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Dedham charter committee recommends term limits for town officials

Posted by Dave Eisenstadter  August 23, 2013 11:59 AM

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Dedham’s elected officials may be subject to term limits if Town Meeting goes along with recent recommendations from the Charter Advisory Committee.

The committee presented their recommendations to selectmen at a meeting Thursday with some grammatical and some substantive changes to the town’s charter.

“We met twice a month and met more than 25 times,” Charter Advisory Committee chairman Tom Polito told selectmen Thursday. “We met with every elected board.”

The Charter Advisory Committee was formed in 2012 to suggest changes to the town's charter, last altered in 1974.

Selectmen are expected to vote on Sept. 5 on whether to place all or some of the recomendations on the Town Meeting warrant. The proposals could also be altered before or during Town Meeting.

Polito said that at public hearings there was support among residents for term limits. Polito and the committee recommended a limit of four terms for three-year seats and three terms for five-year seats.

The Charter Advisory Committee’s vote was not unanimous, but the majority of the board thought that term limits would encourage new people to get involved in government without the difficulty of unseating an incumbent, Polito said.

The committee exempted the town clerk and the town moderator from the term limits. The Town Clerk is a professional and it is in the interest of the town to have consistency in that position, Polito said.

For the town moderator, Polito said that an incorrect call from the town moderator could invalidate Town Meeting actions and cost the town thousands of dollars to fix the problem.

Town Meeting representatives would also be exempt, Polito said.

Carmen Dello Iacono and James MacDonald, both long-serving selectmen, expressed discomfort with the term limits.

“I don’t think any other towns have limits in place – that’s why people go to the voter’s booth,” Dello Iacono said.

MacDonald said he had been on the Board of Selectmen for 20 years and had seen 13 selectmen come and go.

He said he agreed that if term limits were put in place that the town clerk should be exempt, but he questioned what put the town moderator on a different footing than other elected officials.

“I think exempting the moderator is inconsistent,” MacDonald said. “The same argument you’re making with the moderator I could make for any of the elected boards.”

Other Charter Advisory Committee recommendations include changing the town administrator position to a town manager, increasing the term of the town clerk from three to five years, and changing the Board of Assessors from an elected board to an appointed board.

The Charter Advisory Committee’s presentation will be posted to the Dedham town website. It is also available Dedham Charter Advisory Committee presentation.pdf">by clicking here.

After their Sept. 5 vote, selectmen might schedule an information session for the public.

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