By William F. Zachmann for the Duxbury Clipper
Using the Duxbury Town Manager Act to prevent transparency in the conduct of Town government is even more pernicious than perverting the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law to close meetings and avoid discussion of topics a majority of the Board of Selectmen prefers not to discuss. Both are fundamental violations of the basic rights of citizens and taxpayer to know exactly what is being done on their behalf and with their money.
In this instance it take the form of claims that because the Town Manager Act delegates certain responsibilities to a “professional Town Manager” it is therefore improper not only for citizens but for the Board of Selectmen as well to inquire into the details of the management of Town government. To do so it is said (or at least implied) is improper and maybe even illegal. To do so, it is claimed, is a wrongful and illegitimate attempt to “micromanage” or to “second guess” our Town Manager.
Such claims are as logically absurd as they are legally baseless. The Board of Selectmen appoints the Town Manager and can legally remove him at any time according to the statute. Moreover the Act specifically reads: “The Board of Selectmen shall exercise, through the town manager, general supervision over all matters affecting the interests or welfare of the town.”
In short, the ultimate authority resides with the Board of Selectmen, as the executive, on behalf of the citizen of Duxbury and not with the Town Manager. The Town Manager Act formalizes the office of Town Manager and the delegation to him of the roles of chief administrative officer and chief financial officer of the Town. But delegation is not abdication. The Town Manager reports to and is responsible to the Board of Selectmen who in fact control him far more than they admit.
So there can be no question of impropriety (let alone illegality) concerning any inquiry from a duly elected member of the Board of Selectmen for information about any aspect of the operation of Town Government under the administration of the Town Manager. Such inquiries are not only legitimate, but are a clear responsibility of the Board of Selectmen as the ultimate authority for the “general supervision over all matters affecting the interests of welfare of the town.”
For that matter, any and all such inquiries are equally proper and legitimate coming from any citizen, voter, and taxpayer in the Town of Duxbury. This is an essential part of the transparency of government operation required to ensure that citizens have full and unencumbered access to information on how their government is run and how their tax dollars are spent. We have a right to know and we should not permit our elected representatives to deny us such information.
So the majority of the Board of Selectmen should stop playing games and stop trying wrongly to use the Open Meeting Law and the Town Manager Act as excuses to restrict information and avoid discussion of uncomfortable topics they prefer to avoid. “The truth never hurts,” it is said, “unless it ought to.” Hiding the truth however always hurts more, in the end.