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Housing Board Appointment Sparks Controversy

The chair of Seekonk's Board of Selectmen fills a vacancy on the state board. A fellow selectman says the appointment could conflict with the Town Charter.

It wasn't easy getting there, but Board of Selectmen Chair Francis Cavaco was appointed to the Seekonk Housing Authority board on Wednesday. One selectman argued the appointment could conflict with the Town Charter, while another said the vacancy should have been better advertised.

The five-member housing board, which oversees the state agency that provides a limited amount of low-rent housing, lost a long-time member last month when he resigned due to personal reasons. Board Chair James Tusino said the selectmen were alerted to the vacancy and Cavaco volunteered to fill the post for the remainder of the term that expires in April. The vacancy was not advertised to the general public.

Selectman Gary Sagar requested a vote on the appointment be postponed to October so the vacancy could be noticed on the town's website. Selectman Dave Parker supported a postponement so that a legal opinion could be obtained on whether Cavaco's appointment would conflict with the Town Charter clause stating "No person shall simultaneously hold more than one elected office." (four housing board members are elected and one is the governor's appointee, the vacancy was for an elected position).

Parker also wanted to wait for the state attorney general's ruling on  prohibiting selectmen from serving on other town boards. The attorney general wrote to the town clerk last month that to research the legality of article, and would make a decision by Sept. 24. That decision may not make a difference on the housing board appointment since the article specifies selectmen cannot serve on other "town" boards, and the housing panel is a state board.

Sagar was unable to convince the other two selectmen (Cavaco and Bob McLintock) to support a postponement, so the motion failed on a 2-2 tie. A vote on Cavaco's appointment was approved with five supporters (the four housing board members and McLintock), Parker voting against, Cavaco abstaining and Sagar voting "present," which he said was different from abstaining.

Prior to the vote, there was some heated discussion among the selectmen and the housing board chair.

"We have somebody on the hook that's actually interested in giving another night to the community," housing board Chair Tusino said. "I'm afraid if we let the person off the hook, we'll be left with no candidates in another month."

McLintock spoke about his opposition to how the selectmen fill vacancies, which is done with public interviews that he says embarrass the candidates and make the selectmen "look like a bunch of buffoons." He said this was the reason why there are several vacancies on local boards. 

After McLintock spoke in favor of appointing Cavaco, Parker asked, "So we just ignore Town Meeting?" in reference to the approval of the June article.

McLintock responded, "Town Meeting on this particular item has no bearing until the attorney general rules."

Parker snapped back, "Then why don't we wait?"

Town observers were expecting there to be controversy surrounding the appointment. Emails about the issue have been circulating among local officials and activists for at least a week.

Former Selectman Bill Rice, who authored the warrant prohibiting selectmen from serving on other boards, called the appointment "laughable" in an email addressed to the selectmen on Monday.

"So much for the voters," he wrote. "Are you truly going to try to publicly convince Town Meeting voters that their majority vote preventing selectmen from serving on other boards was meaningless? Where exactly does it end? Why should the board do anything directed by Town Meeting? After all, it's only our form of self-government; selectmen are just implementers. This is laughable."

He continued, "What is the urgency? Same as the [Board of Health], when two selectmen were appointed to an already functioning board. A sad day for people in Seekonk who want to think 'selectman' means something other than petty political hack, self absorbed in their own sense of importance."

