AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Monday, March 9, 2015
Tenure For Elected Clerk Not A Good Idea
This column originally appeared In The Sun Chronicle on Monday, March 9, 2015.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
Cutler is the elected town clerk in Foxboro.He would like to remain in that elected post for a long time.
But if it’s
all the same to Foxboro citizens, he’d like to skip the part that involves
actually running for the office.He
finds that uncomfortable, and thinks he shouldn’t have to do it.But he wants a guarantee of long-term job
security, which would make him the only local elected official to have that.
gathered enough signatures to place a proposal before the voters at the
upcoming town election to grant him tenure.If it passes, he will be able to remain in office without running again
for another 15 or so years.Should he
decide to give up the full-time paid elected position before that, it will
revert back to being elected at regular intervals the way
it has been for centuries before now.
making use of the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 41, Section
19.This statute allows such tenure to
be granted, and it is not unprecedented.As of 2014, there were 18 clerks in the state (out of about 351 cities
and towns) with such arrangements.Under
that law, he could be removed from office for “just cause” by the selectmen
after a public hearing.He could then
appeal their decision to the courts.
explained his plans to a surprised board of selectmen last week after he had
gathered enough signatures.He said he
needs tenure because the position requires job security.He told board members, “It can become a popularity
contest rather than who is qualified to do the job.You need security. You can't have constant
turnover every few years."
turnover?Is he serious?Cutler himself has held the job for seven
years.The only two times he has run for
reelection, he was unopposed.
predecessor served for more than a quarter of a century, much of that time
having to run annually rather than once every three years.Yet never – not even once - during that long
time in office did she ever have anyone run against her on the ballot.
incumbent Foxboro town clerk has so much as faced an opponent in 35 years or
longer.Yet Mr. Cutler believes he needs
job security?That seems odd at best,
and self-serving at worst.
claims giving him tenure would help keep the office of clerk “neutral” when it
comes to working on elections where he is on the ballot."It is still not a comfortable
position," he said concerning such a situation. "That is a great
benefit with this (tenure)."
benefit for who?Mr. Cutler?The town certainly doesn’t gain any major advantage.This occurs only once every three years.Every other town clerk in Foxboro’s 237-year
history has somehow managed to struggle through this discomfort and retain
their neutrality.Mr. Cutler should be
able to do the same.If not, he should
step done and give the job to someone who can.
No one is
questioning Cutler’s job performance or his right to pursue this unusual
route.But it is fair to question his motivation
and wisdom in doing it.If he were
proposing the post be changed to appointed, that would be a totally different
story.It would be a change to the
applies only to the individual, not the job.As Cutler correctly points out, whoever eventually replaces him would
have to be elected.Only Cutler would be
granted the privilege of being an elected official who never has to place his
name on a ballot.
If Mr. Cutler
wants comfort, he should get a new chair.If he is seeking unconditional love and support, he should consider
getting a dog.
should not do is request preferential treatment. There is no good reason to grant him
tenure.No elected official should be
rewarded with what amounts to a lifetime term.This move seeks to solve problems that do not exist and are being
citizens will decide this issue by voting.Ironically, that’s exactly what Mr. Cutter wants to stop them from
doing.Their right to vote should trump
his need to feel more secure.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local elected official.He can
be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at