The first review of Groton’s Town Charter kicked off this Monday, when the Board of Selectmen formally called for the charter review to begin and began discussing who would fill its three seats on the ad hoc committee.
The plan to conduct a review of the 2008 charter surfaced last November. The charter requires that a review be conducted by a seven-person committee at least once each decade. The Board of Selectmen designate three Charter Review Committee members. The Finance Committee selects two people; the Groton members of the regional school committee select one member, and the town moderator chooses one person. In each case, members of the boards or the moderator may serve, or they may delegate the responsibility to a resident.
Town Manager Mark Haddad told the selectmen that the Finance Committee designees are Scott Harker and Bud Robertson, and that Town Moderator Jason Kauppi has picked Michael Manugian.
Since the BoS asked for citizen volunteers in early November, 2014, five people have expressed an interest in representing the selectmen: Town Clerk Michael Bouchard, attorney Bob Collins, Editor of The Groton Herald Russ Harris, Groton Electric Light Department Commissioner Kevin Lindemer, and banker Mike Rasmussan. Harris withdrew from the running today, Thursday, April 16.
“I would like to see us interview those five individuals as soon as possible so they can hit the ground running as soon as Town Meeting is over,” BoS Chair Josh Degen said. Selectmen agreed that the board will interview the five men in a meeting in before Town Meeting on Monday, April 27, in the North Middle School cafeteria at 5:30 p.m.
At a BoS meeting on November 4, 2014, Selectman Peter Cunningham, who helped draft the charter, and Selectman Jack Petropoulos both expressed interest in serving on the review committee. During this week’s meeting they both reiterated their interest, and were joined by Selectman Stuart Schulman. Selectman Anna Eliot also expressed an interested, but had not decided whether to throw her hat into the pool of candidates.
Petropoulos threw a curve ball into the meeting when he said that, “I’ve had a lot of feedback from people on what the best makeup of this committee is, or could be. And there’s just a lot of concern about conflicts of interest (about whether and how many selectmen should serve).”
“The other concern I’ve heard is with regards to town employees serving on the committee, where town employees serving on the committee have a conflict in terms of their reporting structure and how they may influence the committee relative to that reporting structure. I want to make sure there are no implications in regards to any town employee who has applied here, and the only town employee that I know has applied is just a wonderful person and who has no stink on them at all, Mike Bouchard,” he said.
When other selectmen and Haddad interrupted to “correct” Petropoulos, saying that Bouchard was an elected official, Petropoulos agreed with that fact of the matter but stuck to his guns, stressing that the “Town of Groton Organization Chart” that is maintained by Haddad and posted on the town website in 2011 (below) presents a different scenario, a scenario believed by some residents.
Town of Groton Organization Chart
“He is elected, but I believe he reports in to the town manager on the org chart, and that is the perception that I’m hearing,” Petropoulos said. Interrupted again by selectmen and Haddad, who said that wasn’t true, Petropoulos said: “That’s the perception that I’m hearing… that’s the feedback that I’m hearing and it’s not a small amount of feedback.”
Schulman responded to the meeting with a clarification, rather than interrupting Petropoulos, and said, “The Town Clerk does get paid, so I guess that makes him an employee, but he certainly is not part of the reporting structure in any way, shape, or form. And that should be pretty clear.”
After the meeting, Petropoulos pointed out that Haddad exerts some financial control over all employees in the clerk’s office through the town budget and recommendations on salaries.
UPDATE: A new town organization chart dated April 16,2015, the date this story was posted, has been added to the town web site.
That chart removes the Town Clerk from “reporting” to the Town Manager, but still has the Town Moderator, Park Commission, and a host of other elected officials under that office, when in fact they are independent.
The board decided to wait until after it interviewed the citizen volunteers before picking the mix of selectmen and residents it would put on the committee.
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You can read the Town of Groton Charter online or download it as a PDF