Proposed Change in Town’s Handbook Raises Concerns

A one-paragraph proposed change appearing in the new Town handbook, that was being reviewed by the Winthrop Town Council Subcommittee on Appointments and Committees, caused a major discussion at their meeting on Tuesday night at the Harvey Room in Town Hall.  The proposed change in the handbook would allow the Town Council President to nominate the chairperson of each board and committee in the Town, then the council as a whole would vote  on the Council President’s nomination with a simple majority determining the outcome.

The  current process under the Town Handbook written in 2017 is to have members of each individual board and committee select their respective chairperson.

Speaking at the public hearing was Board of License Chairperson Marc Chapdelaine, who expressed the opinion that this change would be altering the existing Town Charter. He said that the time to look at this change would be in August 2020 when there would be a review of the charter. “The charter sets forth what powers the Council President has and the proposed change is an amendment to the charter,” he said.

Also in attendance was Council President Philip Boncore who said that in his opinion, “the charter is (silent) on this point.”  He added that every mayor can appoint a chairperson for a city or town board.  “Chairpersons should be changed or we start having a fiefdom,” he added. “All members of a board should be capable of being a chairperson,” he said.

Councilor at-Large Tracey Honan wondered who changed the language in the new handbook and said “it should remain as is since this is a substantive change.”

Subcommittee member Precinct 4 Councilor Barbara Flockart said, “This change was slipped in on us.  This should go to the charter review.”

Precinct 6 Councilor Stephen Ruggiero offered a motion not to change the procedure on how a board chairperson is appointed, but insert language saying every member should rotate their board’s chairmanship. Ruggiero also noted that the proposed change should go to the Charter Review Commission for a vote.

Ruggiero’s motion was accepted 2 – 1 with Chair of the Subcommittee Councillor Rob DeMarco voting against it.

Another change in the handbook also discussed at the meeting was whether the Councilors could participate in their meetings remotely.  This  was rejected unanimously.

The new handbook with the changes will be on the agenda for the March 24 meeting of the Town Council.

A Charter Review Committee who will look at the current charter and ordinances will start their process in June 2020 and continue for 18 months.  Any changes that they recommend will then be put on the ballot for the voters to decide.  The members of the committee will be appointed by Council President Philip Boncore.

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