May 14 2019

Selectmen Discuss Next Step for Treasurer/Tax Collector Position After Ballot Vote

By: Rich Hosford

The Board of Selectmen discussed the process for appointing the next Treasurer/Tax Collector during the Monday night meeting.


As previously reported, on April 6, Burlington residents voted to approve a ballot measure making the Treasurer/Tax Collector position rather than elected. However, residents also re-elected the current occupant of the office, Brian Curtin, who was on the ballot for another three-year term.


Town Counsel Lisa Mead presented the board with a memo on what state and town law have to say about the issue. In part it reads “that any individual elected to an office or board which becomes an appointed office or board at the same election, under the provisions of this section, shall hold said office and perform the duties thereof until the appointment to said office is otherwise made under the provisions of this section.”


This means, Mead explained, that Curtin will hold the position until a new person is appointed. At that time the new person will assume the office and Curtin’s position with the town will end.


There is some leeway, however, to help with the transition, something members of the board said was important given the fact that Curtin has been in the role for over four decades.


Mead explained that when the town finds the person leadership wants to appoint they can either have that person come in in an unappointed capacity for a time as they learn the ins and outs of the job or that a new Treasurer/Tax Collector can be appointed with the understanding that Curtin will stay on for a period of time to help with the transition.


“I think it’s imperative that we have a decent amount of transition period,” Selectman Nick Priest said. “Mr. Curtin has a wealth of knowledge and we want to ensure there is enough runway for the next person so he doesn’t miss anything.”


Curtin himself has said all along that he is willing to stay on as long as the board wants him in the position and that he would help bring the new person up to speed. He reiterated that on Monday night.  


“I’m willing to serve as long as the board has confidence in me,” he said. “I love my job and I think I do it well.”


He also pointed out that he received more votes than any other candidate during the April 6 Town Election so it seems the voters also have confidence in him.


The one question still up in the air on Monday was who, exactly, would appoint Curtin’s successor. During discussions leading up to the vote members of the board, and Curtin himself, talked about the position being appointed by the Board of Selectmen. This was also how it was presented to Town Meeting last September when that body voted on whether to have the question on the ballot.


However, Mead explained that the language of article 36 of the May Town Meeting warrant on this subject would make the Town Administrator the appointing party like with many town employees.


Curtin, who was against the ballot question to have the position changed to appointed because he felt it took away from the independence of the office and lessened its accountability to voters, said that it was important to have the Board of Selectmen make the appointment for similar reasons.


“They are elected officials and answer to the public,” he said. “I think the Town Administrator has too much authority, too many appointments. If the Town Administrator appoints that person they will do what the Town Administrator wants and may not have an independent view of how the town’s finances should be handled. There needs to be some independence.”


On Monday, Hogan suggested the board seek to have the warrant article postponed until September and re-presented to Town Meeting with language making the Board of Selectmen the appointing party rather than the Town Administrator.


However, in an interview on Tuesday, Town Clerk Amy Warfield, who along with the Bylaw Review Committee was responsible for the article being on the Town Meeting warrant, said a delay will not be necessary. She said she spoke with members of the board after the meeting and the language can be changed before Town Meeting takes up the article either on Wednesday or next week. Bylaw Review is going to meet on Tuesday night and discuss the changes.


“They really don’t need to postpone it,” she said. “We can very easily make that amendment and it goes along with what Town Meeting already voted.”




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