Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives
in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same,
SECTION 1. (A) At the biennial state election following the effective date of this act the state secretary shall cause to be printed on the ballot in the county of Franklin the following question: "Shall the charter of the county of Franklin as proposed by the Franklin county charter study commission be adopted " At such election, the question shall appear on the ballot in the same manner as other public questions are printed on said ballot. The attorney general shall prepare the summary to accompany such question. The charter of the county of Franklin as set forth in section three shall become effective on January first next following said election upon approval by a majority of all votes cast on the question and shall have the force of law within said county.
(B) The ballots to be used at such election shall be prepared and furnished by the state secretary in accordance with the requirements of this chapter and of chapter fifty-four of the General Laws. The question in subsection (A) shall be printed immediately after statewide questions appearing on said ballot.
SECTION 2. The grant of powers under this act is to be construed as broadly as is consistent with the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the General Laws and special acts relating to county and local government. The grant of powers shall be construed as liberally as possible in regard to the county's right to reorganize its form of government, to reorganize its structure and to alter and abolish its agencies, subject to the general mandate of performing services whether such services be performed by the agency previously established or by a new agency or other department of county government. Based on the need to develop effective services to meet the problems which cross city or town boundaries and which cannot be met effectively on an individual basis by the cities and towns, or the state, this act shall be construed as intending to give the county power to establish innovative programs and to perform such regional services as said Constitution and the General Laws and special acts permit and to establish such other programs and services as may, from time to time, be permitted.
SECTION 3. The following special charter of the county of Franklin as proposed by the Franklin county charter study commission shall establish the rights of said county and the powers and duties of its governing officers upon its approval as provided in section one: `tuc Article 1 Powers of the County
Section 1. Subject to the provisions of the General Laws and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the county of Franklin may:
(1) organize and regulate its internal affairs; create, alter, and abolish agencies, departments, offices, positions and employment and define functions, powers and duties thereof; establish qualifications for persons holding offices, positions and employment; and provide for the manner of their appointment and removal and for their term and compensation;
(2) adopt, amend, enforce and repeal measures, subject to referendum by the voters of the county, notwithstanding the effect of any referendum conducted prior to the adoption of this charter;
(3) construct, acquire, operate and maintain improvements, projects or other enterprises for any public purpose, subject to such referendum as may otherwise be imposed by law;
(4) exercise powers of eminent domain, borrowing and taxation only as provided by the General Laws;
(5) exercise all powers of county government in such manner as its board of commissioners and county council may determine;
(6) have a corporate seal, sue and be sued, contract and be contracted with, buy, sell, lease, hold and dispose of real and personal property, and appropriate and expend monies for county purposes;
(7) raise monies as provide by the General Laws and special acts of the commonwealth;
(8) contract with or sign agreements with other governmental units for the provision of joint, coordinated or cooperative service provisions.
Section 2. Nothing in this charter shall be construed to impair or infringe on the powers and duties of cities and towns under the General Laws or special acts of the commonwealth. It is the intent of this charter to permit the towns of Franklin county to employ services and facilities of the county for more effective, efficient and adequate provision of services if and when towns may deem it desirable to do so. Towns are and shall remain the broad repository of local police power in terms of the right and power to legislate for the general health, safety and welfare of their residents. `tuc Article 2 County Council
Section 1. All legislative power of the county shall be vested in the county council which shall be composed of councillors who shall be elected from each town in the county in annual town elections and shall serve for a term of two years beginning on July first next following said elections. Each town shall elect one councillor for each ten per cent, or portion thereof, of the county's population which resides in the town. Population shall be determined by the most recent United States census.
Section 2. On all questions, each councillor shall cast a weighted vote equal to the proportion of the county's total population residing in the town he represents, except that the weighted vote of any town with more than one councillor shall be divided equally among its councillors.
Section 3. Councillors shall be residents and registered voters of the towns from which they are elected, and shall qualify for the ballot in the same manner as candidates for town offices elected at-large within the town, except that no party or political designations shall be used. No person shall be considered ineligible to be elected to the office of councillor on account of any office he may hold within the government of the town.
Section 4. The office of a councillor shall be deemed vacant if the incumbent moves his residence from the town from which he was elected, or he is, by physical or mental illness or other casualty, unable, as determined by a majority vote of the council, to continue to serve in the office. When vacancies occur in the representation from any town, the executive authority of the town shall by majority vote appoint a successor to complete the unexpired term.
