RUMFORD — Eight members of the Charter Commission on Tuesday continued revising sections on appointed and elected officials and cross-training deputy officials.

They also discussed adding a section to deal with interim town managers while possibly deleting the residency requirement. The commission unanimously agreed to place discussion regarding the implementation of a spending cap in the charter on the next meeting agenda so the public could provide input.

There are five meetings left to meet the deadline of March 2 imposed by selectmen. Commission meetings are held at 6 p.m. Tuesdays in the Municipal Building’s conference room.

On Tuesday night, Chairman Chris Brennick sought discussion on Article 11, which deals with the town clerk-treasurer and tax collector-constable positions. Both administrators are elected every other year.

At issue was whether the positions should be appointed or elected, and whether oversight on qualifications is needed for deputies appointed and hired by each administrator.

Commission member Jim Windover said the town clerk-treasurer and tax collector-constable positions should be appointed rather than elected “for a cleaner process.”

Advertisement

Member Amy Bernard, who is also the town manager of Paris, said she wanted the tax collector-constable position changed to an appointed one.

“My biggest issue with the charter is there are a lot of positions in power, but nobody is held accountable should they hire someone or leave them in charge,” she said.

Bernard said the charter doesn’t provide a method to censure employees in these positions.

“It’s an accountability issue, not a power grab,” she said. “That’s one reason why the local government is inefficient. You have two people who can hire as many deputies as they want.”

“Thank you,” Windover said in agreement.

Member Rick Greene said they should just leave the article alone, believing that voters are choosing the right people for the jobs.

Advertisement

“I have faith in our taxpayers to make good decisions,” he said.

Member Kevin Saisi agreed there is an issue with ensuring that the deputies are qualified for the work. He said the commission could add language toward clarifying that, as well as checking backgrounds.

“We’re in hard times — we all know that,” member Eric Davis said. “Yeah, we want to keep as much power to the people as we can.”

However, he said the town manager and selectmen should provide oversight on the town clerk-treasurer and tax collector-constable positions.

Member Michael Peter Chase suggested adding language that would require education, training and a yearly review of deputies and the two administrators.

Member Roger Viger Jr. agreed that accountability language needs to be included.

Advertisement

Bernard said there are no repercussions if a deputy or administrator isn’t meeting town standards. She also said she has “a real issue with the treasurer being the town clerk.”

She said the treasurer’s duties are being handled by the finance director.

Greene said he didn’t want to put something in place that would cause voters to reject the charter revisions en masse.

“It’s worked for 30 years; leave the power to voters,” he said.

A motion was made to make the tax collector-constable and town clerk-treasurer positions appointed rather than elected, but it was defeated 3-5.

Windover asked members to allow Selectman Frank DiConzo to address the commission.

Advertisement

The vote was disappointing, DiConzo said. Selectmen don’t want added power and would favor appointed rather than elected, he said.

“The people do not know if mistakes have been made,” he said. “All department heads that work for the people should be evaluated.”

Brennick moved on to Article 6, Section 4, which bars certain town officials from holding more than one elected office simultaneously.

Bernard said the entire section should be removed to revert to state law. She said that at one point, Rumford had a General Assistance officer who backed up the town clerk-treasurer and tax collector-constable.

“It’s a violation,” she said.

Greene agreed with Bernard. “It gives power to the town manager to be as efficient as possible,” he said.

Bernard’s motion to remove the section was approved 8-0.

The commission discussed adding language to cover hiring an interim town manager, before Brennick tasked them with bringing such language to the next meeting for discussion and a vote.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.