Cohasset’s Acting Town Manager’s police budget is not sitting well with three Cohasset selectmen. Vice Chair Dianne Kennedy, Fred Koed and Martha Gjesteby want to give it some more thought. A final vote on the police budget will be taken at Selectmen’s April 9 meeting that is currently scheduled to be the last meeting before Annual Town Meeting.
Selectman Lee Jenkins participated in the April 4th meeting remotely, the reason being given was “distance.” Photo above shows him hovering above the meeting.
Concurrently, the acting town manager’s (ATM) search deadline for a police chief is Monday, April 8. That would mean if it is true ATM intends to appoint Acting Chief Bill Quigley as his permanent chief Tuesday night, selectmen would have to utilize their 15-day window during which they can vote to not accept the ATM’s choice, or forever hold their peace.
Several selectmen have expressed interest in keeping Jen Oram, assistant to the town manager, working in the selectmen’s office. Selectman Gjesteby said both Tracy Connors and Jen Oram are a good team and she’s like them to stay put. Gjesteby said feels so strongly about Oram that she will vote against the budget if Oram doesn’t stay put. Over the past month Gjesteby has mentioned several times how Oram saved the December 2012 special town meeting from abortion by at the last minute by gathering selectmen’s signatures for the warrant.
At the meeting on April 4th Selectmen voted with Koed, 5-0 on these issues:
Board voted 5-0 against Cross Training Firemen to be Policemen:
Firefighters rejected this idea during contract negotiations because they felt it was a backdoor way of merging the departments.
Koed noted that the discussion of this idea was the first public session selectmen have had on the issue. “How did this get into contract negotiations as a portfolio of this board of selectmen?”“
ATM said “I don’t know what you want me to say, Fred. What direction did you provide me in negotiating contracts?”
Koed: “I certainly didn’t provide this direction.”
ATM noted that a former fire union president (and former employee) Jamie Hall had been sworn in several years ago as special police officer. ATM asked selectmen why the town should not offer stipends to firemen in order for the town to better cover extra police details. ATM said he saw it as more of a voluntary thing.
Kennedy: “It really is a policy issue and we should have had that discussion. We should have had it long before now.”
ATM: “Clearly, the town had done this in the past. It was suggested to me by a former union president. I did not receive any direction how to negotiate this. We talked about trying to look at labor market, what other communities are doing. I suggest in future when you put together your negotiating teams, put together parameters of what I am about.”
Gjesteby: “When you go into negotiations you should talk with board of selectmen. You’re supposed to come back to board if you’re stalemated. In the future, we should have a session on ideas of what the board wants and open a two way street.
Koed: To me, this is Government 101. When a major public decision comes before the town, it should be on agenda. The public should be heard pro or con. There was never a vote that this is a policy this board was pursuing. The town has right to reconsider that precedent. Public policy is an executive privilege of board of selectmen, not the acting town manager or the town manager. (For you) to say nothing has come out of this…something has come out of it. It’s in a police contract right now, without my full knowledge.””
Acting police chief Bill Quigley said a Mass law prohibits a town for forcing firemen to do police work, but does not prohibit it.
ATM: “I have a lot of respect for Koed, this is not a major initiative, and this was an opportunity. There is a precedent. Every time we had disagreement, I did bring it to the board.”
Board voted 5-0 to not Cross Train Policemen to be Firemen
Firefighter Paul Biloudeau: “I have negotiated many contracts; the ploy is to get something in the contract. Once it’s in the contract, the ATM doesn’t have to come back to the board.” Hernan said putting this (cross training) into the police contract was a grave injustice to all. Before you put anything in contract, you have a right to have your say. In this case, nobody had his or her say. It was a big deal. It ended up at state level. We spent time trying to fight it. It makes everybody look bad when something like that shows up. It’s the wrong message to send. We had some police come over and apologize to us for signing on to it.
“Every piece of wording is looked at in a contract. So when something like this shows up, I get calls from other towns. I thought it was your idea, and then I find out selectmen don’t even know about it.”
