PROSPECT — The Town Council Tuesday night made its feelings clear on all of the proposed Charter revisions, save one.
Officials in the midst of reviewing potential changes to the Town Charter — the first time it has done so since 2000 — and formed a Charter Revision Commission in the fall.
The most significant and controversial proposal on the table of the roughly 24 revisions is making the town clerk, town treasurer and tax collector appointed positions rather than elected ones.
Those in favor of the change contend it is not a reflection of the current people in office but rather to ensure the best qualified candidates hold the jobs in the future. Those against it argue the revision would take the power away from the voters to choose the people for the positions.
The council voted unanimously to keep the positions elected after a brief discussion.
“We know the mood of the public. I don’t think anyone actually got up and supported that those should be appointed positions,” council Chairman Tom Galvin said.
Not all of the proposed revisions had unanimous support.
The council split along party lines a proposed revision that would allow the mayor to cast a vote to elect the chairman of the council only if the vote remains a tie after three votes. The four Republicans in attendance voted for it and the three Democrats in attendance voted against it.
The situation would only come up if there was an even number of council members present at its organizational meeting to elect the chairman and vice chairman. It has only come up twice in the past, and both times the votes were deadlocked for numerous motions.
Council member Patricia Geary, a Democrat, said the proposed revision was an overreaction to those two incidents and did not think it was necessary.
“[The mayor] should not have a vote to elect a chairperson of our council. He doesn’t get to vote on anything else the town does,” Geary said.
Council member Carla Perugini-Erickson, a Democratic, echoed Geary’s concerns, saying the proposed revision would change town government.
“I just think there is a political process in place. It is not uncommon for votes to go to several. I think this is making a change to the way our town is run and our government is run. I don’t support it,” Perugini-Erickson said.
Council member Stan Pilat, a Republican, said the proposed revision is the correct response and helps the council get back to work on important issues.
“I think it is a decent response to those couple of incidences that tells the public we have a plan that allows the council to go on to do their business. We looked dysfunctional when we had that situation,” Pilat said. “If I was sitting out in the public I would have looked at it as being dysfunctional that we couldn’t tend to our business that we are supposed to do here when we are here twice a month. So there has to be some resolution to that and this is a reasonable resolution.”
In addition to the proposed revisions from the commission, the council voted on one brought forth by Galvin.
Galvin proposed a change that would allow the town to fill appointed and compensated positions with non-resident electors. Under the Charter, only the town attorney can be appointed from outside Prospect.
Mayor Robert Chatfield originally proposed to do this for the land use inspector, the assessor, and the director of public works, Galvin said. However, he felt it was better to open it to all appointed and compensated positions.
“If we are looking to pay someone ideally we should be looking for the best person for the job,” Galvin said.
The council unanimously backed the proposal.
The only proposed revision that the council didn’t approve Tuesday was one dealing with conflict of interest on boards and commissions. The proposed revision would prevent elected and appointed officials who have a personal interest, not just a financial interest, on an issue to cast a vote.
The council is expected to come to a decision on that revision and approve sending all its recommendations to the commission on July 5.
Once the commission receives the proposed recommendations from the council, it will have 30 days to either approve, deny, or change the council’s recommendations.
The proposed revisions approved by the commission will then be sent back to the council. The council will be able to accept or deny any of the proposed revisions, but will be unable to make changes. Any of the revisions the council accepts will be voted on by voters during the Nov. 8 election.