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New Planning Board Member Appointed with Controversy to the Appointment Process

The newest member of the Planning Board is Toni Ann Natola. The Planning Board and Select Board jointly voted in favor of appointing Natola to fill the seat vacated by Mike Espejo who left the Planning Board after being elected to the Select Board in the recent Town Election. 

Planning Board Chair Branda Rappaport explained that five candidates were interviewed for the empty seat based on their resumes and a questionnaire. 

“We found her astute, logical and fair. She takes great time and effort in reaching a decision and researching any task at hand,” stated Rappaport.

Natola has been the Head Administrative Assistant/Deputy Assistant Register at Middlesex Probate and Family Court for 23 years.

There was discussion on the appointment process.  

According to Town Counsel Lisa Mead; Massachusetts General Law Chapter 41 Section 11 allows for the filling of a seat of an elected body that goes vacant due to an election and how that empty seat gets filled until the next election.

“It is a joint effort between the body that has the empty seat and the Select Board,” said Mead.

Select Board member Mike Espejo spoke to the process for filling vacated seats.

“I think we as a town need to develop a Burlington specific policy when it comes to filling vacancies like this because this one was very different from the last one,” Espejo continued. “I don’t feel like it was fairly done. If you look at Massachusetts General Law Chapter 41 Section 11 it is very, very vague. So I’m not pointing fingers at anyone or at the process I just think that as a town we should look at it and make our own addendum to General Law Chapter 41 Section 11 so this is handled fairly going forward”.

Rappaport responded to Espejo’s comment.

“I do think it was handled fairly, I think that there was some confusion because it is very vague,” Rappaport continued. “This appointment is just for one year, every year there is an election and that’s the beauty of the democratic process. So whether it was Toni Ann who moves forward or someone else who moves forward Toni Ann will be running for election next year and I think she’ll prove herself to be an asset to the community”. 

Select Board member Jim Tigges noted that in his experience with the Board of Appeals and Select Board he has seen the process done three different ways.  

“Let’s figure out the proper way and stick with it for all appointments for elected positions,” said Tigges.

Barbara L’Heureux of the Planning Board asked that all boards affected by this process be allowed to participate in the creation of a Burlington specific appointment process. 

Natola addressed both boards on her appointment.

“I hope at the end of this year people will feel I fairly and impartially do my best. I’m a lifelong resident, I only have the best interest of Burlington at heart. And hopefully if I run for this seat I would be elected and you would feel that I did a good job,” said Natola.