Sunday, April 21, 2013

Town clerk should remain elected position

I see one compelling and overriding reason for keeping the office of town clerk an elected position. The reason for this has nothing to do with the current office holder; it has nothing to do with how many towns' charters call for elected versus appointed town clerks; it has nothing to do anyone's particular viewpoint on this issue other than my own.

Elections should be managed by people not under the control of the elected.

This is how we handle our statewide elections, which are managed by the secretary of the commonwealth. Our state constitution, ratified in 1780 recognizes that the top elections officer should not report to the governor. On a federal level, elections are also managed state-by-state rather than by a centralized, presidentially-appointed elections authority.

We should not vary from this fundamental separation of power at the local level. An appointed town clerk would report to the town manager, who takes direction from the elected board of selectmen. This is a conflict of interest.

Arguments about the electing an incompetent person to the office of town clerk are insulting to the electorate. Arguments about how many other towns have appointed clerks make use of "lemming logic."

Give us credit. We the people who have the responsibility for choosing our town clerk can handle this responsibility.

I ask that someone rise up and offer an amendment to the charter adoption article to delete this change from an elected to an appointed town clerk. I appreciate the work of the charter committee, but this wresting of power from the electorate and awarding it to the town manager is bad policy.

See the May 2013 town meeting warrant, which includes the proposed charter by clicking here.

15 comments:

  1. To assist anyone so motivated to offer an amendment to Article 14 of the town meeting warrant, I've constructed the following:

    An Amendment to Article 14 of the May 6, 2013 Town Meeting Warrant for the Purpose of Maintaining the Elected Office of Town Clerk

    Article IV, Section 4.1 of An Act Providing for a Charter for the Town of Sandwich shall be amended by adding after the words "a Moderator;" the following: "a Town Clerk;"; and further, shall be amended by inserting Section 4.5 as follows: "TOWN CLERK A Town Clerk shall be elected by the voters at the annual town election, for a term of three years."; and further, Article IX, Section 9.5 shall be amended by deleting the words "that the amendments to sections 4.1 and 4.5 of the Town Charter with respect to the manner of selection of the town clerk shall be implemented"; and further, Article IX, Section 9.5 shall be amended by deleting the following two paragraphs: "The individual elected as town clerk at the 2013 Annual Town Election (the “incumbent”) shall hold said office and perform the duties thereof until the expiration in 2016 of the elected term, or the incumbent’s sooner resignation, recall or retirement. At the expiration of the incumbent’s elected term in 2016, or said sooner resignation, recall or retirement, the position of elected town clerk shall be abolished." and "Should said incumbent serve out the remainder of the elected term through the 2016 Annual Town Election, the incumbent shall be deemed to be the first appointed town clerk, and in that position shall be subject to the Town’s Personnel Policies and Procedures as would any other department head. In the event that the incumbent resigns, retires or is recalled prior to the 2016 Annual Town Election, appointment of the first appointed town clerk shall be made in accordance with Section 5.1.4(a) of the Town Charter."

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  2. Carl Johansen would state to Randy that the amendment has been prepared and will be presented to the Town Moderator at the pre town meeting, for approval as written.

    It would seem that you and I along with many others also do not feel that this present elected position be an appointed one.

    We as a town have vented this issue in the past and the town has overwhelming voted to continue with the long time standard way of electing our town clerk as the best way of keeping the democratic process in place to prevent undo pressure by the town manager or board of selectmen. We do not see this getting passed in its present form.

    The one part of the whole process when the discussion came about for public input by the present charter committee, was very troubling for me. They announced in the local paper that they had approved changing that part of the bylaw , before they held a public venue to obtain the publics opinion. Then its decided to bundle every change into one article where you then would need to determine if more of the changes had more or less value then others. Given the number of changes, each one should have been approved or disapproved on its own merits, in my opinion.

    Only those who attend town meeting get to way in on approving or not approving this article. So if any one is thinking that you will get a chance to vote on these changes at the ballot box you would be mistaken. We have far more votors that vote at the ballot box then what attend town meeting , yet a vote at town meeting is the determining factor and submission to the state legislative body gets these changes approved. So if you support keeping the town clerks position elected, vote for the amendment on town floor, that will be presented to change the wording as it now is written in Article 14

    We the people should be the determing factor in how this position is decided and I mean every citizen that can vote by a ballot question. Keep the political influences some where else , we do not need it in the town clerks office.

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  3. Taylor seems to be doing an adequate job. However his dalliance with voter repression and his propensity to appear political in public ways makes many feel uncomfortable. A town clerk position requires certain skills. Having a formidable base in town to elect you without anyone every really knowing if he has the proper skills is risky. Being talented in winning elections doesn't necessarily translate in to being an effective clerk.

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    1. Ridiculous assertions. How, exactly, has Mr. White dallied with voter repression? By ensuring that only legally registered voters may vote? Yeah, that's awfully repressive.
      As for your suggestion that he doesn't have the 'proper skills', the Town Clerk's office runs like a Swiss watch these days.

