Dukes County Commission Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman Leslie Leland called the County Commissioner’s meeting to order at 5:12 p.m. Commissioners Tristan Israel, Carlene Gatting, Melinda Loberg and Lenny Jason were present.
Also in attendance were County Manager Russell Smith, Executive Assistant Martina Thornton, Tad Crawford and Ted Stanley from the Charter Study Commission and Joanie Ames of MVTV.
Minutes of 10/8/08 will be approved at the next meeting since there were not enough Commissioners to approve it. Carlene and Lenny abstained.
John Alley joined the meeting later.
Charter Study Recommendations
Recall of Commissioners
Russell spoke with the Elections Commission and found out that there is no Mass. General Law regarding the recall. The towns adopt the recall provision and then have it pass as special legislation. It happened enough times that the Elections Commission has a form for the towns it they want to adopt a recall provision. The Lawyer at the Elections Commission felt that this form would not apply to counties. It could still apply if we wanted to adopt a recall provision through special legislation.
Sample Recall provisions from different towns were provided to the Commissioners at the last meeting. Russell said that there are some guidelines for Recall provisions like a 3 month cooling off period from the day of the election before anybody can call for a recall of a newly elected official. Tristan noted that he likes the idea that people can recall anybody who is elected for office and that there are some obvious causes and some not so obvious in which this can happen. Carlene/Melinda moved to have Russell put together a proposal of legislative language for recall of Commissioners and present it to the Board. Discussion: Les said that the voters could have the opportunity to do so every two years when the Commissioners are up for reelection. Carlene said it might be a little to long, for example if someone is heading to jail.
Lenny said the recall would probably be based on the percentage of registered voters. We need to talk about this. Melinda asked if the Board should create a sub-committee to help Russell to create the language. Tristan disagreed, he wants to see samples first and if it looks overwhelming then the commissioners can create a subcommittee. He also stated that we have to talk about how we hold island wide elections every two years for the new commissioners and/or a special election for a new commissioner after a recall. We would have to have it set up so every town would vote to have it as part of their annual meeting. It would be very difficult to hold the all-island elections on our own. Ted Crawford commented that Russell should find out if there are any precedents elsewhere. Russell said that we do have couple of samples of recall provisions from different towns but not from a county. Tad Crawford suggested contacting the Elections Commissioner to find out if a recall and the
follow up election actually happened somewhere on a county level. Vote: All in favor.
Recommendation to create a Charter Study Commission every 8 years
Russell said that he is not quit sure how to approach this recommendation. We could set a date for the next Charter Study Commission to be created in 2015. Les stated there is language in Chapter 34A Sec. 3 that was used before by Commissioners to create a Charter Study Commission by resolution. Also the Advisory Board on County Expenditures can do that by law. And thirdly it can be done by Petition of registered voters. So if Commissioners, the Advisory Board or a group of people feel it needs to be done sooner then 8 years, there are provisions in the law for it to be done. Les feels it might not be necessary to have it strictly every 8 years. Carlene said that if people sense the need to create a Charter Study Commission, it might be because there is a problem with the County government and that going to the County Commissioners for
a resolution is not necessarily an effective mechanism. To use the petition is cumbersome, as they would need signatures of 5% of registered voters. Carlene feels that the Charter Study Commission voted for this recommendation and we should try to effectuate it. Tristan said that the discussion was if it is needed on periodic bases. He suggested that a provision could be included in the Advisory Board’s Administrative Code to have at least a discussion every 8 years to see if there is a need for a Charter Study Commission. Tad commented that the County Commission can put the question on a ballot for the voters to decide but it cannot force creation of Charter Study Commission by itself. It would be up to the voters if they wanted it or not. He feels that if it was put on the ballot every 8 years it would still be up to the voters. Tad said that they did not call for special legislation or to put it the Administrative Code. He suggested we wait until after the November
election to see if the term will be 2 years. He said he would be in favor of having a question on the ballot creating a Charter Study Commission every 10 years and it could be built in into the Administrative Code. The 8 years recommendation was made with the 4- year term in mind. Tristan commented that in that case it would be in fact 12 years because they would have to wait another 2 years before it could be put on a ballot in a statewide election and may be that is why the recommendation was 8 years. If the voters vote yes, the Charter Study would take another 2 years. Tad commented that if there were a sense of need for a Charter Study, that we would assume that at the same time there would be individuals running to become members. Carlene/Lenny moved to table discussion on this recommendation post November 4th after we have a better idea about the results of the elections. Leland, Gatting, Loberg, Alley in favor. Israel opposed.
Recommendation to assign a liaison responsibility for each key area of regional interest
Russell asked the Commissioners to look at the list provided and think about what areas they would like to be active in.
John Alley joined the meeting.