Section 5. Councillors shall serve without compensation, except that any expenses incurred as a result of said service to the county shall be reimbursed from the county treasury.
Section 6. Councillors shall make an annual report to the towns of their activities and the activities of the county. Councillors shall from time to time meet with either or both the selectmen and the finance committees of the towns they represent to discuss the towns' financial situation and service needs.
Section 7. The following powers of the county council shall be exercised by resolution:
(1) the establishment of advisory bodies;
(2) the conduct of an inquiry or investigation;
(3) the expression of disapproval of the suspension or dismissal of officers or employees;
(4) the adoption of rules for the county council;
(5) the establishment of times and places for county council meetings;
(6) the establishment of the county council as a committee of the whole and the delegation of any number of its members as an ad hoc committee;
(7) the adoption of a county administrative code;
(8) the election, appointment and removal of such officers and employees of the county council as is permitted by law;
(9) actions specified as resolutions; and
(10) the expression of such county council policies or opinions as require no formal county council action.
Section 8. The county council:
(1) shall pass in accordance with the General Laws and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts whatever measures it deems necessary and proper for the good governance of the county;
(2) shall appoint a clerk to the county council who shall record and keep the records and minutes of the county council and who shall serve at the pleasure of the county council or for such term not to exceed three years as may be provided by the county council;
(3) may provide for a term of office for the county counsel not to exceed four years;
(4) shall approve the annual operating budget of the county and appropriate such sums as are required by said budget;
(5) shall establish such committees as it shall deem necessary to carry out its duties;
(6) shall, by a two-thirds weighted vote, override a veto of the commissioners; and
(7) shall authorize the county to enter into indebtedness.
Section 9. Except as otherwise provided herein or by General Law, all actions of the county council shall be by majority of the weighted vote. A tie vote of the county council shall constitute a failure to act.
Section 10. Except for actions designated as resolutions, every measure which shall have passed the county council shall, before it becomes effective, be presented to the board of commissioners; if they approve they shall sign it and it shall become effective, but if not they shall return it with their objections to the county council who shall enter the commissioners' objections in their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two-thirds of the county council, by weighted vote, shall agree to pass the measure, it shall become effective. In all such cases the vote of the county council shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the measure shall be entered on the journal. If any measure shall not be returned by the commissioners within fourteen days after it shall have been presented to them, the same shall become effective, in like manner as if they had signed it. `tuc Article 3 Board of Commissioners
Section 1. The executive power of the county shall be exercised by the board of commissioners which shall consist of three persons elected at large in the county in the biennial elections for overlapping terms of four years. Commissioners shall be elected as provided under the General Laws. The organizational meeting of the board of commissioners shall be held at its first meeting in January of each year.
Section 2. No more than one commissioner may be elected from any one town in the county. The office of any commissioner shall be deemed vacant if the incumbent moves his residence from the county, or if he is by physical or mental illness or other casualty unable, as determined by a majority vote of the commissioners, to serve as commissioner. In the event of a vacancy in the office of a commissioner, the remaining commissioners and the presiding officer of the county council shall by majority vote appoint a successor to serve such term as provided under the General Laws.
Section 3. Incumbent commissioners elected prior to the effective date of this act whose terms and residences conform to the requirements of this charter shall continue in office until the completion of their elected terms.
