BOS meeting notes: ATM plans, June 16th Election, Email policy, public service mailing, and more (Updated)

by beth on May 7, 2020

Post image for BOS meeting notes: ATM plans, June 16th Election, Email policy, public service mailing, and more (Updated)

Above: Decisions made by selectmen this week included the new Town Election date and plans to handle the upcoming Town Meeting.

This week, the Board of Selectmen discussed a wide range of topics. Decisions made included plans for the impending Annual Town Meeting and Town Election, a revised email policy for boards/committees, and a community public service mailing.

Here are the highlights.

(Stay tuned for a future post on topics to be followed up on in upcoming meetings.)

Annual Town Meeting – June 13

Moderator Paul Cimino confirmed that he hopes to move forward with Town Meeting on Saturday, June 13th. He and the board agreed on the list of Articles that they will ask voters to indefinitely postpone.

The list consists of Articles that are considered non-urgent and would likely to require presentations and/or on-floor debate:

Article 1: To Hear Reports
Article 19: Appropriation from CPA Funds – Kallander Field Construction
Article 20: Appropriation from CPA Funds – St. Mark’s Church Bell Tower Renovation
Article 23: Adopt MGL to Reduce Speed Limit in Thickly Settled Areas
Article 24: Adopt MGL to Designate Safety Zones
Article 25: Adopt MGL to Implement Local Meals Tax
Article 26: Amend Town Code – Southborough Public Accessibility Committee
Article 28: Amend Town Code – Zoning – Miscellaneous Provisions
Article 29: Amend Town Code – Zoning – Outdoor Illumination
Article 30: Amend Town Code – Zoning – Site Plan Review
Article 31: Citizen Petition – Amend Town Code: Noise Bylaw
Article 32: Citizen Petition – Amend Town Code: Reduce Plastic Waste

[Editor’s Note: I’m told that I misunderstood the list. Though not specified, Cimino stated he may also include some non-critical Articles on the consent agenda to be quickly approved. He informs me that he intends to do that for Articles 22 and 27.]

Whether or not the above articles are actually postponed is a decision that will be made by Town Meeting voters.

Dealing with the group as one consent agenda item would require cooperation of all attending voters. (It only takes one voter to pull an item for separate discussion. Though, after that voter speaks on the Article, a majority of voters could still support a motion to postpone.)

The Board and Moderator don’t want voters who are uncomfortable attending to feel compelled base on their desire to support or block controversial Articles. To avoid that, officials will reach out to Article proposers.

Article sponsors/citizen petitioners will be asked to publicly support postponing their Articles. (A Special Town Meeting is targeted for the fall.) The Board will also share its recommendation list with the Advisory Committee.

Town Clerk Jim Hegarty worried about discouraging voters’ need to attend. He told the board that it will take $8,000 to set up the Trottier Gym for Town Meeting. (The auditorium seating didn’t allow for enough safely distanced attendees.) He said it would be a waste if too few voters showed to form a quorum.

Chair Brian Shea reminded that the state legislature is working on lowering this year’s quorum requirements. (The Senate passed a bill on Monday but it has yet to pass the House.)

Articles voters will be asked to support will include the FY21 budget (still TBD), some capital expenses, and annual funding/administrative items. (Articles that will be recommended for voting on are 2-18 and 21. You can find those on the full warrant list here.) To streamline the meeting, voters will be asked to pass 11 of the Articles as a group. That leaves 7 Articles which will be handled individually to allow for explanatory introductions and discussion.

Cimino said that for any Articles voters do take up this spring, he won’t cap presentations/discussions beyond what’s normally allowed.

Rescheduled election

The BOS and Board of Registrars approved recommendations by Hegarty for a Tuesday, June 16th election. The hours will be reduced to 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. Voting will take place in Trottier Middle School’s Band Room.

Hegarty said that he studied the turnout for past elections with only a Board of Selectmen’s race. (All other seats on this year’s ballot are uncontested.) Between those numbers and the about 1,600 early ballot applications he’s already received, he expects a low in-person turnout. 

The Town Clerk explained the counter-intuitive move from the gym to the smaller Band Room. The setup will increase safety by preventing voters crossing paths as they enter and exit. Voters will enter the main doors, and head to the wide area of the lobby to check in. A police officer will allow one voter to head down the hallway at a time.

Revised email policy for boards/committees

IT Director Tom Laflamme revised the Town’s email policy after hearing complaints from the Planning Board. The issue stemmed from Laflamme’s decision to only invite board/committee members to participate on zoom conference calls using their Town email accounts. 

A message from Town Planner Karina Quinn shared that not all member of Planning were comfortable with using the Town account under the email policy. She wrote that concerns included:

Elected members are defined as staff/employees which then includes them in the disciplinary aspects with the same level of accountability as employees

Laflamme revised the 2018 policy to replace:

Staff – refers to Employees, elected and appointed Board/Committee members, and paid or unpaid interns

with

Municipal Employee– Anyone performing services for a city or town or holding a municipal position, whether paid or unpaid, including full- and part-time municipal employees, elected officials, volunteers, and consultants. This definition is taken from the Massachusetts Conflict of Interest Law (MGL Chapter 268A Section 1).

In discussing the policy with selectmen, he reminded of the reason the Town invested in creating accounts for each board and committee member. Officials’ emails are required to be archived and are subject to public records requests. He noted that subjects are actionable for 7 years. He was concerned that since board members aren’t lifetime appointments, the Town could lose access to emails before that time is up. He followed that it also protects members whose personal/professional emails could be opened up to discovery if they used them for Town business.

