Jun. 10—SOMERS — In the wake of the recent uproar over two selectmen creating a new town government position without public input, the Board of Finance may require that it review and approve any new position or promotion given to an employee after the annual budget is passed.
RIGHT TO REVIEW
WHO: Board of Finance.
WHAT: Exploring the right to review and approve any new town government position or any changes to an employee's salary after the budget is passed.
The Finance Board discussed the issue during a special meeting Tuesday in Town Hall. It was prompted to take up the matter by the uproar after First Selectman C.G. "Bud" Knorr and Selectman Timothy Potrikus on May 20 approved four motions — without public input or the knowledge of the third selectman, Timothy R. E. Keeney — that resulted in a change to the structure of town government.
They created a chief operating officer position to run day-to-day operations at Town Hall — something the first selectman does now — and reduced the hours and responsibilities of the first selectman.
The motions approved by Knorr and Potrikus were rescinded by the full three-person Board of Selectmen on June 3.
At Tuesday's meeting, Finance Board member William Meier recommended the regulation on creating new positions and promotions.
Changes to the structure of town government such as the ones Knorr and Potrikus made on May 20 would have had an impact on the town budget for the subsequent year had their motions not been rescinded, Meier said.
He also said he is strongly in favor of increasing the number of internal controls and making sure there's a definite process whereby decisions about how the town government works are carefully reviewed before they are enacted.
"We exposed a loophole," he said. "We need controls and safeguards in place at Town Hall so we all work together on things like this before they're implemented."
Vetting and different points of view are important in town government, Meier said.
"We don't want to paralyze town government where nothing gets done but let's make a clear path for dealing with something like this if or when it ever happens again," he said.
Finance Board member Joseph Tolisano said the board has the responsibility of presenting a draft budget, based on input from the selectmen and Board of Education, which then goes to a town meeting where the public weighs in.
"Changing that process has an impact on what the citizens have voted on," Tolisano said.
He said controls should be put in place when it comes to anyone in town government offering contracts that are not vetted so that citizens get what they asked for at the town meeting when the budget is approved.
Finance Board member James W. Persano said he's always been a proponent of having a town manager to run the town.
"I think we should go through the process of changing the charter," he said. "This situation shows exactly why we need a town manager — a situation where one hand doesn't know what the other is doing."
Having a town manager is probably good for Somers, Finance Board member William Salka said. "But it should be a town conversation, not a decision made by one board,"
Finance Board Chairman Michael D. Parker said having a town manager or COO run the day-to-day operations of the town is the more modern trend.
But when the elected official is taken out of the equation, the citizens will be giving up some of their connection, Parker said.
"A part-time first selectman isn't going to build relationships with employees or have an understanding of what's going on in the town," he said.
Parker asked Meier to put in writing his motion for its next meeting on June 28.
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