Town posting ‘mistake’ won’t delay Fall Town Meeting

Oct 5, 2023

A delay in the posting of the Fall 2023 Town Meeting Warrant won't affect that meeting's ability to go ahead, the Select Board has confirmed. 

Former Select Board Member Brenda Eckstrom accused the town of having broken its charter with late official postings of the warrant. Town Administrator Derek Sullivan reviewed the issue; in his determination, the town failed to post the warrant online in a timely fashion, but it did post the warrant on the town bulletin board within the proper timeframe.

The Fall Town Meeting is scheduled to occur on Monday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. The meeting will occur at the Wareham Elementary school, 63 Minot Avenue.

The warrant was posted to the town's bulletin board on Monday, Aug. 14, four days after the select board opened the warrant on Thursday, Aug. 10. The online posting came a month later, on Thursday, Sept. 14, after Eckstrom brought the missing document to the town clerk's attention. 

Eckstrom said that both delayed postings broke the requirements of the town charter, which mandates that warrants be posted within 24 hours of their opening. 

The timely posting of the town warrants can affect citizens' ability to engage with their local government, said Eckstrom. 

"Those of us out here, in the town, who do not watch Select Board meetings live, rely on the Charter and the official notice posting locations… to know when Town Meetings are to occur," Eckstrom said.

Sullivan said in his review the warrant should have been posted online, but the town's IT staff missed an email asking them to post it.

“It appears to be a regrettable mistake," Sullivan said.

To make sure it didn't happen again, Sullivan recommended that the Select Board Chair, the town clerk and other office staff involved in the posting of the charter meet to create an updated checklist for the posting of town warrants. 

The warrant did get posted correctly on the town's bulletin board, Sullivan said; in reviewing the language of the town charter, he determined the 24 hour limit referred to business hours, and the document did get posted within one business day. 

Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside said she met with staff on Tuesday, Oct. 3 as Sullivan recommended. 

"There are changes being made in procedure in office so that there is never any slip between the cup and the lip," said Whiteside. "It was a mistake."

Whiteside said the Fall Town Meeting is legal and will proceed.