William Rice September 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Anyone who can read knows the charter describes the HA as a town board and prohibits one person from holding two elected offices...BOS and HA....elected. The position, not the man.
deb of see-attleboro September 07, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Is the Seekonk Housing Authority a state board or a town board? There is a world of difference, methinks.
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Read the charter, article 4, section 1
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Article 4, section 1 describes the Housing authority as a Town Board, one member appointed by the Govenor, 4 members elected by the town. Simple enough english for me and the framers. When you fill a vacated elected position by appointment you are serving the balance of an elected term filled by town voters. The pocket Counsel will cook up another precedent. That is what they bill the town for.....dance, dance dance. It is simple for our voters. Are the elected functionaries obeying the charter or not.? It looks like a sort of gamble....work the scam until it runs out and maybe by the time one's term is over the few citizens who mourn the loss representative government Will throw them out of office. Sedition is standing in the wings,,,,walk softly. And speak the truth quietly in the public and in groups. You have a creative (albeit, ham- handed ) implementation of charter laws unfamiliar to,many voters there v are only o21 pages....read it for lunch Its on the townweb site,
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Our plains indian indkiginous people. Our first americn people learned to know a dead horse.stop beating and get oflf . Get ovff andnwaylk.
deb of see-attleboro September 08, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Bill: Paragraph 4 of this Patch article claims that the "housing panel is a state board". The town charter does not overrule the state. I am just trying to clarify.
Jonathan Friedman (Editor) September 08, 2012 at 11:20 AM
The housing authority is a state agency. A state agency would not have a voting body that is a town board. That would not make sense. The fact that only Seekonk people are eligible to be voted onto the board does not make it a state board. Only Attleboro residents are eligible to run for the 2nd Bristol District of the state House, that doesn't make it a city position. However, Mr. Rice is correct that the town charter calls it a town board. Also, the town charter states "No person shall simultaneously hold more than one elected office" and it makes no specification on types of office (town, state, federal etc.).
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Hi, Here's a link to "Town Charter.pdf" in my Dropbox: http://db.tt/XwQrgx4Y Please read article 4 sectiom I it is perfectly safe regarding spam or theft.
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Hi, Here's a link to "Town Charter.pdf" in my Dropbox: http://db.tt/XwQrgx4Y Wrong, Johnathan....go to the link to the charter in my dropbox, download the charter an read it. once you read it you will see that the town charter clearly defines the HA as a town board with one member appointed by the govenor and four elected by the town. Folks are so certain i am wrong that the facts in the charter are not being read? If you doubt my source, please, go to the town link and read it there. i hear that a definitive article is being published next week on this matter. The writer is impeccably above reproach and suddenly, for some , things will become clear.
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 11:41 AM
See below or just read the charter
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Patch overrules the State or town government??? The Seekonk Town charter is very clear for all to read. Short of painting it on your morning breakfast paper, I don't know what else to do.
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Some have had luck changing the charter, this would be known as "the worst way"
Carol Bragg September 08, 2012 at 01:01 PM
The election for Seekonk Housing Authority is part of the April Town Election. The election for the Second Bristol District for the state legislature is part of the state primary and state election. Perhaps that helps to clarify the difference. The Town Charter has been approved by the state Attorney General for compliance with MGL. That doesn't mean that the AG's office doesn't make mistakes.
Portsmouth Senior Citizen September 08, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Jonathan - you are absolutely correct. HA authority is a state agency. Town Charter has incorrectly identified it as a Town Board. Looks like the Town Charter has another item in which needs to be corrected. By the way, you are doing a GREAT JOB in reporting the TRUE facts (not like JS from Sun Chronicle). @ EMCEE and Mr. Rice - IMO the both of you are toxic individuals. You are constantly commenting in Patch with negative views with regards to Mr. C. Since Mr. C's appointment to BOS, he has accomplished things that no other BOS has accomplished. Yet the two of you are constantly hammering him, Mr. C has cleaned up the way the Old Boys Club did business and you both would prefer to have the Old Boys Club way of business - sign on the dotted line and don't ask questions. Hope the two of you don't handle your personal life that way. @ Mr. Nelson - cheap shot against your opponent. Your should be ashamed of yourself. My advise to you is stop listening to the Old Boys Club Members. They are not doing you any justice.
Emcee of Seekonk September 08, 2012 at 01:47 PM
@Portsmouth Senior Citizen... I know Mr. Cavaco only by what I see from watching the BOS meetings on cable TV. Maybe his approach as Chairman of the Board is not the real Francis, but how could I know that. Despite what you say, I think the Old Boys Club is alive and well in Seekonk. Every member of the current BOS has been involved in Seekonk politics for many years. Perhaps institutional knowledge is good, I'm not sure.
deb of see-attleboro September 08, 2012 at 02:47 PM
If the Housing Authority is a state board, Mr C would not be in violation of the charter or the new by-law. Didn't former Rep Travis serve in Rehoboth as Selectman while being state rep? Didn't Mr Whelan plan on doing the same had he been elected in 2006? I don't think the charter or by-laws has any authority over individuals who want to serve at a state or federal level.
William Rice September 08, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Ch 121b, sec 5 Mass. General law
Portsmouth Senior Citizen September 08, 2012 at 03:46 PM
You are absolutely correct - greatly appreciate you clarifying this to all the readers.
Portsmouth Senior Citizen September 08, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Mr. Rice: At your first meeting on BOS, didn't you state you did not believe in MA General Law with regards to your friend who wanted the Antique Dealers License? Now you want all to refer to the MA General Law because of Mr. C!!! You are too funny. Also, Ch 121b, sec 5 - What's your point?
