Bourne Town Counsel Robert S. Troy has offered his opinion on a number of questions regarding potential changes to the Bourne town charter. Mr. Troy’s responses include recommendations on such matters as increasing options for charter compliance violations, use of gender-neutral terms when referring to town boards and committees and their members and whether removal of the Bourne Chief of Police from civil service will affect the charter.
Mr. Troy’s suggestions were relayed to members of the Bourne Charter Review Committee for their consideration during the committee’s remote meeting on September 15. Committee chairman Stephen F. Mealy said he had met with Mr. Troy, before the meeting and on behalf of the full committee, to ask the attorney’s advice on several matters for which the members had questions.
On the issue of gender neutrality, Mr. Mealy said that Mr. Troy suggested adoption of such terms as “person,” “people,” “the individual” or “the individuals” throughout the charter, and the removal of the gender-specifying terms “he” or “she.”
Mr. Mealy pointed out that the Bourne Board of Selectmen recently voted in favor of changing its name to the “Select Board” and referring to its membership as “select board members.” Mr. Troy recommended making that change throughout the charter, Mr. Mealy said.
Article 5-7 of the town charter defines the role of the Bourne Police Department within town government, and specifically the authority of the Chief of Police. A question had come up as to whether removal of the police chief from civil service regulations would require some change to the charter.
Residents at Annual Town Meeting last May voted in favor of a warrant article that called for removing the police chief from civil service status. Proponents argued successfully that removing the position from the constraints of civil service gives the town greater latitude in who is hired as police chief.
Regarding that change, Mr. Troy said there are no changes necessary to the charter “whether the police chief was in civil service or not,” Mr. Mealy said. Similarly, no change is necessary to Article 11 of the charter, which focuses on the Charter Compliance Committee, Mr. Mealy said.
A question had been raised as to whether there could be additional options available to the compliance committee for addressing charter violations. Mr. Mealy said Mr. Troy recommended leaving Article 11 unchanged because “the procedures outlined in the existing document have already proven adequate.”
Mr. Mealy added that he had done his own research and found that Provincetown is the only other entity in Massachusetts that addresses compliance with a town charter. Their remedy, he said, is to hold a public meeting, discuss the infraction and have it corrected, which is, in essence, what the Town of Bourne does.
“The current approach that Bourne uses for compliance does bring those issues to a forefront by having a public meeting and a review,” Mr. Mealy said, “and thus provides the public to be aware of an infraction and also any discussion that might be brought to light about how to correct it following that discussion.”
The committee is continuing its review of the articles within the charter and plans to present a warrant article containing its proposals at Special Town Meeting this fall. Residents will have the final say on the committee’s recommendations when Town Meeting convenes on Monday, November 15.