The recent Finance Committee appointments that have some residents concerned about the process were the topic of discussion on Tuesday night. A pair of residents spoke to the Board of Selectmen during the public comments portion of the agenda.
Resident Bryan Semple addressed the board on Tuesday, as did Robert Stein, who was one of two Finance Committee members replaced by Town Moderator Myron Fox. Both Semple and Stein said they believe the Finance Committee changes were made as retaliation for the replaced members’ stances on financial issues.
While speaking to selectmen, Semple asked board members what kind of Finance Committee the town wants to have – one that is a “financial watchdog group” or one that is “just a mild rubber stamp of the policies that are put into place by the various town bodies, providing insufficient advocacy for taxpayers, providing little credibility to the legislature and ultimately harming all our efforts to create a better town.”
Though newly selected Board of Selectmen chairman Chuck Woodard reiterated that the bylaws are clear that selectmen have no authority over the Town Moderator’s appointments or the Finance Committee, Semple had a proposal.
“The BOS should vote on a non-binding resolution stating ‘We the members of the Board of Selectmen request the newest members of FINCOM resign and reapply along with all other interested members of the town, for consideration by FINCOM, through an open, public interview and appointment process,” Semple said. “It is easy, and restores a level of transparency to the committee, and no one should object to transparency for such an important committee.”
Stein, meanwhile, was not before the board to specifically address the new additions to the Finance Committee. Instead, he accused the Town Manager and Town Counsel of “an attempt to manipulate the town warrant,” saying “at least, it is an overstepping of the Town Manager’s authority.”
The former FINCOM member’s accusations stem from a March 17 vote at the Finance Committee meeting regarding Article 16 and Article 19 of Annual Town Meeting.
FINCOM voted against both financial articles in advance of Town Meeting, something that Stein said left many town employees and other officials upset with how the Finance Committee voted.
Two days after the vote Stein received an email from the Town Manager, stating that the votes for those two articles were invalid because a quorum was not present.
Stein said that opinion came without research from Town Counsel. According to Stein, when asked to do more research of case law, Town Counsel issued a new opinion and said the votes were indeed valid.
“Had FINCOM members not pursued their own research of case law, the town warrant would have been printed with ‘report at town meeting’ since the deadline was the following Tuesday for the warrant,” Stein said. “This potential manipulation of the town’s legal document, the town warrant, is a serious issue.”
After hearing from both Stein and Semple, the Board of Selectmen discussed the Finance Committee issue briefly, before deciding it would be best to put the topic on the agenda for its next meeting.