Koed: This is what happens when major pubic policy discussions aren’t brought out in public discussions. Koed explained that when a merging of jobs takes place, it muddies the legalities and could cost major money. “Because we now have Firefighter 1 in our police contract we could conceivably have bought into providing stipends.” He added that firefighters are not interested in providing the training for police to become Firefighters 1. Also, Koed said their have been mutual aid repercussions, both locally and state wide. “I’ll be honest here. Three months ago Michael (ATM) approached me about combining police and fire. I told him I was opposed to it. At that time I thought it was a dead issue, and I never heard anything about it again. “I’m disturbed that this is in an executed major contract, haven’t even discussed the financial impact. “
ATM: “It’s important to know that the unions don’t run mutual aid. Mutual aid is driven by the board of selectmen, not the unions.
Citizen Agnes McCann: “It will cost us to get it (Firefighter 1) out the police contract the next time we negotiate.”
Koed then asked ATM if he had researched the presumptive disability laws before he made a decision to put it in the contract.
AMT: “I did not look at 94A, that is correct.”
Cross training policemen to be EMTs – discussion only (no votes taken)
Cross training policemen to be EMTs is in the police contract. Recently, the selectmen voted to create a committee to look into this. Firefighters said they were against this, that it was cutting paramedics in the fire department and adding it to the police contract.
Select chair Paul Carlson said he thought the board should schedule this as a full agenda item, bringing in experts, or direct the ATM to create a plan. “We’re talking about a concept but we have no plan, no structure.”
Creation of Public Safety Department – discussion only (no votes taken)
Police officer Jeff Treanor said no one was in favor of this concept.
ATM said he also was against it and it was not what he proposed. “I was supportive of a public safety administrator.”
Elimination of Special Town Meetings – discussion only (no votes taken)
Koed: “Maybe Mike (ATM) was misquoted, but I saw it reported as news in front of another board. I see the executive decision of this board being usurped.”
Gjesteby: “I first head this discussed at an advisory committee meeting. Special town meetings are useful, they’re where we articles that weren’t ready for regular town meetings. We used to save capital items until the special. And of course special town meetings give citizens an opportunity to push forth petition articles”
Milanoski: “On Jan. 28th I broached the subject” Milanoski said he talked about structuring the budget in order to avoid the need for special town meetings. “At the end of the day there can be 18 special town meetings.”
Consolidate Water and Sewer Departments – discussion only (no votes taken)
Sam Wakeman, governance committee: “We have the water and sewer issue on our agenda, we have not gotten to it. We may have a recommendation in the future, one way or another.”
Gjesteby: “This has been discussed for several years. Water and sewer have been against, and we as a board have not discussed it.”
Koed: “Again, this board has not taken a position on this issue, one way or another.” Koed then quoted from a March 8, 2013 Cohasset Mariner in which ATM was quoted extensively about bringing this issue to annual town meeting. “I was flabbergasted to read this article about something on the warrant this board hasn’t taken a position on.
Kennedy: “Both Martha and I were at the that meeting. We were surprised.”
Milanoski: “It was on the governance committee docket, clearly they have not advanced it.”
Koed: “I not aware governance could put articles on the warrant…anything they come forward with we have to put on the warrant.”
Wakeman: “I thought we were charged with coming up with recommendations to give to the selectmen. You (selectmen) make the decision.”
Mary Snow: “There is a component of this consolidation in reorganizational duties, there is a tie in between the water and sewer departments in that direction.”
Koed: “Government 101 – consensus building; it is not one person trying to push it forward without running it by this board. If it’s a placeholder (then it does not deserve) a two page article in the Mariner. (You’re) wasting time of these boards in discussing something that hasn’t been fully voted.”
Gjesteby: “It was on the warrant, we voted it off.”
Milanoski: “There was no warrant, there is no warrant until you approve the warrant.”
Citizen Agnes McCann: “I expect more from my town government; I heard the acting town manager say earlier because they (governance) rejected it was not a policy item. It was a policy item. Koed’s comments are to the point…this is really wrong, I’m offended.”
Carlson: “It’s helpful to have people put out ideas…the town manager is creative.”
Koed: “I have no problems with ideas or brainstorming, I feel like there’s been a short circuit here.”
Gjesteby: “For the last several weeks I’ve been going to advisory, capital budget. There is so much more being discussed with those boards than with us.”
