A major decision by Seekonk Town Meeting in June has been tossed by Attorney General Martha Coakley. She issued a decision Monday stating the unanimously approved article prohibiting selectmen from serving on other town boards violates local and state laws.
Similar to the recommendation by town counsel prior to Town Meeting, Coakley wrote that the article "restricts the executive appointing authority of the Board of Selectmen in violation of the Town Charter." She wrote that it also violates a state general law "which partially vests in the Board of Selectmen the power to fill vacancies on boards."
Coakley wrote, "We recognize that the likely intent of [the article] was to preserve for the town's citizens (as opposed to elected Selectboard members) the maximum opportunity to serve on town boards. However, the attorney general cannot base her decision on the policy arguments for the enactment."
The article was written by former Selectman Bill Rice, who had said it was a "misuse of power" for selectmen to serve on other boards. Selectman Bob McLintock is on the Board of Health and Selectman Gary Sagar is an alternate for the Zoning Board of Appeals. More than 100 signatures were gathered to get the article on one of the two Town Meeting warrants.
Rice resigned from the Board of Selectmen a few days before Town Meeting met and on the day a town attorney issued a recommendation that the article violated local and state laws. In response to a request for an interview about the attorney general's decision, Rice told Seekonk Patch that he would issue a statement soon.
Board of Selectmen Chair Francis Cavaco said he was pleased with the attorney general's decision. He said selectmen should be allowed to fill seats on boards, especially if there are openings and nobody else is interested in the position.
"Selectmen over the years have sat on multiple boards," Cavaco said. "Now, all of a sudden one of the former members wants to make a change. No, he didn't do his homework."
Cavaco added that he felt Rice's article was more about his dislike for specific selectmen sitting on specific boards than about an actual interest in creating the prohibition.