Council Controversy Bottom line: The President has the authority

Friday, September 10, 2010
By Transcript Staff

The WCAT viewers who stayed tuned to the Town Council meeting for all four hours saw some volatile discussions about President Jeffrey Turco’s appointment to the Winthrop Conservation Commission.

The back-and-forth verbal exchanges weren’t so much about the appointee herself, but more about the process and the communications that went into it. We agree with Peter Gill’s comment that the appointment process could have been done more smoothly (and Mr. Turco pretty much admitted as such), but as Councillor Phil Boncore pointed out, Mr. Turco, as president of the council, has the authority in the town charter to appoint anyone he would like to the various town committees.

The other pertinent question that arose from the discussions was who is responsible to inform a member of a town committee that his/her term has expired and thus he/she should no longer take part in the committee’s votes or its implementation of policy. Does that responsibility rest with the chairman of the committee, the town clerk, or the Town Council? That’s a question that needs to be addressed.

Mr. Turco surged to an impressive victory in the council president election last November. He has brought some energy and a new style of leadership to the position. If residents or a colleague on the council don’t like the process by which he is the sole appointing authority, that’s a matter for the charter review committee to evaluate.

But what clearly was not beneficial for all the parties involved was the manner in which the disagreement about that matter led to later discussions becoming “personal.” Mr. Turco raised the possibility about reestablishing the position of a school resource police officer at the high school and middle school, an idea that, according to Mr. Turco, had the support of principals Gail Conlon and Martha Kelleher and Chief of Police Terence Delehanty. While Mr. Turco tried to outline how a school resource office position was financially doable, a colleague seemed to take the opposite tract. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour or maybe it was personal, but we can agree that having a police officer at the schools was a well-received idea when it was done and it merits a full discussion by the council, not just some quick verbal jousts.

Let’s all work together to effect positive ideas in the town.

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