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Questions Raised about RMLD Vote to Rotate Senior Staff into Open GM Post Temporarily

New selectmen sworn in. Selectmen also learn comment deadline for Post Office proposal.

Should senior staff rotate into the position of general manager of a town department while the department looks to fill the top job? With an interim general manager in place?

Two selectmen and the town manager questioned the vote taken by the Reading Municipal Light Department Board of Commissioners last month to do just that.

After consulting with town counsel, Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner told the selectmen he considers the light board vote “null and void” because it violates two protocols.

But Hechenbleikner is not responsible for the charter as it applies to the light department, he elaborated to Patch yesterday.

However, "I feel responsible" to voters, the writers of the charter and as a town resident, he continued, "to make the light department aware of what the town charter says" about its vote.

The charter says the department’s general manager can be removed by a majority of commissioners, Hechenbleikner told the selectmen, after a hearing preceded by public notification. Neither action was taken, the town manager said.

And after a similar motion failed in February, Robert’s Rules of Order, by which town meetings are run, requires the question to be taken up under reconsideration, Hechenbleikner said. It was not.

Selectmen John Arena and Marsie West both said they have concerns about the light board’s vote. West sat on the RMLD board until she was elected on April 2 to the Board of Selectmen. She was absent from the March 27 RMLD meeting where the commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of the senior staff rotation.

The vote “(S)truck me as remarkably bad practice,” Arena said at Tuesday's selectmen meeting. First, the qualifications of two senior managers who would rotate into the position were not given, he said. Second, the motion to allow the rotation was made and voted on within seven minutes, he said.  Several selectmen questioned the continuity that would come by having rotating general managers.

Light board outgoing member Gina Snyder made the motion to the light board. Senior staff don’t have many opportunities to get that kind of experience, she said, and such rotations happen where she works. She did not name her employer.

Light board Chairman Philip Pacino voted against the motion and strongly objected to his board voting on the issue right before the local election. He proposed that the decision be made by the board that includes the members elected on April 2.

A new light department general manager should be hired by June, Pacino said at his board’s meeting.

In other action, the Board of Selectmen:

Learned that a comment period on the Post Office proposal to move delivery vehicles from Reading to the Woburn Post Office on Washington Street but maintain customer services here will end on March 24. As Patch reported this past July, the Post Office is considering selling the Post Office building on Haven Street and moving mail trucks to available space in Woburn to save money but keeping counter services in the downtown area.

Granted a liquor license to Portland Pie Co. to open a restaurant and take-out business at 30 Haven St.  Portland Pie Chief Operating Officer Joe O’Neil hopes to open in mid to late June, he told the selectmen. Check in with us tomorrow for more details on the eatery.

Approved a waiver of opening hour for Fit by Catarina on Main Street, allowing the fitness “boot camp” to operate open before 6 a.m. weekdays; and

Reviewed the articles on the draft warrant for annual Town Meeting, which starts March 22. See the 25 articles and background information at ci.reading.ma.us, under “Town Clerk.”

Charles April 11, 2013 at 12:29 PM
Marsie is absent??? Hopefully, when a big issue like this comes up to the selectman she isn't absent. This is a 50+ M operation. Because there is no oversight these type of actions take place all the time. Gotta love PH comment owes it to the "voters" - lol.
Stephen April 13, 2013 at 11:41 PM
Alas, had Ms. West's not been absent from the meeting in question, (and one which did NOT include this big issue on its agenda, not to mention this issue had been addressed at a recent prior meeting, resulting in NO expectation by anyone that it would come up) again the outcome of the vote would not have changed, granted by 3-2 instead of 3-1. Likewise, while while I'd love to see 100% attendance of elected and appointed volunteers at all meetings, I recognize there are going to be times, whether due to commitments to employers, family emergencies, or major events, heath issues, etc. that may cause absences. I trust that should these situations become severe or recurring, that the official would then step down, but I can understand occasional absences.

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