By Alex Malm
After having a warrant article fail by nearly 100 votes during last year’s town election, the Town Council will once again be asking voters to approve an amendment to the Town Charter making the Town Treasurer position an appointed position rather than an elected position.
During the Nov. 20, Town Council meeting, members agreed to move forward with the next step of the process to potentially put the question back on the ballot in March.
Town Manager, Mike Malaguti, began the public hearing by explaining that he was looking for approval to see if they can move forward with the process of notifying the Department of Business Revenue, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State to see if the proposed charter amendment follows the law.
If the three government entities agree with it being legal, it will then go back to the Town Council, who will ultimately make the final decision about putting it on the ballot or not.
Finance Director, Justin Campo, said his concerns from last year remain the same, including having someone in the role, with a lot of power, and no experience.
“My concerns last year remain the same, that anybody can become elected the treasurer with zero experience,” Campo said.
He also added that in July, certain things happened with a Budget Committee member, who at first refused to resign, and there were concerns raised by members of the public who were concerned that they control finances of the town.
While the Budget Committee is only an advisory board for the Town Council and controls none of the actual money or finances of the town, Campo said the Treasurer position actually does, and felt it should be looked at again this year because of the concerns raised.
For example, Campo said they could limit their access and “do what they deem appropriate whether it’s in the best interest of the town or not.”
Town Council Chair, John Farrell, said the one bit of new information learned about this year is the fact that DRA has told them that they are allowed to run background checks on people who are appointed by the Town Council, versus people who are elected.
“That’s the only difference,” Farrell said.
A number of residents of the community raised concerns about moving away from an elected position, with the general theme revolving around the fact that people in town had voted just last year against it.
State Rep. Kristine Perez characterized it as the public having the perception that people in the town government aren’t listening to them.
Former Town Councilor, Deb Paul, who opposed the warrant article last year when on the council, said she is concerned with moving it to an appointed position instead of an elected one because the individual may be fearful of speaking out in fear of not being reappointed, something she said she hears from people who are appointed to different boards.
Former Town Treasurer, Richard Belinski, was vehemently apposed to putting back on the ballot saying that if it goes on the warrant again he’ll put his own warrant on the ballot to put a three-year moratorium on the warrant. He also mentioned there were misleading examples brought up by the council to support their urge to put the question on the ballot.
Budget Committee Chair, Patrick Cassidy, raised the question of having a compromise, and potentially having an elected treasury board.
“Is this a possible third option,” he asked.
Malaguti said the state statute requires they have a designated treasurer and would have to look into it further.
Current Town Treasurer, Kathy Wagner, who told those in attendance that she is the one who suggested they bring it to the ballot again this year, said it would be difficult to have a committee because they have to have one signer on the account and it would be difficult with a committee.
One of the reasons she pointed to for her recommendation is how difficult it is to find people who want to run for different positions saying the atmosphere has “deteriorated.”
She said she thinks it should be a member of the community who is appointed and not a town employee.
Town Councilor, Chad Franz, noted that they weren’t necessarily going to approve sending it to the ballot at this point, saying they can “call an audible all the way to the last minute.”
Despite all those attending the meeting to speak against putting the article back on the warrant, the council voted to move forward with the plan.