Ballot question No. 4 – “Shall the County Manager Plan of Section 18 of the County Charter Procedures Act be adopted for Dukes County, with the provision for a board of commissioners of sever members, elected for concurrent terms and elected at large?” Russell explained that the County Commissioner would be elected every two years concurrently (at the same time). This question is on all the towns’ ballot for the Nov. 4th election. Right now we have a 7-member board, members are elected for 4-year term but the election is non-concurrent - 3 seats are up in one election and 4 at the next election. There is also a provision that maximum of two board members can be from the same town. Tristan said that the intention was for the County Commissioner to be accountable to the voters but it will have a
reverse effect, as it will be hard to find 14 people to run every two years for office. It also is expensive to run (providing signs, advertising, forms etc.) and to do this every two years would not be cost effective. Tristan feels that it was good intentioned, but it will run into problems. Carlene responded that we did lots of work to fill in a 4- year position as it is a big commitment and it might be easier to find qualified people if they only will be committing for two years. Also there will be most likely an overlap and if it is not, there is a bigger problem. John commented that he opposed the recommendation. If anybody has problem with the 4- year term they can run and if they feel they cannot do it, they can resign at any time. It does not make sense to have all commissioners run at the same time. Lenny said he first ran for a 2- year term because he did not want to make a 4-year commitment. MV Commission has 9 elected officials for 2-year term and it seems that enough
qualified people are interested. The County runs well because there are good county employees and if we loose all 7 commissioners to 7 new ones, there will not be any continuity but the county will not fall apart. Tristan commented that there were 9 positions at the Martha's Vineyard Commission up for election and 9 candidates for the positions. He is concerned that there is no competition. There are lots of opinions on the Martha's Vineyard Commission but nobody new is interested in running. If there are no major crises in the County it will most likely look the same. Les agrees with Tristan that the continuity of commissioners is a good thing and if voters are dissatisfied with someone it will show at the polls, the expense of running is also an issue. Melinda said we are trying to built in accountability for the county commissioners – reelection for shorter period of time and a recall provision. The question is if we need both of it. She is happy that the voters will have
to address it. Tad said that the majority voted for it, but it was not a super majority. It would be easier to enlist candidates for 2-year term then for a 4- year term. The town meeting would be a vehicle to make it happen. The accountability is also an issue and the recall provision would not be as important if the voters choose to go to 2-year term, if the term stays at 4 years we need to pursue the recall as another option for accountability to the voters. Ted said that people could contribute to their candidates for the campaign so it is not such a financial burden to run every 2 years. He disagreed with John Alley that any responsible person who wants to run for office would be accepting the position knowing that they could resign at the half term and he would not vote for somebody with this approach. Tristan added that the campaign for a county commissioner is more of a burden since the campaign is island wide and takes more effort than running for a town position. Les
pointed out for the voters that a No vote on this question has nothing to do with county government and would keep all as it is with no change, meaning the commissioners serve for a 4- year term. A yes vote would mean changing a 4-year to a 2- year concurrent term. Carlene asked if the ballot question includes what the Charter Study Commission has recommended. Russell answered no and that the explanation of the question is given in some towns and not in others. John asked Russell to read the question again. It was noted that there is no mentioning of the 2-year term in the question itself. There was a concern about this among the Commissioners. Tad stated that the language is very frustrating and that it was determined by Mass. General Law. He is very troubled that the clear explanation regarding the 2–year term is absent on some of the town ballots. Russell read the Summary on the Tisbury ballot that states: “The proposed charter would retain the current form of
Dukes County government (the county manager form with seven county commissioners), except that the commissioners would be elected for concurrent two-year terms, instead of non-concurrent (staggered) four-year terms, as is currently the case.” Russell clarified one more time that a Yes vote means that the commissioners would serve for 2-year term and be elected all every 2 years, a No vote means that everything stays the same and we stick with the 4-year non-concurrent term.
West Tisbury Path
Russell discussed the walking path along the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. The original bid package from Lawrence-Lynch Corp. did not include the aprons to the driveways along the walking path. The aprons needed to be done. The cost was an extra $15,000. The question is how it will be paid for since there was no change order during the construction. After County suggestion, Lawrence- Lynch Corp. agreed to split the cost in thirds – the County pays 1/3, the Town pays 1/3 and the company will assume the last 1/3. Russell explained that the county engineer did give the order to do the work without asking for a change order or going to the town to approve this work as being outside of the contract. Tristan said that the engineer was in no position to make those decisions. Carlene agreed that this is a compromise solution and asked if
the county really wants to go through the path of litigation. John Alley suggested that it was before the town, it was voted on and the County only provided discounted engineering services and asked how could the County be responsible for it? Carlene/Lenny moved to pay $5,131 to Lawrence- Lynch Corp. Gatting, Jason, Leland, Loberg in favor. Israel, Alley apposed. Tristan asked where would the money comes from to pay it? Lenny said that the County has reserves. Russell said that he spoke with Noreen about it.
Court house roof – Russell informed the Board that he contacted the insurance company and that they will not cover the repairs of the roof itself but they will cover the damage done by water leaking and also the water damage in bathroom that flooded - $4,142 and $432 respectively. Russell would like to wait with the repairs of the damage done by leaking roof and gutters until the roof itself is fixed.
Youth Task Force is looking to hire a second person to coordinate the grant they received. They will be moving to a bigger space – the old “engineering” room and the Medical Reserve Corps coordinator will go to their old smaller office.
Carlene noted that the Dukes County Courthouse needs restoration and proposed creation of a subcommittee of Commissioners, people serving in the courthouse and the Edgartown Selectmen to look for possible funding. There are CPA funds, federal and state historic building grants etc. Les thinks it is a great idea. Lenny noted that he is not sure if the courthouse is a liability or an asset for the County and it should be determined if the County should give it away. If we should give it to the state, we should not be fixing the roof. Russell said that the state pays rent for use of the courthouse but the County is responsible for the maintenance. Carlene offered that she would head the sub-committee and that Arthur Smadbeck, Dianne Powers and Russell Smith would be members. Chair would need to appoint the members at public meeting. Tristan/
John moved to create the sub-committee for courthouse. All in favor. John asked if they would consider other options like taking the courts out and have another use for the building. Russell noted that the court occupies 81% of building and the rent is different every year, based on the state funding as explained in the prior meeting.
Russell informed the Board that a Mr. Perkins offered to fix a damaged painting from the upstairs room in the courthouse and would also like to sponsor genealogical study on the other portraits in the courthouse. Russell contacted the MV Museum and the Charter School to find out if they would be interested in doing this as a senior project in cooperation with the Museum.
John/Carlene moved to adjourn. All in favor.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts