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State Rejects Prohibition on Selectmen Serving on Other Boards

Attorney General Martha Coakley says the Town Meeting-approved article violates Seekonk and state laws.

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.

deb of see-attleboro September 24, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Told ya so;) Maybe you should have listened to "Ms Town Counsel". In all seriousness, boyz, just do the right thing.
Emcee of Seekonk September 24, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Well that settles that. The BOS just got a little more powerful.
deb of see-attleboro September 24, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Not really. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. They always had the power. Will they use it for good or for evil? That is the question. We should definitely look at lawful ways to constrain their power. Transparency would be welcome.
Carol Bragg September 24, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right. Slavery was legal. Counting slaves as 3/5 of a person was legal. Denying women the right to vote was legal. Segregation was legal. And as Dr. King said in "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (next year is the 50th anniversary), everything Hitler did was legal The Selectmen know how the voters feel about this issue. If they want the voters' respect and wish to be re-elected, they should honor the wishes of the voters. They just voted to meet every other week rather than return to once a week. Apparently their other commitments take time from service on the Board of Selectmen. Have you noticed that they hardly ever do long-range planning or tackle really substantive issues? Every other week should be devoted to providing direction for the town and figuring out how to implement the new Master Plan prepared by the Planning Department. Work sessions in other communities are used as an opportunity for residents to offer input. Not in Seekonk!
deb of see-attleboro September 24, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Carol, Do you really feel "enslaved"? I agree. They should do the right thing by the voters. They could have done so without any Town Meeting vote. They chose not to. So we vote them out. One by one. Mr Rice voluntarily "took a powder". One down. Four to go.
Trot Nixon September 25, 2012 at 12:24 AM
The Board of Selectman have really embarassed themselves lately with all the antics...starting to look like the non-sense thats going on in Rehoboth
Jonathan Friedman (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 07:23 AM
I have added statements from Francis Cavaco and Bill Rice says he will comment on this story soon.
Emcee of Seekonk September 25, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Maybe the 'surprise' vote (to me, anyway) of yesterday will be a wake-up call the BOS. The folks in Seekonk do vote if they get riled up enough.
Emcee of Seekonk September 25, 2012 at 12:12 PM
I agree on the subject of weekly meetings. There is enough business going on in town to warrant getting together a couple hours a week. After all it isn't just about putting out fires.

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