Cohasset Selectmen vote to not recommend all citizen petition articles

It looks like April 28 annual town meeting is going to have a big turnout - for the last five articles, anyway.

It wasn’t a good night at the selectmen’s meeting for citizen petitions. Selectmen voted to not recommend all five. Further, they voted to submit their own town bylaws upgrade article that will be competing with the citizen petition rendition at the end of the warrant.

Citizen petition is a misnomer with regard to four of five of the petitions that were largely signed by members of the governance committee and their spouses, former Cohasset acting town manager Mike Milanoski and Kevin McCarthy, candidate for selectman.

For a brief time McCarthy served as chairman of the governance committee. Milanoski was governance’s first chair. Milanoski was also chairman of the citizen’s selection committee that hired Mike Coughlin. Four of the top five candidates had been fired from other jobs. 

Carver Town Administrator Mike Milanoski’s two citizen petition articles got shot down by selectmen 5-zip. Milansoki was not present at the selectmen’s Monday meeting; select chair Fred Koed noticed candidate for selectman Kevin McCarthy in the audience (second signer on both of Milanoski’s petitions) and asked if he had anything to say. McCarthy declined to get involved.

It is rumored that governance and Milanoski will now work at getting their peeps to annual town meeting (April 28) and will no longer converse with town hall. Governance’s next scheduled meeting is Wed., April 23, 8 a.m. at the Cohasset Middle High School at which time they will review the selectmen’s bylaw amendment article. Wonder if they will invite selectmen?

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Selectmen voted 5-zip to create its own town bylaws amendment article for town meeting. The selectmen’s article will permit selectmen to choose either/or a citizen’s town manager search committee or a professional search group. Also, Selectmen will decide how many people will be on the search committee.

The Long–Range Planning committee (formerly Budget Planning) will not be part of the selectmen’s article. Many options were discussed. It could be an ad hoc committee; it might even become an outside consulting group in future years. Selectmen did not want to tie up a future board with specifics.

Diane Kennedy, vice chair, noted that selectmen had received many calls from budget planning members this year, all worried about “their budget.” Kennedy noted that budget planning doesn’t have the authority to approve any budget, being advisory only. She added at she felt budget planning had overstepped its charge this year.

Gaumer agreed that this committee should not be give weight it was not intended to have.

“Do you need a bylaw to have everyone at the table?” Koed asked, adding that a town manager may decide at some time in the future to give the five-year plan to an outside consultant. Gjesteby said this committee should be an ad hoc group that the town manager assembles himself.

Senior said he wanted to work with the long-range planning committee, however it would be constructed. “It should become ingrained in the culture of the town and become part of its fabric.”

It is unclear how the change in terms for the advisory committee showed up in the citizen’s town manager’s bylaws update, but it did. The citizen’s article removes term limits for advisory. Selectmen voted to put term limits back in two three-year terms) and give advisory a new look down the road, perhaps creating associate members.

Koed said advisory is a powerful committee that needed turnover that forces new views.

Selectman Martha Gjesteby noted that the advisory committee is peopled with a diverse group of people, but few have a financial background. Quigley added that it bothered her when she heard members of advisory asking some very basic questions.  Both she and Koed felt it might be good to look into associate members for advisory.

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Milanoski’s first article: “In addition to and consistent with state law, patronage is not a tolerated practice in Cohasset. Members of the Board of Selectmen, their spouses, or partners are prohibited from pressuring, influencing or taking any other action in an effort to secure non-competitive government contracts to (sic) friends or relatives or to hire friends or relatives.”

 

 Select chair Fred Koed told his board that if the town should vote in favor of this article, selectmen would be the ones administering it at substantial cost. He noted that one conflict of interest case he recently read consisted of 1750 pages.

While Selectman Steve Gaumer said he had no problem with the spirit of the petition, he questioned why only selectmen were singled out, and not appointed and elected committees. Also he said it would put selectmen in the position of policing themselves which could be self-defeating.

Koed said he wondered about the word partner, which could refer to a partner in business.

Town Manager Chris Senior noted that the state does have a patronage law, but it revolves around conflict of interest. He said if the town voted to go its own way, it would have to create and pay for its own enforcement policies.

Selectmen Karen Quigley said selectmen’s feet were already held to the floor with myriad of state laws that were done under confidentiality, protecting citizens and complaints alike.

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Milanoski’s second article: “In addition to and consistent with state law and to encourage integrity with the public member of the Board of Selectmen may not participate in any manner involving a party from which said member has accepted any money, gifts, gratuities or any other thing of value in excess of $50.00 in the aggregate during the candidacy or tenure of said member of the board.”

Selectmen agreed unaminoiusly that Milanoski’s article was strangely worded and its intent was already better covered by myriad laws at the state. Kennedy made the motion to not recommend.

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The citizens’ petition article asking to make governance a standing committee was also rejected by selectmen.

“Their original charge was never fulfilled,” Gaumer said. He added while he would like to bottle governance’s spirit he had a lot of questions about the language of the article, the charge of the committee, who does it report to, etc.

Quigley said this article needed to have a larger conversation. As written, Quigley said governance would have more power than any other standing committee with the exception of the permitting boards. “If they make a recommendation the selectmen WILL reserve space on the warrant. What qualifications and experience do we want these people to have…if we’re going to have them?”

“I don’t think we need all of these different committees, Gjesteby said. We’re a town of 8,000 people, but we have the set-up here of a much larger town.

“Is anybody totally happy with this article?” Koed asked. “Normally, bylaw proposals would have come out of committee and go before other committees. That process was missing because it became a citizen’s petition.

Gaumer said if the citizen’s petition were voted he would want to go back to a special town meeting with an amendment. “It’s not well structured.”

The board voted 4-1 to not recommend the article. Kennedy voted in favor.

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Selectmen voted 5-0 to not recommend the citizen’s petition article asking for sewerage on King Street. Selectmen do not think a citizen’s petition should direct sewer lines.

 

© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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