NEWRY — Selectmen discussed the town administrator’s job description at length Tuesday night in the Bear River Grange Hall.

Selectman Brooks Morton previously asked for the review, but when asked by Chairman Wendy Hanscom what he thought about it, Morton said he didn’t think Tuesday’s meeting was the forum to discuss his reasons.

He said he wanted the board to set up an independent committee “to take a look at things and come up with recommendations.”

“I mean, we have all the players here that created what we have and, of course, they’re not going to want to see anything different,” Morton said.

He was referring to former Selectmen Steve Wight and Jim Largess and former Administrator Sylvia Gray.

Wight told selectmen they could do whatever they wanted. He also said state statute defines the job of town administrators so selectmen don’t have to create it on their own.

Morton read a prepared statement.

“It has been my conclusion for many years that in 1992, the system of checks and balances that were provided in our constitution and town history were compromised,” Morton said.

“Nothing was done that was not allowed under state statutes, but that the town meeting did not authorize. At that time, with the death of the town clerk and treasurer…, hiring the tax collector seemed like the right thing to do. We never looked back. Much has changed since then.”

Morton said the community “needs to weigh in and take a good look at this issue.”

“We are starting to fall out of compliance with state law and sound government,” he said. “We have placed too much burden on one person and no human is an Atlas.”

Morton said selectmen through the years have changed the position by small acts, delegating much of their authority to the administrator.

“This isn’t about me or anybody else,” Morton said. “It’s the right thing to do. This is intended to be building up on the process that we have and not the tearing down of individuals.”

“OK,” Hanscom said. “And I think we’ve heard your opinion on this, but I have no sense that there’s any community agreement with it.”

“I don’t see that there’s any agreement either,” Morton said.

He said that if the position was that of a town manager as is done in many other towns, there would be a contract and terms.

“We don’t have any of that,” he said. “To me, it’s a position that can change just by someone saying, ‘Well, let’s give her the authority now, and then we’ll take it back.’

“That’s a system that’s open for interpretation,” Morton said. “I believe it’s time that we have something that’s written down, it’s concrete; that’s done by people who aren’t involved in the position.”

Wight said Newry has the minutes of the 2007 town meeting at which the town voted to create the position of town administrator.

“The reality is that the selectmen’s job is to administer the town between town meetings and what the administrator does, it’s their job to follow the records of the town meeting,” he said.

“I understand that, but we don’t have any guidelines on what a town administrator is,” Morton said.

“Yeah, we do,” Wight yelled. “We have the state statutes.”

“You have the state statutes and there is a job description and why you don’t want to acknowledge it, I’m not really sure,” Gray said.

She said she ran the job description by an attorney for the Maine Municipal Association and he approved it.

Morton questioned whether that happened, and Gray started reading to him board minutes detailing it.

“I’m not sure what part of it you don’t like or maybe you don’t like any of it, I don’t know,” Gray said of the job description. “But what duties, Brooks, do you think that the town administrator shouldn’t have?”

Morton didn’t say. Instead, he replied that it should be looked into to determine if there is any incompatibility.

“It’s already been looked into,” Gray said.

She said town meeting voters previously approved the administrator position and added the duties of tax collector and treasurer to it.

Morton said the offices of tax collector and treasurer should be separate from everything else.

“There should be one person that does all the financials and reports to the selectmen,” he said.

“We’re a small town and to hire a treasurer full-time, do you realize the money you’re going to be putting on the taxpayers?” Gray asked.

“That’s an assumption on your part,” Morton said.

“If it’s not broke, I don’t understand why you want to fix it,” Gray said.

Selectmen and Administrator Loretta Powers reviewed the administrator’s job description, deleting some contradictory language and added that the administrator oversees the finances of all departments and supports the operational needs of all departments.

Selectmen also decided they should review the town’s bylaws to ensure that they don’t conflict with the job description before approving the changes.

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