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AYER — Finance Committee Chairman Larry Keenan will leave the board at the end of the month, opening the possibility that the five-member board may be down to two and unable to meet.

Keenan, vice president of retail banking at Saugusbank, has said he’d made up his mind to leave after this term a few months ago as work was underway on the fiscal year 2010 budget. Between the long hours then, and his long daily commute to work, Keenan said he wanted more free time to spend with his family.

“I have a lot on my plate,” he said. “I’ll make myself available to the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee going forward,” into the transition period.

There’s been one vacancy for months upon Brendan Gallagher’s departure in January. And a special Town Meeting on Monday night may partially seal the fate for a third seat holder, Mary Spinner

On Sunday night, Keenan wrote an e-mail to several people announcing his decision, which was sent to three residents who have expressed either a present or a past interest in serving. He invited the three to attend the next Finance Committee meeting, set for June 10.

Those candidates are: Dr. Jesse Reich, the founder and CEO of a start-up biofuel company, Michael Guzzo, the town accountant for Boxboro, and Pauline Conley, a former selectman and former chair of the Finance Committee.

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Suhoski said Keenan’s input on the budget was “invaluable.”

Suhoski noted the skill of the remaining members of the Finance Committee. “There’s stability there; James Stephens has been there for some time as has Brian Muldoon. Mary Spinner is pending the outcome of the Town Meeting but we’ll know that next week.”

Do the changes leave the Finance Committee in turmoil?

“Turmoil is not what I would use but there’s a period of change afoot and we’ll have to fill some vacancies,” said Suhoski.

Stephens said he was sad to hear of Keenan’s decision. “I really hate to see him leave. I wanted him to stay on for at least another year. He was good at working at the tri-board approach with the School Department, Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee getting together to go over things as a group before we start individually working out things.”

Muldoon also complimented Keenan’s leadership. “We don’t always agree. We state our opinions and discuss them,” he said. “Larry had enough professionalism that he pushed things through.”

Muldoon said he considered Keenan to be his mentor on the Finance Committee, “I wish I could have spent more time working with him. He has a great background in finance which really benefited us and the town.”

“The time and the effort that he put into the finance spreadsheet … it’s huge amounts of time that have to be put in every week. He’s been a total professional.”

Of the uncertainty in the board’s membership at this time, Muldoon said, “it’s going to be a difficult time. Hopefully we’ll find out more about these individuals. Hopefully we can get a couple of candidates. At a minimum, one. I’ve got my fingers crossed.” He hoped that Stephens would agree to again serve as chairman after Keenan’s departure.

Spinner has no comment.

Bylaw reconsideration

Spinner’s dual service on the selectman-appointed Finance Committee and as an elected member of the Board of Health has prompted a special Town Meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at Ayer High School. Voters will decide whether the town bylaw should be changed to do away with a conflict in her dual service to both boards. It’s town counsel’s opinion that the town bylaw states an elected “Town Official” may not serve on the Finance Committee. Voters will be asked to decide whether to allow one class of elected official, Board of Health members only, to be excepted from the rule.

A “yes” vote would permit selectmen to re-appoint Spinner to the Finance Committee. Spinner has been a Board of Health member since 2005 when she was appointed to the board to fill an unexpired term. She has since been re-elected in 2006 and again on April 27 apparently unaware of the town bylaw conflict until recent weeks.

Spinner would likely have to choose to withdraw from either or both boards if Town Meeting votes “no.” Spinner, a retired nurse, easily defeated challenger Lora Haines in her springtime re-election to the Board of Health. She is a regular fixture at selectmen’s meetings and has a decade’s worth of experience serving on the Finance Committee.

Keenan said, “I think Mary (Spinner) has served the town well over the past 10 years. I understand there’s a technical requirement in the bylaw. I’m not in favor of amending the bylaw.”

“I believe the Finance Committee should remain an entirely independent entity,” said Keenan, though he added, “I don’t think there’s any ethical or other types of conflicts (with Spinner’s past service) in reality.”

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