Falmouth Charter Review Committee discussed conflicts between the town’s charter and personnel bylaw Monday, December 2.
Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy described the personnel bylaw as outdated, noting the most recent amendment was made in 1993. This amendment added a provision relating to life insurance.
“In C9-2, continuation of existing laws, it says everything not inconsistent with the provisions of the charter shall continue to be enforced, which is kind of vague, as there is the question of what is consistent and what is inconsistent, but clearly, there are a lot of inconsistencies in here that have nothing to do with where we are today,” Mr. Duffy said.
For example, the bylaw assigns duties related to personnel to the personnel board, which no longer exists. The bylaw also grants the personnel board the ability to prepare policies and procedures, something now done by the board of selectmen and town manager.
“It is something that merits looking at,” Mr. Duffy said.
Committee members asked how the conflict between the two documents impacts the ability to create new positions.
Mr. Duffy said, “The way the charter reads right now, the town manager proposes, the board of selectmen requires a four-fifths vote to create a new position, and it doesn’t take effect until Town Meeting funds it.”
The language in the personnel bylaw is slightly different.
“The language in the bylaw says, in 58 7-B, no new position shall be created nor existing position classified to a different pay grade without proper Town Meeting approval,” Mr. Duffy said.
Committee member Charles T. McCaffrey said this “is clearly inconsistent with the charter.”
Peter L. Clark said the question is which document takes precedence over the other.
“I’m assuming that we are all in agreement, but I don’t know whether Town Meeting is in agreement, that no positions shall be created without proper Town Meeting approval, which is what the old personnel bylaw says,” Mr. Clark said. “What remains in the charter, which by argument seems to me excludes the creation part, the only thing the charter says needs Town Meeting is the salary. I think we have taken the position, subject to our discussions, that even that should be taken out and it should read ‘subject to the budget passed by Town Meeting’.”
Mr. McCaffrey said the charter allows the town manager to classify and reclassify positions. Mr. Duffy said the charter enables the town manager to propose regulations related to personnel matters to the board of selectmen for adoption.
“I don’t think they have ever adopted regulations,” Mr. Duffy said.
He said current personnel practices are past practices that have been carried forward, rather than regulations codified within a bylaw. If the board of selectmen adopts personnel regulations, the charter states, the regulations may provide for a salary and pay plan for all positions, subject to Town Meeting vote.
“That is the clause that has caused problems, because what does that mean?” Mr. Duffy asked, adding that it is not clear whether Town Meeting approves general pay plans or pay for individual positions.
Mr. McCaffrey said the charter provides the power to create positions to the town manager rather than Town Meeting, though Town Meeting oversees the budget. So Town Meeting is not required to create a new position, but its approval is required to fund it.
“Every budget has a personnel line item, so if what [the town manager] wants to do exceeds that personnel line item, he cannot do it,” Mr. Clark said.
In addition to creating of new positions, Mr. Clark said, Town Meeting members have concerns about the reclassification of positions.
“I think a suspicion, a worry among some Town Meeting members is people are getting reclassified not because their responsibilities have changed to make them align with that reclassification, but because someone needs to get more money to keep them, to compete,” Mr. Clark said. “It is a reclassification because of the pay grade, not because the responsibilities have changed.”
Mr. McCaffrey said Town Meeting has to scrutinize the budget to control that.
Rather than recommend a charter change related to personnel, the committee recommended the creation of personnel rules and regulations following the process outlined in the charter.
The committee revisited a charter change aimed at align the town’s strategic plan and local comprehensive plan. This change was one of 24 proposals that went before the Falmouth Board of Selectmen in September. At the time, the proposed change granted the planning board the authority to request any town entity proposing “significant” changes related to the physical, economic and environmental development of the town to report those plans to the board.
In September, the selectmen voted not to place this charter change on the Town Meeting warrants. Selectmen also deferred action on five proposed charter changes to a future Town Meeting.
On Monday, December 2, the committee drafted new language aimed at ensuring consistency between the town’s plans. This proposed language could join the five deferred charter changes on a future Town Meeting warrant.
In the board of selectmen section of the charter proposed language states, “The Board shall issue procedures to assure that the actions of Town agencies are consistent with the Strategic Plan and Local Comprehensive Plan.” A proposed provision related to the planning board states, “The Planning Board may request that the Select Board review a proposed Town agency action for its consistency with the LCP.”
The charter review committee also added a new power and duty to the town manager section of the charter, stating the town manager may “Prepare, pursuant to procedures issued by the Select Board (C3-3A), written reports on the consistency of proposed Town agency actions with the Strategic Plan and the Local Comprehensive Plan.” Proposed language also states the five-year capital improvement plan shall be “consistent with the Strategic Plan and Local Comprehensive Plan.”