Thursday, January 18, 2018

Board of selectmen policies and procedures: or,  how to be transparent.

Agenda items normally include:
1. Reading of the Agenda
2. Public Comment
3. Town Administrator Report
4. Scheduled Business
5. Topics not Reasonably Anticipated by the Chairman 48 Hours in Advance
6. Selectman Reports/Future Agenda Items
7. Adjournment

Does anyone see Town Administrator report on the agenda?
For a BOS who talk much about policies, they seem to have a hard time following them.

Selectmen policies and procedures:
WORKING MEETINGS: The Board may conduct informal “working sessions” from time to time as the situation warrants. At such meetings, this will be posted in accordance with Open Meeting Law, no final action will be taken. A synopsis of transactions of informal meetings will be made a part of the minutes of the following regular meeting.

QUORUM: A quorum will consist of three members of the Board. As a practical courtesy, action or controversial matters, the Adoption of policy or appointments shall be taken, whenever practicable, with the full Board in attendance. Actions and decisions shall be by motion, second, discussion and vote. All votes to be recorded by roll call. The Town Administrator is expected to be in attendance at all meetings of the Board. The Town Administrator will attend in order to keep the Board informed and advise and recommend in all matters that fall within the jurisdiction of his office. He/she will carry out the actions of the Board as they relate to the conduct and administration of the Town affairs under his jurisdiction.

from the minutes of January 8, 2018 (draft)
referral to workshop - policy RE: employee badges - J. Caplis

Old Business: Fortes mentioned that he wanted to add the review of the selectmen's policies to the next workshop.

Notice there are no motions or votes recorded for those two items to move to workshop.

Templeton Board of Selectmen
Town Hall, 160 Patriots Road, East Templeton
Monday, January 22, 2018, 6:30 p.m.

1. Call the Meeting to Order

2. Pledge of Allegiance

3. Public Comment

4. a. Meeting Minutes~ 1.8.18
b. Executive Session Minutes~ Ripe for release: 1.8.18

5. New Business: 
a. Action RE: Appointments & Introductions
b. Presentation RE: Police Station Project Update
c. Presentation RE: Q2 FY’18 Financial Report
d. Discussion RE: COA~Building Issues & Kitchen Equipment (J.Caplis)
e. Action RE: Crow Hill Track Permit & Common Victualler Permit
f. Action RE: Class II License~Auto Auctions & Recycling
g. Action RE: Amendment to Service Agreement~Collins Center Budget Document
h. Referral to Workshop:
- Policy RE: Baldwinville Elementary School Disposition

6. Old Business:

7. Board & Staff Member Comments & Reports 

8. Request for Executive Session per M.G.L. Ch.30, Sec. 21-3, Union Negotiations
9. Adjournment
Parliamentary Inquiry ~ Does the Templeton Selectboard follow Roberts Rules of Order 

I do not believe so, but an email to the chairman may answer that question. The selectmen do have BOS policies and procedures policy that was/is intended to guide selectmen on their meetings.

John Caplis email:
Confusion at Town Meeting?

At the all committee meeting of Templeton boards and committees on Tuesday, selectmen Brooks made a rare appearance and stated concern that the approach being looked at by the Advisory Committee will be confusing to Town Meeting. Well to be confused, first you have to show up.

Secondly, does anyone remember the snafu or confusion over the Town Meeting vote for debt exclusion for the police station project? I believe it was the summary saying one thing and the motion saying something else. Now, part of that is on Town Meeting, you have to know what you are voting on, so perhaps selectmen can change their approach to the Town Meeting warrant articles.

The approach Advisory has talked about and will further discuss at a meeting (s) will be not only having a yes or no recommendation but include an explanation of the subject, the vote and reasons for a recommendation and perhaps include say the benefit of the article such as an open space item. Then, their could also be a "minority vote" explanation for any no votes with reason (s) why members voted against a recommendation. This may not be important with a 6 yes and 1 no vote but with a 5 yes and 2 no or a 4 yes and 3 no vote for recommendation. I believe people at Town Meeting deserve to know why the Advisory Committee is split on an article. Perhaps the three no votes have an idea (s) on why an article would be bad for the taxpayers. I see this as a move that would give people more information so as to make a better informed decision rather than a one sided view.

So I guess the first thing is to ask ourselves is Town Meeting suppose to be a place for debate and questions or is it just a place to go through the motions and say yes or no by just accepting what is on paper in front of you? Since selectmen John Caplis stated he also wanted to see the end product and had questions, perhaps this new approach is making some selectmen nervous. Before anyone says the sky is falling, this new approach has to be voted on and put into place, then the information has to be available in a timely manner, organized, put on paper, be printed and made available to the people. It is a large undertaking as it is a new approach and if implemented, may not go off as planned. It would be a work in progress and for this year, the expense of doing it would be on individual members as there is currently no Advisory Committee budget structure to support this type of approach. The Advisory Committee has presented a budget for next fiscal year to support this and we will have to wait and see if the selectmen allow it or not.

Whether there will be any change is up to the "transparent, more information, good governance" selectmen of Templeton.

On another subject, selectmen Brooks explained her long absence from meetings because of family issues and health issues including mental health. The all committee meeting was recorded and selectmen Brooks' speech is at the very beginning. She will now "attend" meetings remotely.

So, how do you feel? Will providing an explanation for a yes or no recommendation be more confusing or will it be beneficial to Town Meeting? Would having an explanation for a no recommendation along with an explanation of a yes vote be beneficial to Town Meeting;

example: recommendation for - 3 yes and 4 no. Reason (s) for a no vote: etc., etc., etc.
                Minority report: reasons members voted for a yes recommendation - "While moving forward, this item may require careful monitoring,we believe this would benefit the town long range for the following reasons;, etc., etc., etc.

Town Meeting would receive both sides which could be a basis for questions and discussion.

Remember, every article that gets 7 yes or no votes would not have a minority report, only those articles having a split vote. Town residents would then have an on the record view of votes and reasons. This could give the residents an idea behind the votes and members: (seems like the no votes are not based on reason but rather they simply don't like the project, maybe I will volunteer for Advisory.) This approach has the potential to force a committee to actually have sound reasons and information for a particular article, subject and vote.

Again, before anyone yells "the sky is falling" this has to get done and tried first. This would be like having a policy or guidance for future Advisory Committee members on how to provide recommendations and information to Town Meeting. With a current board of selectmen big on policy and procedures, one would think this idea would be a slam dunk and have full support of the BOS.

Perhaps I am mistaken in that thinking.