PROSPECT — Potential revisions to the town charter were at the center of discussions again last week during a joint meeting of the Town Council and Charter Revision Commission.
Officials reviewed 23 proposed changes during the roughly two-hour meeting. The recommended revision that received top billing, and the most debate, was making the town clerk, town treasurer and tax collector appointed rather than elected positions.
Under the proposed change, the mayor would appoint the town clerk, town treasurer and tax collector with the consent — majority vote — of the council. The change would create job descriptions and performance evaluations for the positions. Officials would also be able to remove the people from the positions, which would be filled through a hiring process, for cause.
Commission members in favor of the change reiterated arguments made during a public hearing earlier in May, saying the change is not a reflection of the current people in office but rather to ensure the best qualified candidates hold the jobs in the future.
“It’s a popularity contest at times, and that’s what it is,” commission member Paul Krisavage said about the current process for electing the positions.
Commission member Eileen Cranney added that the change would enlarge the pool of candidates for the positions as the number of people willing to run for elected office shrinks.
The change is an unnecessary one for some members of the council.
“I can see that you are trying to professionalize those positions, and I understand that, but it’s more politicizing the positions than professionalizing,” council member Jeffrey Slapikas said.
Council member Patricia Geary said she understands the rationale behind the change, but felt the responsibility to get candidates for the positions rests with the political parties. Then, she continued, the voters choose who they feel is best for the job. If the person isn’t qualified or fulfilling their responsibility, she said, the position is up for re-election after two years.
“I don’t like taking responsibility away from the voters,” Geary said.
Geary also raised concerns with a change that would allow the mayor to cast a vote to elect the chairman of the council if the vote remains tied after three votes.
This would be a rare occurrence and happen only if the nine-member council has an equal number of members at its organizational meeting due to absences.
Geary said the situation has only occurred two times that she could remember, and felt the mayor shouldn’t have any more power than the position already does.
Another proposed change would give the council the authority to reduce the operating budget after its adoption at any time during the fiscal year only if revenues were overestimated or if expenditures will exceed budget estimates.
The proposed revisions would also expand conflict of interest to all boards, commissions, officers and town employees, and update the Charter to include “personal interests” not just “financial interest” under conflict of interest.
The recommended revisions also include limiting the number of consecutive annual audits the same firm can do to five years, giving the town the option to enter into a written agreement with the Volunteer Fire Department of Prospect, and mandating that all boards, commissions and the council post their notifications on the town website.
The council will go through the proposed recommendations and decide which ones to move ahead with. The council is tentatively planning to have public hearing on the changes on June 21. Any proposed changes that make the cut will be on the ballot in November for the voters to decide on.