Carol Bragg September 08, 2012 at 04:12 PM
People are making up answers. Please check your facts before posting so as not to spread false information. Ch 121b, Mass General Law Section 3. There is hereby created, in each city and town in the commonwealth, a public body politic and corporate to be known as the “Housing authority” of such city or town; provided, that no such authority shall transact any business or exercise any powers until the need for a housing authority has been determined and until a certificate of organization has been issued to it by the state secretary, both as hereinafter provided. Whenever the municipal officers of a city or an annual or special town meeting shall determine that a housing authority is needed therein for the purpose of the clearance of substandard, decadent or blighted open areas or the provision of housing for families or elderly persons of low income or engaging in a land assembly and redevelopment project, including the preservation, restoration or relocation of historical buildings, it may by vote provide for the organization of such an authority. In determining the need for a housing authority, the city council or the town shall take into consideration the need for relieving congestion of population, the existence of substandard, decadent or blighted open areas or unsanitary or unsafe inhabited dwellings, and the shortage of safe or sanitary dwellings available for families or elderly persons of low income at rentals which they can afford.
Carol Bragg September 08, 2012 at 04:17 PM
To clarify, the Housing Authority is a town board, not a state board. It's in Mass General Law and it's in the Seekonk Town Charter.
Emcee of Seekonk September 08, 2012 at 04:30 PM
@Portsmouth Senior Citizen... As I recall, one of the issues of the last BOS meeting was that a vacancy on the HA was never advertised. All of a sudden, three HA members appear at a BOS meeting and before the night is over Mr. Cavaco is appointed to the board. "Fait accompli." One thing I'm beginning to wonder about is why a Portsmouth, RI citizen would be so interested and knowledgeable about Seekonk politics?
Portsmouth Senior Citizen September 08, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Mrs. Bragg: If you are directing your comment regarding "False Information" to me, go back to 6 April 2011 BOS Meeting, Wasn't that Mr. Rice's first meeting as a BOS elected official? Are all your BOS Meeting recorded? If so, review tape and then tell me if I am incorrect.
Jonathan Friedman (Editor) September 08, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Carol, where in this passage does it say that the Housing Authority is operating as part of the town or city government? The town administrator said on Wednesday that the Housing Authority is a state agency. If it is in fact a town agency, then that should be a serious concern for Seekonk residents that she was unaware she had this agency under her. I am comfortable with the comment I wrote above, but I will do more research and make some phone calls this week. If it turns out I am incorrect, I have no problem posting a correction on this website.
deb of see-attleboro September 08, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Thank you, Jonathan. I glanced at the MGL. It looks like a pretty complicated gig. Maybe Mr Tusino can clarify. There are 59 sections and I kinda doubt it would clarify anything if I were to pour through each and every one. The HA does appear to be more accountable to the state than other boards.
Michael Kreyssig September 08, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I can't really tell from the wording whether or not the HA is a state or town board. It does seem that the local HA's are direct extensions of the DHED and are possibly intended to be local field offices for a state agency. The town of Chelmsfords' HA call themselves a retained revenue state agency. Are all local HA considered that? http://www.townofchelmsford.us/cha.cfm
deb of see-attleboro September 08, 2012 at 05:34 PM
That's my understanding as well, Michael. Hopefully we will get this cleared up soon.
Carol Bragg September 08, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Jonathan: I think the confusion lies in the fact that the Housing Authority operates under guidelines set out by two regulatory agencies, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), from which it receives funds. But the authority is established as a local option under MGL and the locally-elected board hires the director and administers the program. In a sense, it's a hybrid. The Boston Housing Authority is described as a municipal public agency, not a state agency. I think Gary Sagar was correct in calling for a postponement of the appointment. It's good governance to clarify things before making decisions. The Board of Selectmen should be working toward consensus not win-lose, which typically results in lose-lose for the citizens and taxpayers. Thanks, Gary.
Portsmouth Senior Citizen September 08, 2012 at 07:23 PM
@ EMCEE: I'm back. Sorry took so long to reply but lunch was my 1st priority and it was good. I was wondering when someone would ask that question of me. I could have changed my screen name to avoid all this - but why should I. Am more than happy to answer your curiosity. PortsMOUTH (get it) is a small town. PortsMOUTH Concerned Citizens, Seekonk Concerned Citizens, TV9 on Demand, and most of all I lived in the Seekonk for 38 years, my husband passed away last year and my children took me in - this is how I have become so knowledgeable. I hear, read, and view what is going on in your community. It seems like your community don't want to get involved with your politics (and I don't blame them) but when individuals, like your self and Mr. Rice provide ONLY negative (toxic) one sided information, I feel as an American Citizen it is time for me to freely speak out. Let's just hope Seekonk BOS doesn't become like PortsMOUTH Town Council or should I say PortsMOUTH Concerned Citizen Town Council. Now you know - hope your curiosity is satisfied.
Emcee of Seekonk September 08, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I accept your explanation. Portsmouth is a nice place to live. About the negative one-sided toxic information... many in town share my point of view. They are tired of the micro-managing, the bullying, the gotcha moments, the power grabs, the perceived favoritism, etc. Most citizens do not tune into the meetings at all, they just let things sort themselves out... to the advantage of the BOS. This is small town politics, it repeats itself all over the United States. Attleboro has its disputes and people grumble in favor of one side or another. Seekonk does the same, and I'm sure Portsmouth does too. Nice to meet you.

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