October 14, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Select Board Meeting – October 14, 2008
Town Room, Amherst Town Hall


Meeting called to order by Mr. Weiss at 8:01 a.m.


Present:  Gerry Weiss, Diana Stein, Alisa Brewer (8:15,) Stephanie O'Keeffe
Absent: (none)
Present: Assistant Town Manger John Musante
Members of the public:  (none)


Mr. Weiss noted that the unusual timing of this meeting was due to the Columbus Day holiday.


There was no public comment.


Signing the 2008 Fall Special Town Meeting Warrant

VOTED 3 in favor, 1 absent (Brewer) to sign the November 10, 2008 Fall Special Town Meeting Warrant.

Altering Early-November Meeting Dates

Mr. Weiss proposed that the Select Board meet Monday, November 3rd, and cancel the meeting scheduled for Wednesday November 5th.  There was discussion about the Select Board traditionally not meeting the night before a Select Board election, but consensus was that because no current member is on this election ballot, the tradition need not apply in this instance.  The November 5th date was to have been a pre-Town Meeting session meeting, but that Town Meeting date has been cancelled.
VOTED 3 in favor, 1 absent (Brewer) to meet at 6:30 p.m. on November 3rd, 2008, in the Town Room at Town Hall, and to cancel the scheduled November 5th meeting date.

Setting the Spring 2009 Annual Town Election Date and Annual Town Meeting Start Date

With discussion concerning holidays, school vacation week, Town Meeting Coordinating Committee events, and warrant preparation logistics, March 31, 2009 was chosen as the 2009 Annual Town Election date, and April 29, 2009 was chosen as the start date of the 2009 Annual Town Meeting.
VOTED unanimously with a single vote to schedule the 2009 Annual Town Election for March 31, 2009, and to schedule the Annual Town Meeting for April 29, 2009. 

Committee Term Lengths

Ms. Stein said the Select Board’s rule of thumb about generally limiting volunteers to two terms on a committee was problematic.  She noted benefits to longer-term membership including relationship-building for the sister city committees, and historical knowledge and expertise for other committees.  It was noted that exceptions were often made, with some volunteers being appointed to third terms.  Ms. Stein recommended that the two-term limit be eliminated.  Ms. Brewer agreed and suggested that the automatic reappointment for a second term be similarly eliminated because such reappointments are not always in the best interest of a committee if the member does not serve well.  Ms. O’Keeffe said both had become defacto policies and should be eliminated because they interfere with the Select Board’s responsibility to use its discretion and judgment in making appointments.  Mr. Weiss agreed with elimination of the two-term limit, but said that not reappointing someone could be tricky and that a protocol was needed.  Ms. Brewer and Ms. Stein agreed to work together on a new policy statement regarding committee appointments.
Action:  Without a vote, it was agreed to eliminate the two-tem limit for committee appointments, and to have Ms. Brewer and Ms. Stein draft a policy statement addressing appointments and reappointments.

Approval of Minutes

VOTED unanimously to accept the minutes of the October 6, 2008 (6:00) meeting as written.

Update on Town Manager Evaluation Process

Ms. O’Keeffe said that the deadline for distributing questionnaires to staff through payroll was earlier than expected, and had been missed.  She said the questionnaires could be distributed by the Human Resources Department through interdepartmental mail.  She recommended doing so, in individually labeled envelopes, (quantity: 270 – one for each benefited employee) instead of distributing a stack of forms to each department.  She said that some had expressed concerns about the plan to number forms, per chance the number was used as an identifier.  As an alternative, Ms. O’Keeffe suggested that the forms use a hard-to-photocopy paper and be stamped with a contrasting color.  She said that these two elements would make them difficult to duplicate, and would preserve anonymity because every form would be the same.  All agreed, and the due date was set for noon on October 24th.  Ms. Stein agreed to assist Mr. Weiss in photocopying the returned forms, which they plan to bring to Select Board members at the October 27th meeting.  Select Board members’ evaluations of the Town Manager will be due to the Chair November 10th. 
Action:  It was agreed without a vote that staff questionnaires would be printed on colored paper and stamped to prevent easy duplication; that they would be distributed via interdepartmental mail and be due back by noon October 24th; that Mr. Weiss and Ms. Stein would photocopy them for the Select Board for the October 27th meeting; and the Select Board’s evaluations would be due November 10th.

Question of Board Reorganization

Ms. Brewer asked if the Select Board typically reorganizes annually or following an election.   It was unknown if there was a reorganization following the last off-cycle election in fall of 2003.  Mr. Musante said he would find out, and said that annual reorganizations were the Select Board’s norm. 
No action taken.


Mr. Weiss said two citizens had requested his presence at meetings: one regarding a land use issue and one regarding behavior of an employee.  He said that his role in the meetings was that of witness.
No action taken.


VOTED unanimously to adjourn the open meeting at 8:56 a.m.



  An 8:00 a.m. Select Board meeting – weird!  We’ll have another on Saturday, October 25th with Department Heads.

  Larry was away, so John filled in. 

  I was glad to set the spring election and Town Meeting dates.  I wonder if we couldn’t do those much farther in advance – like, say, for the next couple of years?  School vacation is the key thing to plan around, and I would imagine those are set well in advance.  And we can always change them anyway.  But especially for Town Meeting, it’s nice to know those dates early and plan accordingly.

  Felt like good progress on the committee term issue.  Arbitrarily limiting people to two terms seems silly – particularly when there’s no one seeking to fill the spot.  And I’m glad we’re talking about (though haven’t exactly decided about) ending the near-automatic second term.  As anyone who has ever served on a committee knows, not everyone is cut out for that.  To me, it has nothing to do with one’s ideas or ideology, and everything to do with one’s committee manners.  Attendance issues were one of the reasons mentioned in the discussion, but that is the least of the problems.  People who don’t understand or act contrary to a committee’s charge and purview, people who don’t “play well with others,” people who are all talk and no production – there are lots of ways to be a crummy committee member.  I think we should do away with applicants listing references on their CAFs, and instead have them list Chairs and other members of committees with whom they have served.  That’s how you learn if someone will be beneficial, problematic, or just take up space.

  Staff questionnaires for the Town Manager’s evaluation:  what a pain.  No wonder it hasn’t been done before.  Trying to make the forms non-duplicatable (to prevent multiple submissions per person,) and make them truly anonymous (to prevent the perception that the form might be traced back to the person who submitted it) is a challenge.  After many complaints about the idea of numbering them (meant to ensure that we didn’t get back more than we distributed, but inspiring suspicion) I came up with the idea of a colored paper with a contrasting stamp, making them very difficult to fake by photocopying, and eliminating the traceability that could theoretically have been possible with the numbering method.  As I sat there Tuesday night, unfolding each one, stamping it with my pretty gold ink stamp, and folding it back up again, I was thinking:  are we afflicted with fear of ballot fraud and tampering because the Presidential election is coming up?  Or are we always so suspicious?  I don’t know the answer, but I heard today that some people are worried about the stamps.  Sigh.  Whatever.


Eva Schiffer said:

A really minor clarifying comment: The supposed tradition of not holding a Select Board meeting on the night before an election has not just applied to Select Board elections, but to any election. The rationale has been that a lot of people, including even some SB members, are likely to be intensely busy with campaigns that evening.
Whether or not any of the incumbent Select Board members were running for re-election had nothing to do with it.

YourAdmirer said:

The gold-inked stamps are a clever idea - thumbs (or at least thumbprints ;-) up to you!



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