2014-08-22 / Front Page

Clerk selection process up for vote

Residents will decide if town clerk remains an elected position
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Voters will decide in November whether the town clerk should continue as an elected position or appointed by the town manager.

The board of selectmen, at the Aug. 12 meeting voted 4-3 on the measure, which arose after complaints were made to the town that one of the people running in the June primary lacked experience.

Selection of the town clerk has historically been a position decided by the voters.

If voters decide future town clerks will be appointed by the town manager, the role and duties of the clerk would not change; the town clerk would still report to the town manager.

“The functioning would actually still be the same,” said Town Manager Barry Tibbetts.

Another option proposed was for the board of selectmen to hire the town clerk.

The divisive issue has caused the board of selectmen to examine its power in appointing town staff members. Because the board of selectmen is not employed by the town and are only present at town hall about once every two weeks, several members of the board feel it is not within their authority to hire a municipal employee.

“Quite frankly, I’d prefer that the town manager have that duty because the town manager handles all other personnel issues within the town, and I don’t think that I feel qualified to handle any discussion about that because the town clerk works in the town hall. We’re only here at intermittent times,” said Selectman David Spofford.

Selectman John Kotsonis agreed.

“I think it’s a substantial change and we shouldn’t be allowed to do this, plain and simple,” he said.

Selectman Al Searles said if the board were to appoint the town clerk, they should have the ability to supervise them. “I don’t think any of us are qualified to do that,” Searles said.

Appointing and managing the day-to-day activities are “two different responsibilities,” said Selectman Dick Morin. “This is an overreach, that we don’t have the authority to do this. I think it should go before a commission.”

Said Spofford, “I think one of the main reasons that this came up was that in the last election we did have a person run for that office who had no training, and I think that that’s what brought the topic up to us at that time.

“I think, at one time, the town clerk had a lot of political power in the town because the board of selectmen was not there all the time, the town clerk was.”

“I think today the clerk is just that: a clerk; but, the clerk has to know all the laws in the state of Maine,” Spofford said.

“My personal opinion is, it’s an important question and I think it’s one that the voters should decide and not us,” Searles said. “Whether to keep electing the town clerk or appoint the town clerk, I think the voters should decide.”

A majority vote in the fall election requires more than 30 percent of registered voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election to visit the polls.

If the measure fails, the town clerk will remain an elected position.

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