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    2. I am with you anonymous of 2:20. I too wonder what this dalliance is. It is ridiculous that this gentleperson would make such a statement with a clear and unsustainable sort of answer to your question.

      Does one truly doubt that Taylor White is what's at stake. He is not, but the ability of the people to determine who should be in that position is at stake. Let's not leave it to Politics to decide

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  4. Carl Johansen would post with some experience and knowledge in regards to the present Town Clerk. Mr. White.

    Mr White has brought the town clerks position into the 20 th century.
    he has enforced all of the present bylaws in regards to how long some committees were seemed to never change the chair, as is written in our town charter every year.

    He and his staff have put public records on line for every one to see and read. In the past you would be lucky to even find any meeting minutes in tact, never mind even being submitted by some of the committees under town control. In doing research prior to his arrival on the scene various committee records did not even get into the town clerks office for public review untell well after it no longer mattered.

    Also all public committee meetings are voice recorded, except from the Sandwich Iniative Corporation. The old way of using a tape recorder for countless meetings and not listing to many meetings being recorded over others or dead spots where they were altered, are now all on dvd recodings.

    Also Mr. White has taken steps to save the towns historical documents that have been sitting around getting abused by the lack of proper storage, in the attic and in the vault.

    His office is also doing part of the Natural Resources job, which include shell fish, dog license, along with keeping track of all animals that must have rabies shots.

    WE believe he has the right skills for the job at hand and has proven his worth as our present town clerk.

    He and his staff have shown the right way to operate the town clerks office and from this citizen it is appreciated.


    That is why I will be offering an amendment at town meeting to keep the influences of town government, controlling how this office operates.

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    1. I do not believe that the prior two posts have a significant and demonstrable bearing on this subject. Taylor White is not the reason, or at least should not be the reason for this article. The reason should be "what is best for our Town Government". Since this proposed change to the Charter was first suggested, I disagreed with it because it takes just another position away from the people and puts it into the hands of the Town Manager, one person, not elected by the people. One reason we have recall in our government is to act as a check against incompetency and malfeasance, just as we have the ability to dismiss, as the Selectmen may choose to do for an appointed position.

      As an aside, it is my sincere hope that this subject will render the Chairperson of the Charter Review Board moot on the discussion of this subject. I certainly did not hear her ever discuss it before or during the last election process.

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    2. I agree that the Chairperson of the Charter Commission should not be the one to speak on this subject lest she be ridiculed.

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  5. I shared this opinion until I heard the current Town Clerk say that the position should remain elected to "keep politics out" of it, which is either colossally stupid, or colossally disingenuous, as anyone can see by looking at who financed his campaign. I guess it's a question of how you like your politics bought.

    In any case, the Charter Review chair should remove herself from the discussion.

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  6. When Mr. White ran for office, you knew who supported him, who financed him. You could look at his qualifications, compare it to the person who might run against him. If this were appointed, believe me, it would be in the bag. The question for me is which method brings the most open politics.

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  7. It seems to me that there is Politics either way, but if you have an election, as a citizen you have a choice. I will vote for any amendment to make it by election.

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  8. MORE CIVILIANS SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN TOWN GOVERNMENT. THE TOWN MANAGER IS GATHERING MORE AND MORE POWER. HE APPOINTS THE GROUP THAT HAS TO PLAN THE POLICE/FIRE BLDG., HE APPOINTS THE EMERGENCY GROUP, BOTH OF WHICH HAVE A MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR HIM, DAH! HE FIGHTS WITH THE TOWN CLERK AND WANTS TO TAKE OVER THAT OFFICE. HE FIGHTS WITH THE LIBRARY PEOPLE AND WANTS TO TAKE THAT TOO. CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL. VOTING FOR TOWN CLERK IS ONE WAY WE CAN HALT THE COMPLETE TAKOVER. IF WE DON'T HALT THE TAKEOVER WE SHOULD GO TO CITY FORM OF GOVERNMENT.

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  9. Carl Johansen would remind those who attend town meeting that a second will be needed to discuss and actually vote on the amendment, I will present at town meeting on Article 14. We have attended the pretown meeting and explained what we are amending to the Town Moderator, The debate can only proceed if town meeting allows it and I am hopeful that will be the case.

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  10. I can't believe what I just heard on the Selectmen's meeting of 4/25. Bud mentioned that there would by no presentation by the Charter Review Office concerning there recommendation. What gives? What are they afraid of, that the change to an Elected Town Clerk was a railroad job by the loser? They work for almost a year and have nothing to say. God Bless America and the Town of Sandwich. They expect me to vote on something as an entire package. I have to guess at their rationale. I work nights and could not attend their meetings, but I did have questions especially concerning the library.

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    1. Person of InterestApril 29, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      You are surprised 1:02. Not me, the whole thing was a bag job. They put in the Town Clerk candidate who lost as the Chairperson of the Committee. They load it with liberals from newspapers, to congress, to former School leaders, etc. What do you expect, something fair and not vindictive?

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