There was a subtly important moment this evening at Town Meeting that I think exemplifies the difference between this administration’s approach and how I think things ought to be run. At one point, Donna Girouard, Grafton resident and former Town Clerk questioned the Town Administrator as to why funding was not being proposed for an Assistant Town Clerk, stating that she thought the role was vital to the proper functioning of the Clerk’s Office. Ms. Girouard proposed restoring funding for the position through an amendment to the Warrant Article.
In speaking in opposition to the amendment, Town Administrator Tim McInerney (correctly) pointed out that he has final hiring authority. He went on, however, to say that even if town residents felt strongly about the position and supplied the funding that he would refuse to spend the money and fill the position.
While Tim was technically correct on hiring authority, consider the implications of what he said. To fund the position, town meeting voters would have to have taken the rather extraordinary step of finding the money at town meeting, and by way of doing that, communicate to their leaders that the Clerk’s office is important to them, and that they think it should be staffed as it recently has been. And in the face of that, the administration’s response is: “Beat it. We know better than you.”
Town employees ought to be too afraid for their livelihoods to so blatantly disregard the voters’ will without even appearing to give it a second’s thought. But the Town Administrator is insulated from direct voter reprisal by the Board of Selectmen, who legitimately do not seem to believe that they, or the Town Administrator, should be accountable to you.
I think that approach is wildly inappropriate and needs to change. There is no particular wisdom or insight lent to any individual who holds elective office. As I well know, you can work really hard at all of this and still occasionally be wrong. Whether you are a Selectman, an administrator, an employee, or a town volunteer, all of us constantly need input from each other to fulfill our roles. Too often, however, the message from the Municipal Center is “we know best,” and too frequently they do not.
I want to move away from the Board’s habit of circling the wagons and lashing out at opposition. I want to restore basic respect and decency for the volunteers and employees who make this town what it is. Above all, I want our elected officials, and everyone in the Town Administrator’s office, to be accountable to you.
Because that is what public service should be all about.
This has been my platform. I want to thank you all for your time and attention, and I hope for your vote.