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FinCom study group to stay as is despite BOS worries

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HARVARD — Town moderator David “Doc” Westerling has thoroughly examined the procedures he used to appoint members to a study committee that will examine the way the town appoints Finance Committee members, and he said he’s satisfied with the outcome.

Responding to the Board of Selectmen’s request to re-think his appointments, two of whom are signatories to the citizen’s petition that led to the committee’s creation, Westerling presented a chronological account of his appointment process, with handouts, at the June 19 selectmen meeting.

First, he worked with a list of “approved signatories” on the citizen’s petition that became a warrant article voters passed at the Annual Town Meeting. The petition calls for making the FinCom an elected body. Currently, the moderator appoints its members.

Westerling sent letters to 25 of the 26 signatories asking if they wanted to serve on the study committee. One signature on the petition wasn’t approved by the town clerk, he said.

The article set the nine-member committee’s makeup: two members each from the School and Finance committees and Board of Selectmen, appointed by those boards; two members of the public selected by the moderator, “with one being a signatory to the petition;” and the moderator himself.

A questionnaire attached to the letter Westerling sent out asks not only if, but why the petitioners he sent them to are interested in becoming members. And it clearly states what’s expected.

“If you are interested in serving, will you attend meetings, comply with the open meeting law and complete assignments in a timely fashion?” it asks.

Following the timeline, the handout included copies of correspondence with selectmen. Two letters sent by Westerling to the board on May 22 and 29 informed them of his progress to date. The next letter is from the selectmen asking Westerling to reconsider his appointments. At its June 8 meeting, the board voted unanimously to send the letter, based on a motion by Selectman William Marinelli.

The issue Marinelli raised at the time was whether two signatories on the committee is one too many.

The board is concerned “that you have appointed two individuals that have signed the petition and that by doing so you have not acted within the scope and intent of the article,” the letter states. The purpose of the letter was to “respectfully request you reconsider your appointments ” it reads.

But after reviewing and discussing Westerling’s carefully documented procedures, the consensus is that he acted within the parameters of the article. But Marinelli said he’s not as concerned about legality as he is about whether the appointment process accomplished what the selectmen intended when they framed the article.

After a long discussion that included comments from FinCom members, school advocates and others, debatable statements about who said what and conflicting comments on intent versus outcome, Westerling’s appointments stand.

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