the wisdom of the contract, but clearly it anticipated the possibility of a five member board.

The 2010 contract was for five years as set forth in Section II(A) and as described here:

“Originally, she signed a three-year contract and we opted to sign her to a five-year extension with an agreement that every three years we would do a market analysis to make sure we were not grossly over and under what the market was paying,” said Selectman Larry O’Brien

Read more: Sudbury town manager paid more than neighboring towns - Wayland, MA - Wicked Local Wayland

The contract and town executive salaries are available for download to the right of the article.

Comment by Sidney Bourne on October 10, 2012 at 12:30pm

As I recall, in the midnight session just before the election of Bob Haarde the selectmen changed the rules for the Town Manager's contract. They set it to require unanimous approval of the selectmen to modify or terminate the contract. Maybe that rule needs revisiting.

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