Section 4. The board of commissioners shall:
(1) exercise all administrative and executive powers of the county by majority vote of its members;
(2) at its organizational meeting, elect a chairperson who shall preside over board meetings with the right to vote on all questions, and who with the approval of the board shall serve as spokesperson for the board on matters concerning policies and programs, and be empowered to execute all contracts, bonds or other instruments requiring the consent of the county;
(3) at its organizational meeting, elect a vice-chairperson who shall serve as acting chairperson during the temporary absence or temporary disability of the chairperson;
(4) report annually to the county council and to the residents of the county on the work of the previous year, recommend whatever action is deemed necessary for the improvement of the county and the welfare of its residents and, from time to time at their discretion, recommend any course of action or programs they deem necessary or desirable for the county to undertake;
(5) prior to January twentieth, prepare and submit to the county council for its consideration and adoption an annual operating budget for the next fiscal year; establish the schedules and procedures to be followed by all county departments, offices and agencies in connection therewith; and supervise and administer all phases of the budgetary process;
(6) approve or veto measures not designated as resolutions that have been passed by the county council;
(7) appoint and remove the county administrative officer who shall be qualified by administrative and executive experience and ability to serve as the administrative officer of the county. The administrative officer may be removed by a vote of the board subject to due notice and a public hearing. Such notice shall be in writing and shall be accompanied by a written bill of particular charges and complaints and said public hearing on these charges shall be held no less than fifteen days nor more than thirty days after personal service of notice and charges. The administrative officer need not be a resident of the county at the time of his appointment; however, within three months of said appointment he shall become a resident of said county;
(8) through the county administrative officer, enforce the county charter, the county's laws and all General Laws applicable thereto;
(9) insure adequate supervision, direction and control of all county administrative departments, and care and maintenance of all county properties, institutions and agencies by the administrative officer;
(10) appoint all members of county boards, commissions and authorities, and all other officials not serving in the administrative service of the county the manner of whose appointment is not prescribed elsewhere in this charter;
(11) serve as ex-officio, nonvoting members of all appointive bodies in county government;
(12) remove or suspend for just cause any person occupying an office specified in paragraph ten;
(13) at their discretion, require from the administrative officer reports and examine the accounts, records and operations of any agency of county government;
(14) at their discretion, order any agency under their jurisdiction to undertake any task for any other agency on a temporary basis if they deem it necessary for the proper and efficient administration of the county to do so;
(15) identify emergency situations and declare emergencies;
(16) approve contracts presented by the administrative officer;
(17) adopt rules for the board;
(18) establish times and places for board meetings;
(19) appoint the heads of departments which are under their jurisdiction;
(20) appoint the county counsel to serve at the pleasure of the board or for such term not to exceed four years as may be provided by action of the county council; and
(21) keep a journal of their proceedings; and the yeas and nays of the commissioners on any question shall, at the desire of any commissioner, be entered on the journal. `tuc Article 4 Separation of Powers
Section 1. This charter shall confer on the county council general legislative powers and such investigative powers as are germane to the exercise of its legislative powers, but retains in the board of commissioners full control over the county administration and over the administration of county services provided for in this charter.
(1) Members of the county council shall communicate with county employees only through the board of commissioners in all matters concerning the administration of the county's government and the provision of services, except as otherwise provided in this charter. However, nothing in this charter shall be construed to prohibit the county council's inquiry into any act or problem of the county's administration. Any committee of the county council may require a report on any aspect of the government of the county at any time by written request to the board of commissioners.
(2) The county council may, by a majority vote of the whole number of its members, require the board of commissioners to appear before the county council sitting as a committee of the whole, and to bring before the county council such records and reports and such officials and employees of the county as the county council shall deem necessary to insure clarification of the matter under study. `tuc Article 5 Citizen Petition and Referendum Procedures
Section 1. Citizen petition and referendum procedures shall be started by the filing of a petition, addressed to the county council of the county of Franklin, with the clerk of the county council. Signatures to any petition shall be on separate papers for each town which shall be identified on the paper and within one town need not be all on one paper, and all such papers pertaining to any one measure shall each contain the entire wording of the petition, shall be fastened together, and shall be filed as a single instrument, with the endorsement thereon of the name and residence address of the person designated as filing the same. With each signature on the petition there shall also appear the street and number of the residence of each signer.
The signatures contained on said petitions shall be certified by the board of registrars of voters of the towns in the county prior to the filing of said petition with the clerk of the council. Such certification shall be performed in the manner prescribed for the certification of signatures on nominating petitions, under section seven of chapter fifty-three of the General Laws. Any petition or separate sheet of a petition submitted for certification shall be processed and returned to the person who submitted it within ten days after the submission. Objections to the sufficiency and validity of the signatures on any petition shall be made in the same manner as provided by the General Laws for objections to nominations for town offices. Upon filing with the clerk of the council of a petition under this article, the clerk of the council shall furnish a receipt for the same to the person or persons filing the petition, and within seven days following the filing of the petition, the clerk of the council shall determine by what number of voters the petition has been signed and what percentage that number is of the total number of registered voters in the county and shall make report of his determination and present the petition to next regular meeting of the county council.
Section 2. The county council and board of commissioners shall jointly hold a public hearing and shall act with respect to every petition which is addressed to the county council of the county of Franklin which is signed by five hundred voters or more, and which seeks the passage of a measure. The hearing shall be held and the action shall be taken not later than ninety days after the petition is filed with the clerk of the council. Hearings on two or more petitions signed under this section may be held at the same time and place. The clerk of the council shall mail notice of the hearing to the ten persons whose names appear first on the petition at least seven days before the hearing. Notice by publication of all such hearings shall be at the expense of the county.