The IT Director did allow that members can automatically forward incoming messages to another email account for notification. But any messages they send in their official capacity should come from the municipal account.

Selectman Marty Healey said he didn’t understand Quinn’s disciplinary measures reference. He opined that there really weren’t any. The restrictions for use of municipal emails are based on state law. [Editor’s Note: There is a reference to potential “disciplinary action” for noncompliance on the signature page.*]

Healey objected to a bolded passage that he mistook as a new insertion by Laflamme:

If staff do not use the municipal email system then they are responsible for full compliance of records retention themselves, including potentially being subject to a public record request on a personal or work email account.

Laflamme clarified that it was original language based on the policy being written before accounts were available to every board and committee member. Healey asked to replace that with language stating that anyone not using the municipal account for Town business is out of compliance. The rest of the board agreed. [Editor’s Note: It looks like the newly posted version mistakenly added rather than replacing language.]

Selectwoman Lisa Braccio said that when the Conservation Commission posed questions a year ago, the board all agreed that all committee members should use the municipal emails.

Misc Updates

In other news. . .

The Southborough Community Fund reached out to the Town to make sure that residents with increased needs due to the pandemic aren’t falling through the cracks. Healey followed up with them. He told the board that so far SYFS and the Senior Center indicated that there hasn’t been a spike in service needs. 

Still, there were concerns that some in need may not use the internet to access information. The Community Fund was willing to fund a public service mailer from the Town. A large postcard will list some of the resources available through Youth & Family Services, Senior Center, Board of Health, Food Pantry. The board agreed to authorize the town-wide mailer, which will also include how people can donate to support those in need.

The Town is creating a Return-to-Work Working Group. Assistant Town Administrator Vanessa Hale suggested forming a group to figure out what the new norm should look like for staff when they begin returning to offices. Braccio volunteered to represent the board. 

Town Administrator Mark Purple shared a reminder from the Recreation Department. They are asking the public to respect facility closures. Purple said that people have been cutting chains used to secure the skate park and tennis courts.

Stay tuned for a future post on issues that weren’t resolved this week. Those include next year’s budget, the Open Space & Recreation Plan, a revised policy on Remote Working, and whether or not to automatically reappoint legal counsel. 

*The 2018 and newly revised email policies conclude with a signature line under the following paragraph:

I have been given a copy of this policy and I agree to abide by this policy. I understand that my failure to abide by the policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of my employment and or fines to recoup losses incurred by my abuse of this policy.

Updated (5/8/20 9:33 am): I removed Articles 22 and 27 from the recommended to-be-postponed list. An Editor’s Note explains.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 I don't think so May 7, 2020 at 7:04 PM

“He [Cimino] and the board agreed on the list of Articles that they will ask voters to indefinitely postpone.”. Following is a list of Town Meeting Article 1 followed by Articles 19 through 32, and excluding Article 21. A number of people have worked very hard on the articles in that list and to get them included in the 2020 Town Warrant.

How is such a decision considered to be acting in the best interest of the people of Southborough?

“Indefinite postponement”, at best, seems grossly inappropriate. It is unacceptable to indefinitely postpone these articles! Perhaps the Moderator and BOS would like to try again? What may be considered more reasonable would be a written guarantee ensuring any postponed Spring 2020 Town Warrant Articles receive priority in the Special Town Meeting already planned for the Fall of 2020.

When can the Town and its voters expect such a statement?

Reply

2 beth May 8, 2020 at 9:27 AM

As I noted in the post, the Moderator and Board can recommend. What happens will depend on voters.

The discussion did include a question from a selectman as to whether the postponement would be to a specific time and date. Cimino explained that he couldn’t do that since the date of the Fall Town Meeting hasn’t been set. But the postponement would push Articles to the next Town Meeting held.

Boards/Committees that sponsor Articles should be able to easily place them on the next Warrant.

It seems to me your question is more pointed at what happens to Citizen Petition Articles. Are petitioners required to collect a new set of signatures to get on the next Warrant? Or will the petition Articles automatically be put on the next Warrant? Will the language specify that – or are petitioners required to trust it will happen? I don’t know if I can get answers for you – but I’ll pose the question.

In the meantime, since petitioners should be contacted directly, they can also pose questions directly.

Reply

3 beth May 8, 2020 at 3:34 PM

I posed the questions. The answer I got back from Mr. Cimino is:

Thank you for your question. Let me be as unequivocal as possible. The only reason that I have suggested that ATM voters use indefinite postponement for certain non-critical Articles is to streamline/shorten ATM due to the quarantine and social distancing guidelines that we will be following. In other words, our Town needs to do our critical business, but otherwise things can wait until the next Town Meeting. Thus this is a matter of circumstance and enhanced peace of mind for ATM attendees (it is not about substance).

Therefore, my entire underlying premise for suggesting certain indefinite postponements is that all of those Articles will appear on the next Town Meeting Warrant. Earlier today I spoke directly with the BOS Chair and made clear my position as stated in this note, and Mr. Shea assured me that he is fully aligned with my position, which I appreciate.

The 2020 ATM will be conducted in a context unprecedented in any of our lifetimes. That being said, I hope that now there is no confusion or question about the position I am stating here. The bottom line is that any Article that is indefinitely postponed for convenience due to the extraordinary circumstances we are in, will absolutely appear on the next Town Meeting Warrant.

As always, I am reachable to anyone at ‘moderator@southboroughma.com’.

Reply

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