On Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen will hold another virtual meeting. This one includes topics of special interest to Town Meeting voters. Since Monday is a holiday, I’m giving readers the advance heads up on the meeting today.
As I’ve previously posted, Treasurer Brian Ballantine will ask selectmen to reconsider some previous decisions on the budget for the next fiscal year.
A packet posted today includes revised revenue projections. The net difference is $135,995 lower than when selectmen approved the budget framework earlier this year. That change would add to the projected tax increase next year by 0.3%.
Ballentine presents a revised 5 year projection for the Town’s levy capacity with negative balances in FY24 and FY26. (See figures right.)
The presentation lists under Next Steps:
- Guidance from the State on revised FY21 revenues & revised Local Aid numbers;
- Further revisions to Local Receipts;
- Review deferred capital projects for possible further deferral – Capital Committee;
- Board to set any tax increase parameters/goals in light of updates;
- Review proposed new positions and hours for FY21.
If the Governor doesn’t extend his prohibition on gatherings past May 4th, Annual Town Meeting could be held on May 16th. Whenever the meeting happens, the Town’s operating budget is one of the essential items that officials will ask voters to approve.
Which other Articles selectmen will push as essential is another item for discussion on Tuesday.
Moderator Paul Cimino explained to the board (and voters via a blog comment) that he hopes to streamline the meeting by indefinitely postponing non-essential Articles to a fall Special Town Meeting. Whether or not that happens will be up to voters. But the suggestion of a Consent Agenda Article to handle that can be proposed by the Moderator.
It looks like selectmen will be discussing which Articles they will ask for voters to take up this spring, and which they will encourage can be put off.
On a different topic, the Board will consider a request from the Economic Development Committee to engage special counsel. I asked the Town Administrator and EDC Coordinator to fill in some gaps in the meeting packet. They did.
The EDC had issued an RFP to hire a consultant for technical assistance on their Downtown Business Village mixed-use zoning Article. The bidder deadline was March 25th and no bids were received.
One of the potential vendors that the EDC had identified was the firm of Mead, Talerman & Costa, LLC. The law firm is Special Counsel for the Town. (Some readers may be familiar with their Attorney Jay Talerman from his past representation on several matters and at some Town Meetings.) The Board of Selectmen is authorized to allow committees to use special counsel without issuing an RFP. They will consider doing that on Tuesday night.
The EDC voted this week to formally make the request. Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano approved that use of a lawyer from that firm, Adam J Costa, is appropriate. Costa’s bio on the firm’s website describes him as “an experienced practitioner in the areas of general municipal law, land use and zoning law and real estate law”.
The funding for the attorney acting as a technical consultant would be through the Planning Assistance Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. In September, the $50,000 grant was awarded to the Town for the EDC’s effort “to move forward on two crucial issues that are currently prohibiting viable economic activity in downtown Southborough. Namely, antiquated zoning laws and insufficient wastewater management infrastructure”.
Other items the board will discuss on Tuesday include revising the policy for Town employees on “Working Remotely during COVID-19”. At the previous meeting, Town Administrator Mark Purple advised clarifying how employees cleared from quarantine can return to work. You can see the agenda and packet here.
Interesting. Town counsel “approved” this firm. This is the go-to special counsel firm for this town counsel. Remember when the town overwhelmingly voted through “Article 1,” an anti-corruption article to reaffirm the towns ZBA quorum requirement at four persons instead of three? The citizens overwhelmingly voted this article through on the basis that it is harder to stack a four person ZBA board than a three person ZBA board. After the town voted this successfully in, rejecting the advice of Jay Talerman of this firm, without public knowledge or disclosure, town counsel and Talerman submitted lengthy documents attempting to “doom” Article 1. (These documents can be obtained via public records requests to the Attorney General’s Office). They failed. The Article was approved by the Attorney General’s Office. Can you imagine? Working to undermine the town’s own vote to stop corruption with the residents trying to make it just a little harder to control and corrupt the ZBA board? It remains unknown if these two individuals acted without legal authority or had any prior written authorization to submit those undermining documents. If there is any, it should obviously be made public and posted here. This is concerning since there was no public discussion nor authorizing vote at any BOS meeting (after Town Meeting vote rejecting their advice!). Regardless, the Article was approved by the AGO, it is now bylaw and the voters won. Why would this town hire the same firm who, unbeknownst to the taxpayers, actively worked to undermine the town’s overwhelming vote to stop corruption? This does not make any sense. Where is the common sense?
Beth, can you please post a link to any votes, minutes, authorization, Southborough Access Media tapes authorizing town counsel and outside counsel Talerman to submit documents to the Attorney General’s Office to undermine the Town Meeting “yes” vote on Article 1, the anti-corruption article which has the ZBA quorum requirement at four persons instead of three (thereby making it harder to stack any board).
Also, the BOS is responsible for the it’s appointees, any scofflaw EDC members. Shouldn’t they be examining and reporting to the public on potential Open Meeting Law violations to the Attorney General’s Office? Look at the EDCs agenda. They have two posted, having revised and altered the language from the first agenda about meeting during the pandemic. Why is the language altered on the second agenda? Also, the EDC chose to hire a specific person from special counsel Talerman’s firm. That didn’t materialize from the ether. How did they arrive at that specific person and firm name? Was there a vote? How did they do that without meeting and publicly discussing in the interim? Are there minutes posted for the public? Did the EDC violate Open Meeting Law? Isn’t there also a violation of conflict of interest law in selecting the firm of special town counsel who already works for the town? Isn’t special town counsel Talerman supposed to be representing the interests of the town, not a subcommittee? What is going on here? Can someone who knows please point to votes, documents and links? Thanks
I can share this story from November 2018, that has some relevant links to the issues you are referring to: https://mysouthborough.com/2018/11/19/bos-update-selectmen-accused-of-thrying-to-thwart-town-meeting-vote-questions-on-late-vague-minutes/
Beyond that, you can do your own research, public records requests, etc. And you are free to share what you find.
Thanks Beth for the link to the article. Your article states that the attorneys stated by letter that they acted on their own in contacting the AGO to work against the Town’s successful Article 1, the anti-corruption article keeping the four person quorum requirement. Can you please post a link to that letter referenced in your article? Also it would be interesting to know from BOS if EDC violated Open Meeting Law and State Conflict of Interest Law by selecting special town counsel Talerman’s firm without a meeting and public discussion. If anyone knows how they arrived at that name and individual, a post would be appreciated. Thank you.
People can read the story for the links.
Thanks Beth. There are links in that article to several exhibits and communications. However there is no link to the letter from the attorney (see paragraph 8), where you state in your article: “a letter from town counsel Aldo Cipriano indicates that the attorneys acted on their own . . .” There is no link to that letter . Sorry if missed it somehow. As a side contrary to the “advice” of these two, the AG made the article actual town bylaw. The ZBA has the same four person quorum requirement that the public always understood it to have. The AG did not need their advice on how to do their job of approving this article into bylaw. They approved it. The voters prevailed. Thanks again.
It looks like I was referring to the October 18th letter linked in the article. It states:
Thanks again. Now the voters can clearly understand how ridiculous town counsel’s own opinions and statements are. It is self evident he is wrong. The bylaw was approved by the Attorney General. The Attorney General doesn’t need his opinion to to the job of that office and review bylaws. Town counsel’s silly and misleading statement above does absolutely nothing to legally absolve or excuse his own self admitted conflict of interest. He states he has a conflict and contrarily still gets involved. All not ok. Pointing to a red herring does not absolve his own conflict.
Time for change. No more “no-bid” contracts, especially for lawyers. Ridiculous.