Process matters: Why I objected to charter appointments

|Letter to the Editor, Peter Bragdon, Selectman|

I wanted to clarify a couple points from the Monday night select board meeting.  The opinions I share are mine solely and do not represent the board as a whole. I passionately objected to the appointments made to the charter commission this past Monday night.  My concerns are with process and not people.  I feel it is important to distinguish my upset is not with the appointees themselves but solely how we came to this point as a board.

A quick bit of history.  At the April 7th board of selectmen’s meeting.  Ms. Donovan made a motion to appoint Don Libby, Steve Libby and Linda Chase to the Charter Commission.  A vote was called and the motion was 2 in favor, 1 opposed (myself) and 1 abstained (Chase). The motion was ruled as passing. I must admit I did not even hear a second or ask for discussion, I was so taken back by what was going on. I watched the video twice and was finally able to determine the motion was seconded by Gilles. I heard from a slew of citizens about the vote not being valid. I had also done research myself to determine the vote was not valid according to Maine Municipal Officers Manual and our own board and committee by-laws. I called this vote out at the next board meeting on May 3rd.

This brought the task of appointing 3 members to the Charter Commission back in front of the board. The town will have the opportunity to elect 6 additional members In June. This charter commission opportunity is basically a once in lifetime action of the board. With that said, I feel the board should have handled the appointments much differently.  7 Citizens applied for appointment; Donald Libby, Steve Libby, Linda Chase, John Salisbury, Dan Ellingson, Scott Seaver and myself.  The board ultimately again appointed  Steve Libby, Don Libby and Linda Chase on a 3 in favor vote and 1 opposed (myself).

My first objective would have been to determine what the town/select board is looking for in the appointees. Are we looking for experience with writing other charters, experience serving within the town, experience with law and policy from the state and Maine Municipal Association? Are we looking for a mix of certain careers or education?  What type of availability will the person need? Should appointees live in different areas of the town? Should they be serving on other town committees during this process? What would potential conflict of interests be? I truly don’t know the answers to these questions, but I feel the board should have ironed these out before making appointments.

I was adamant about interviewing or generally speaking to each candidate.  I had publicly asked for this to happen at the prior meeting. I also asked via email before the agenda was published for the candidates to be available for us to speak to them. Removing myself from the equation of appointees, the board should have asked questions like: Why do you want to be appointed to the commission?  Why should you be appointed as opposed to elected?  What is your level of experience with charters? What do you feel should be addressed in the process?  

Once we determined what we were looking for in the appointees, what qualifications each candidate had and why each one wanted to be appointed, the board could then have made the appointments. Maybe the appointees would have been the same, maybe it would have been 3 different appointees or a combination of both. I don’t know what the outcome would have been but I do know the process would have been thorough and transparent.

I look forward to the charter commission getting to work. The town truly needs some clear and efficient policies and procedures. Hopefully, those appointed and elected will do what is best for town and listen to citizen input.

Please feel free to reach out to me anytime.    pbragdon@newgloucester.com

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