Former selectwoman opposes Town Manager article; drafting committee releases final report

by susan on April 9, 2012

Former Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf released a statement this weekend urging voters to delay a decision on the proposed Town Manager legislation, saying it needs more review. Meanwhile, the Drafting Committee on Friday released their final report that details the committee’s findings and explains highlights of the proposed legislation.

Town Meeting voters will tonight consider the legislation which would increase the size of the Board of Selectmen from three to five and create the position of Town Manager to assume operational and budgetary control of many town departments.

“As you can see, this Warrant Article is very complicated and needs further review,” Phaneuf wrote in her statement. “As a result, I urge Southborough voters to vote to postpone this Warrant Article indefinitely so that it can have further review.”

Pointing to her 30 years of involvement in Southborough’s town government, and her attendance at “nearly all” of the drafting committee meetings, Phaneuf said she has too many concerns about the proposed legislation to support it.

In particular, Phaneuf says the legislation strips the Board of Selectmen of critical responsibilities related to personnel, facilities management, litigation, and more.

For example, the proposed legislation would give the Town Manager the authority to hire and fire police officers, the police and fire chiefs, and the superintendent of Public Works. Phaneuf argues those are responsibilities that “should remain fully with the Board of Selectmen.”

In her statement, Phaneuf comments on each section of the proposed legislation, often concluding with the question, “Why, then, do we need a Town Manager?”

Phaneuf said she is also concerned that the current Board of Selectmen has not voted to support the article. Chairman Bill Boland said last week that the board “generally supports” the article and will vote on it at a meeting just before Town Meeting tonight.

In its final report, the Drafting Committee said the legislation will position the town to better handle the “major challenges” that face it, including “neglected infrastructure, uncontested elections with low voter turnout, committee vacancies, and frustrations of staff and volunteers.”

“This legislation will allow the government to modernize in a planned and thought-out way, so that the Town itself can maintain its character,” the committee wrote.

For those of you planning on being at Town Meeting tonight, I recommend reading both the Drafting Committee’s final report (it’s not short) and Phaneuf’s comments on the legislation. Here are the links:

1 Bonnie Phaneuf April 9, 2012 at 12:32 PM

The following is a listing of state statues describing the detailed powers and duties of the Board of Selectmen, acting as the chief executive board of the town.To read these laws visit, online catalog of Massachusetts General Laws (MGL)
M.G. L. c.40 s.2 Agents for Legal Actions
M.G.L. c.40 s.3 Custodians of Town Property
M.G.L. c.82 s.38 Layout Public Way
M.G.L. c.40 s.14 Eminent Domain Takings
M.G.L. c.79 s.7 Award Damages in Private Takings
M.G.L. c 40 s. 42 Structures in a Public Way
M.G.L. c,40 s.4 Contracting Authority
M.G.L. c.42 s.2 Locate Boundary Markers
M.G.L. c.9 s. 7 Create a Census
M.G.L. c.40 s.49 Create an Annual Town Report
M.G.L. c.40 s. 19 Emergency Authority
M.G.L. c.233 s. 8 Summons Witnesses
M.G.L. c. 41 s.23B Investigate Any Department
M.G.L. c41 s.1 Appointing Authority
M.G.L. c.115 s.3 Apopoint Veterans’Agent
M.G.L.c 41 s.55 Appoint Account
M.G.L. c.51 s. 15 Appoint Registar
M.G.L. c.54 s. 12 Appoint Warden and Election Officers
M.G.L. c 41 Appoint Polic ,Fire,Counsel, etc.
M.G.L. c 140. s.2 Licensing Authority- Common Victualler
M.G.L. c 138 Licensing Authority -Liquor
M.G.L. c140 Licensing Authority-Automoblile Dealer, Junk Dealers,
Entertainment, etc.
M.G.L. c148 s.13 Storage of Explosives
M.G.L. c.33 s. 4 Public Satety – Disasters
M.G.L. c.54 s.6 Set up Voting Precincts, Call Elections, etc.
M.G.L. c.158 s. 14 Permit for Street Openings
M.G.L. c159A S 1 Regulate Taxis, Trains, etc
M.G.L. c 41 s. 56 Authorize Town Expenditures
M.G.L. c.44 s.22 Sign Borrowing
M.G.L. c41 s.35 Set Officials’ Bonds
M.G.L. c.44 s. 31 Authorize Overexpenditures
M.G.L. c 140 s. 157 JUDGE VICIOUS DOGS
M.G.L. c 41 s.110 Declaration of Half Holidays
M.G.L. c 139 s.2 Dispose of Dangerous Buildings
M.G.L.c180 s.5 Investigate Charitable Corporations.
M.G.L. c.61,61A and 61B first right of refusal hearing
M.G.L. c.41 s.52 Sign payroll and invoice warrant