Section 3. If, within thirty days following the date on which the county council has voted to approve any measure and the board of commissioners has signed same, a petition signed by a number of voters equal to five per cent of the total number of the registered voters in the county, against the measure or any part thereof is filed with the clerk of the council, the effective date of such measure shall be temporarily suspended. The county council shall forthwith reconsider its vote on such measure or part thereof, and, if such measure or part thereof is not rescinded, the board of commissioners shall provide for the submission of the question to the secretary of state for a determination by the voters at the next statewide election occurring at least one hundred and twenty days following such failure to rescind, but pending such submission and determination the effect of such measure shall continue to be suspended. In order for the referendum to be binding upon the county, twenty per cent of the registered voters of the county must vote on the measure or issue placed before the county by the citizens' referendum procedure. A majority vote in favor of rescinding the measure shall be required to rescind the measure.
Section 4. None of the following shall be subject to the petition or the referendum procedures: (1) proceedings relating to the internal organization or operation of the county council or actions of the council designated as resolutions; (2) an emergency measure adopted in conformity with the charter; (3) revenue loan orders; (4) any appropriation for the payment of the county's debts or debt service; (5) proceedings relating to the election, appointment, removal, discharge, employment, promotion, transfer or the demotion of any person, or other personnel action; (6) any proceedings repealing or rescinding a measure or part thereof which is protested by referendum procedures; and (7) any proceedings providing for the submission or referral of any measure to the voters at an election.
Section 5. With the approval of the board of commissioners, the county council may on its own motion submit any measure, except resolutions or other measures which are not binding upon the county, to the voters for adoption or rejection at any regular statewide election occurring at least ninety days following notification of the state secretary of such action by the county. `tuc Article 6 Advisory Finance Committee
Section 1. The advisory finance committee shall consist of the chairmen of the boards of selectmen, or their selectman designee, from each town in the county.
Section 2. The advisory finance committee shall be constituted to consider any or all county questions regarding the finances of the county for the purpose of making reports or recommendations to the county council.
Section 3. The reports and recommendations of the advisory finance committee shall be advisory and not binding upon the county. `tuc Article 7 Transitional Provisions
Section 1. All General Laws, special acts, approved budgets, rules and regulations of or pertaining to the county that are in force when this charter takes effect, and not specifically or by implication repealed hereby, shall continue in full force and effect until amended or repealed, or rescinded by due course of law, or until they expire by their own limitation.
Section 2. Except as otherwise provided in this charter, all county agencies shall continue to perform their duties until re-elected, or until successors to their respective positions are duly appointed or elected and qualified, or until their duties have been transferred and assumed by another agency.
Section 3. All records, property and equipment whatsoever of any county agency, or part thereof, the powers and duties of which are herein assigned in whole or in part to another county agency, shall be transferred forthwith to such agency.
Section 4. All official bonds, recognizances, obligations, contracts and other instruments entered into or executed by or to the county before the adoption of this charter, and all taxes, assessments, fines, penalties, forfeitures, incurred or imposed, due or owing to the county, shall be enforced and collected, and all writs, prosecutions, actions and causes of action, except as herein otherwise provided, shall continue without abatement and remain unaffected by this charter; and no legal act done by or in favor of the county shall be rendered invalid by reason of the adoption of this charter. `tuc Article 8 Definitions
The following words shall have the following meanings, unless the context requires otherwise:
"Board", the board of commissioners.
"Charter", this home rule charter of the county of Franklin and any amendment to it which may hereafter be adopted.
"Commissioner", a member of the board of commissioners.
"Council", the county council.
"Councillor", a member of the county council.
"County", the county of Franklin.
"County commissioners", the board of commissioners.
"County department" or "county agency", any board, commission, committee, division or office of the county of Franklin.
"County official", when used without further qualifications or description, shall mean a person having charge of an office or department of the county who exercises some portion of the sovereign power of the county.
"Emergency", a sudden, unexpected, unforeseen happening, occurrence, or condition which necessitates immediate action.
"Measure", shall not imply the passage of any ordinance, bylaw or action which could be construed to impair or infringe on the powers and duties of cities and towns under the General Laws or special acts of the commonwealth.
"Resolution", a formal statement of opinion or determination adopted by the county council.
"Town", any municipality, regardless of how its form of municipal government may be constituted. `tuc Article 9 Amendment
Section 1. This charter may be amended as provided in section fourteen of chapter thirty-four A of the General Laws.
SECTION 4. This act shall take effect upon its passage.