Selectmen wrestle with power, procedure

Jul 15, 2020

The Board of Selectmen wrestled with their power during the Tuesday night meeting, from which Patrick Tropeano was absent.

The Board was scheduled to make a number of appointments to various committees, including re-appointing Selectman Judith Whiteside to the now ad-hoc Charter Review Committee. 

The Charter Review Committee is charged with reviewing, reworking, and updating the town’s charter, a document that outlines the powers and responsibilities of the town’s core government. 

The Committee’s initial tenure came to an end, but it is being recreated so that the work can be continued.

According to the charter itself, Selectmen are not supposed to sit on the Charter Review Committee, which would exclude Whiteside. However, since the committee is being recreated from scratch, she could technically be put on the committee.

“I feel strongly that Selectman Whiteside belongs on there, and I’d hope that we all agree on that,” said Selectman Peter Teitelbaum. 

Selectman Alan Slavin said that in the past, the board had talked about keeping elected officials in general off the board, but then had approved two to be members: Peter Dunlop, a sewer commissioner, and Robert Fitchenmayer, a member of the Upper Cape Regional Technological High School Committee.

“So now we’re going upside-down, backwards and forwards,” Slavin said. “I have no problem with Selectman Whiteside being there as the board’s representative, which is what I was before, but as a regular voting member, I have a problem. When you put a selectman on a committee like this, it has undue influence on what the board does, and it inhibits a lot of people from saying what they actually feel and what they want to do.”

Slavin said that he would be voting no on appointing Whiteside.

“So then what you’re saying is we should not appoint Mr. Fitchenmayer or Mr. Dunlop as well,” Whiteside said.

Slavin said that the board already “made that mistake” by putting them on the committee as elected officials when it was first formed last year. When Whiteside was put on the committee, she was not serving in any elected office.

“I don’t believe that a Selectman should be acting as a voting member on that committee,” Selectman Jim Munise said. “She could be a liaison, but I can’t make a motion to have her as a voting member when we couldn’t do it previously.”

Teitelbaum said that if there is no motion, then it could be brought back before the board when the full board is present.

“I hear what both of my peers have said and I think that there’s some merit in what they say. However, in order to be consistent, you should have voted against Mr. Dunlop and Mr. Fitchenmayer,” Whiteside said.

Teitelbaum then attempted to move on to the next agenda, but was interrupted by Slavin who asked why the board was postponing the vote — “So you can get a 3-2 vote that way? I have a problem with this.”

Slavin then made a motion that the board not appoint Whiteside to the committee. 

Slavin and Munise voted against Whiteside’s appointment, while Whiteside and Teitelbaum voted in favor of it.