Which of these can be delegated to a Town Manager?

2 My 2 cents April 9, 2012 at 6:06 PM

I plan to vote for this article.

After all the hubris with the selectmen over the past few years, it is apparent to me that the town would benefit from a five member Board of Selectmen so no one person can dominate the discussions. Additionally, a fiver person board would ensure that members could have a private conversation on issues without fear of violation of the Open Meeting laws. Under the current system, an innocuous conversation between two Selectmen such as “Does that make sense to you?” would violate the Open Meeting laws.

Also, having a five person Board would minimize any personality conflicts between Selectmen, as was apparent during the spring of 2011.

As for the Town Manager issue, I would welcome a professional’s decision of hiring the best person for our town. I have very strong reservations about the recent hirings of the Police Chief and Fire Chief. Does anyone really think that either candidate would be the front runner for the Chief in another town?

Finally, I am disappointed that Mrs. Phaneuf waited until the very last minute to voice her opposition to this plan. The town would have been better served if she had voiced her opinions at regular intervals during the process. It appears that she and Mr. Bartolini opposed this entire measure from the start. That is of course their right and they may even be correct.

This just my opinion and I look forward to hearing from you at tonight’s Town Meeting.

3 Tim Martel April 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Chapter 41, Section 23A: Executive Secretary or Town Administrator; Appointment; Tenure

“He shall act by and for the selectmen in any matter which they may assign to him relating to the administration of the affairs of the town or of any town office or department under their supervision and control, or, with the approval of the selectmen, may perform such other duties as may be requested of him by any other town officer, board, committee or commission.”

It reads fairly broadly, such that the selectmen may delegate any of their duties to a town admin/manager (with the actual position name being irrelevant). Seems like the entire “TM portion” of the proposed legislation could be done via Bylaw rather than Special Act. I’d like to hear Town Counsel offer an opinion…

The “BOS change” portion of the proposed legislation would still be a Special Act. However, “Section 2 Part c” of the proposed Legislation that actively prevents the BOS from taking part in the day-to-day operations does seem illegal?

4 Sal Giorlandino April 9, 2012 at 6:15 PM

A number of long time Southborough residents, including Lee Bartolini, Bonnie Phaneuf, and Al Hamilton have spent much time studying Warrant Article 4 and have expressed their views on the Article on this blog or elsewhere. See for example, (1) Mr. Bartolini’s Minority Report of the Drafting Committee for Town Manager Legislation, and (2) Ms. Phaneuf’s extensive comments about Warrant Article 4.

Undisputedly, Warrant Article 4 proposes to make major changes to the management structure of Southborough Town Government, and I agree with Mr. Bartolini and Mrs. Phaneuf that Warrant Article 4 is very complicated and needs further review. Mr. Hamilton has raised serious concerns regarding Southborough’s loss of autonomy to the Legislature if Warrant Article 4 passes. For these reasons, I agree with Mrs. Phaneuf and Mr. Hamilton that Southborough Town residents at Town Meeting should vote to postpone this Warrant Article indefinitely so that it can have further review.

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