Posting Series of Existing Jobs At Town Hall Including Existing Employees – discussion only, no votes taken
Gjesteby: “I am in opposition. A Human Resources person is coming in after town meeting, all employee changes should be left until then. I would think that everybody would be nervous if a lot of existing jobs posted, I think we have to have a big analysis. Diane and Fred said we should look at this in 6 months.”
Koed: “Maybe some of this is a good plan; it’s the way it’s been approached, creating turmoil. We should be careful to promote as high morale as we can among our employees. They should have input into some of the changes we’re proposing. We’re moving too fast…this needs to be wound down.”
Milansoki: “The extent of any type of new positions is less than a handful at this point. We do have a contractual obligation to the clerical union to post any position.” Milanoski said no one was proposed to lose a position. This has been more or less resolved.”
Mary Snow: “Throughout negotiations this was presented to us as having the full approval of board of selectmen.”
Milanoski: “That’s not true. Please speak the truth.”
Snow: “My union rep will confirm the board of selectmen were for this.”
Citizen McCann: “It remains unclear to me who proposed this. “I am against posting jobs, a few or all, it’s the wrong way to run a railroad.”
Milanoski said back in January the discussion revolved around a consolidated finance department and the majority of the changes took place there. “The union can waive the contractual requirement to post when there is a change in title, new work hours, new responsibilities.”
Carlson: “It gives the opportunity for one union member to bump another.
Milanoski: “I did not anticipate that. It’s highly unlikely for someone to bump.”
Snow: “The union is not opposed to changes, but we don’t know what they are. There are no job descriptions.
Koed: “From what I’m hearing, many town employees have concerns about security and their jobs.”
Inspections / Permitting Department – voted 5-0 to fully investigate the concept of this department
Koed: “We agree the idea is a good idea. How do we get from here to there? I’ve had 26 years of experience on state and town government boards. The basic building blocks of reorganization are job descriptions. The actual debate can happen when you have actual job descriptions. Slow down, work with the unions and the board of selectmen and building consensus. Move departments within physical proximity with one another, let them know one another. We can’t fully implement this in a budget this year.” (Editor’s note: Koed has a Masters of Science in Public Affairs from John W. McCormack Institute at Univ. Mass. Boston.)
Kennedy: “Ditto what Fred said.”
Snow: “Get Human Resources (job descriptions) first.”
Health Agent / Planning Board Clerical position – Voted 5-0 to investigate the concept
Creation of Procurement Office – Voted 4-1 to investigate the concept – Gjesteby voting no, saying the Town Manager is not supposed to delegate procurement.
Town Managers Act Amendment – Town Counsel gave the board his final edits to the Act. Selectmen had already voted to approve Amendments to the Act earlier, 4-1 (Gjesteby voting no).
Gjesteby continues to worry that the Amended Town Manager Act may increased the pool of candidates, but will not result in candidates who are qualified by experience to run the town.
Christine Cunning, chair of the governance committee told selectmen under the current act selectmen would not be able to appoint a town administrator of an assistant town manager. (Editor’s note: the town’s first town manager was an assistant town manager.)
Wakeman said the qualifications for the town manager should be placed in the bylaws. (There are no bylaw changes on the town meeting warrant.)
Gjesteby: “We need someone in the field of government for this position. We’ve had problems this year when we haven’t had those (qualifications).”
Human Resources Audit – Free Cash article – Selectmen voted 5-0 to deal with the Human Resources agenda after town meeting.
It is thought that some of the legal work can be accomplished through Town Counsel’s retainer. Still professional citizen volunteers might handle other parts of the audit. Selectmen have received bid proposals from Town Counsel’s firm and others to work on the Human Resources audit.
Police Budget / Officer Manager – 25 Hr. clerical person — much discussion, no votes
This budget will be fully discussed at selectmen’s April 9 meeting. Selectmen said they were curious about the additional hours requested for support staff. Acting Chief Bill Quigley said one of the unintended consequences of regional dispatch was a lack of personnel to handle window time.
The Chief said “We now have Jen Oram 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every day. If we go with this model the full time person would help with confidential matters, union issues, scheduling medical exams, personnel folders. Quigley added that this model would also provide for a deputy chef.
Gjesteby said: “I won’t approve this. That’s a cut in her salary.” Milanoski disagreed that it was a cut in her salary. Koed said he was still not clear on the paperwork issue.
© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed