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The 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE ASHLAND HOME RULE CHARTER.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. The Ashland home rule charter, which is on file in the office of the archivist of the commonwealth, as provided in section 12 of chapter 43B of the General Laws, is hereby amended by striking out section 1-3 and inserting in place thereof the following section:

Section 1-3. Division of Powers.

All legislative powers of the town shall be exercised by a town meeting open to all voters. The administration of all town fiscal, prudential and municipal affairs shall be vested in the executive branch comprised of the board of selectmen and elected independent boards pursuant to their enabling legislation.

SECTION 2. The third sentence of section 2-5 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the words "give notice of all meetings to the public".

SECTION 3. The first paragraph of section 3-1 of said charter is hereby amended by inserting before the word "The" the following letter:- (a).

SECTION 4. Said section 3-1 of said charter is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-

(b) The elected bodies as referenced to in paragraph (a) by law, this charter, by-law, or vote of the town may appoint any temporary or ad hoc committees as in their judgment shall from time to time be necessary or desirable specifically for the purpose of assisting the elected bodies in the exercising and fulfillment of their powers and duties referred to in this charter.

SECTION 5. Section 3-2 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out paragraph (c) and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-

(c) Appointment Powers.

The board of selectmen shall appoint a town manager, town counsel, registrars of voters and other such officers, boards, commissions and committees as they shall hereafter be directed to appoint by law, this charter pursuant to section 9-2, by-law, or vote of the town, and such temporary or ad hoc committees as in their judgment shall from time to time be necessary or desirable.

SECTION 6. The first sentence of paragraph (e) of section 3-2 of said charter is hereby amended by inserting after the word "Selectmen" the following words:- unless otherwise provided by law or this charter.

SECTION 7. The first paragraph of section 3-4 of said charter is hereby amended by inserting before the word "At" the following letter:- (a).

SECTION 8. Said section 3-4 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out paragraph (b) and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-

(b) Powers, Duties and Appointments.

The town moderator shall make appointments pursuant to section 9-2 and have other powers and duties provided for that office by the constitution and the laws of the commonwealth, by this charter, by by-law, or by town meeting vote.

SECTION 9. The last sentence of paragraph (b) of section 3-5 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the word "other".

SECTION 10. The last sentence of paragraph (b) of section 3-9 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the word "other".

SECTION 11. Paragraph (a) of section 3-10 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the last sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- Four members shall be elected by the voters, and the fifth member shall be appointed by the executive office of communities and development of the commonwealth, or a successor agency.

SECTION 12. The second paragraph of section 4-2 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the words "twenty-four hours" and inserting in place thereof the following words:- 1 business day.

SECTION 13. Said second paragraph of said section 4-2 of said charter is hereby further amended by striking out the word "working" and inserting in place thereof the following word:- business.

SECTION 14. The first paragraph of section 4-3 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- If the petition shall be found and certified by the town clerk to be sufficient, the town clerk shall submit the same with such certificate to the selectmen within 5 business days, and the selectmen shall, within 5 business days, give written notice of the receipt of the certificate to the officer sought to be recalled and shall, if the officer does not resign within 5 business days thereafter, order an election to be held on a date fixed by them not more than 90 days after the date of the town clerk's certificate that a sufficient petition has been filed; provided, however, that if any other town election is to occur within 100 days after the date of the certificate the selectmen shall postpone the holding of the recall election to the date of such other election.

SECTION 15. The last sentence of section 4-5 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the word "five" and inserting in place thereof the following words:- 5 business.

SECTION 16. Section 5-1 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- The town manager shall be a person of proven administrative ability, especially qualified by education and training with at least 3 years previous experience in public administration as a city or town manager, a city or town administrator, an assistant city or town manager, or a position with substantially similar functions, and who has performed the functions required under this charter.

SECTION 17. The first sentence of section 5-2 of said charter is hereby amended by inserting after the word "Any" the following word:- permanent.

SECTION 18. The second sentence of said section 5-2 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the words "or the filling of any vacancy".

SECTION 19. Said charter is hereby further amended by striking out section 5-5 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 5-5. Powers of Appointment.

Except as otherwise provided by this charter pursuant to section 9-2, the town manager shall appoint, based upon merit and fitness alone, a police chief, a fire chief, a treasurer/collector, a town accountant, a town clerk and all other department heads, officers, subordinates and employees for whom no other method of selection is provided in this charter, except employees of the school department and persons serving under officers and boards elected directly by the voters of the town of Ashland.

Appointments proposed by the town manager shall become effective on the fifteenth day following the day on which notice of the proposed appointment is filed at a board of selectmen meeting, unless the board of selectmen shall within such period, by a majority vote of the board of selectmen, vote to reject such proposed appointment.

SECTION 20. Said charter is hereby further amended by striking out section 6-2 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 6-2. Personnel System.

Subject to the approval of the board of selectmen, the town manager shall adopt rules and regulations establishing a personnel system. The personnel system shall make use of modern concepts of personnel management and may include, but is not limited to, the following elements: a method of administration; personnel policies indicating the rights, obligations and benefits of employees; a classification plan; a compensation plan; a method of recruiting and selecting employees based on merit principles; a centralized record keeping system; disciplinary and grievance procedures; a professional development and training program and other elements that are deemed necessary. All town agencies and positions shall be subject to the rules and regulations adopted under this section, excluding employees of the school department and employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. The personnel rules and regulations shall not apply to the position of town manager.

The board of selectmen shall appoint a personnel advisory board, which shall serve in an advisory capacity to the town manager. At least 1 member of the personnel advisory board shall be a town employee who is not otherwise represented by a collective bargaining agreement.

SECTION 21. Said charter is hereby further amended by striking out section 7-1 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 7-1. Budget Process.

(a) Annually, prior to the first day of October, the town manager shall establish and issue a budget schedule which shall set forth the calendar dates relating to the development of the annual operating budget for the ensuing fiscal year.

(b) The schedule shall be in accordance with this charter, as set forth below, unless deviation therefrom is recommended by the town manager and approved by votes of the board of selectmen and the finance committee.

(c) Annually, prior to the first day of January, the finance committee, after consultation with the board of selectmen, the school committee, and the town manager, shall issue a policy statement that shall establish the general guidelines for the next town budget.

(d) Upon receipt of any additional specific data provided by the commonwealth or any other source, the officials, as listed in paragraph (c), shall within 10 business days, revise, update and submit the data forthwith to the town manager who, in turn, will submit said information forthwith to the board of selectmen and finance committee.

(e) All department heads, boards and committees, including the school committee, shall submit detailed budgets to the town manager at least 120 days before the date of the spring annual town meeting.

(f) At least 90 days prior to the scheduled date of the spring annual town meeting, the town manager shall submit to the board of selectmen and the finance committee a comprehensive draft budget for all town functions for the ensuing fiscal year and an accompanying budget message.

(g) The draft budget message shall explain the draft budget in fiscal terms and in terms of what specific projects are contemplated in the fiscal year ahead. It shall also include:

(i) an outline of the proposed financial policies of the town for the ensuing fiscal year;

(ii) a description of the important features of the budget;

(iii) an indication of any major changes from the current fiscal year in financial policy, expenditures and revenues, together with the reasons for such changes;

(iv) a summary of the town's debt position;

(v) a report showing all revenues received by the town in the 2 preceding fiscal years, together with an estimate from all sources of revenues exclusive of taxes upon property in the ensuing fiscal year, probable amount required to be levied and raised by taxation to defray all expenses and liabilities of the town, and an estimate of the tax rate necessary to raise said amount;

(vi) for each enterprise fund, submit an estimated budget including revenue, expenses and general subsidies together with projected rates;

(vii) include other such material as the town manager may deem appropriate.

(h) The draft budget shall provide a complete financial plan for all town funds and activities and shall be in such form as the town manager, in consultation with the finance committee, may establish. The draft budget shall indicate proposed expenditures for current operations and for capital projects and expenditures during the ensuing fiscal year, detailed by each town agency and by specific purposes and projects.

(i) The board of selectmen shall, at least 60 days prior to the scheduled date of the spring annual town meeting, adopt a proposed budget with or without amendments and shall submit it to the finance committee.

(j) In addition to any notice required by the laws of the commonwealth, the board of selectmen shall cause the spring report and recommendations of the finance committee to be made available to all voters, at least 7 days prior to the spring annual town meeting.

SECTION 22. Section 7-2 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the fourth sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- The finance committee shall file a proposed budget and report of its recommendations for action 14 days prior to the scheduled date of the spring annual town meeting.

SECTION 23. Section 7-4 of said charter is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-

Notwithstanding the preceding paragraph, the town manager shall have the authority to designate, in writing filed with the town clerk and the board of selectmen, an individual who, in the town manager's absence, shall have the authority to approve the warrants which shall be sufficient to authorize payment by the town.

SECTION 24. Said charter is hereby further amended by striking out sections 8-2, 8-3 and 8-4 and inserting in place thereof the following 7 sections:-

Section 8-2. Periodic Charter Review.

Commencing in the year 2005 and at least every 5 years thereafter, a special charter review committee shall be appointed by the board of selectmen for the purpose of reviewing the provisions of the charter and to make a report concerning any proposed amendments or revisions which such committee deems necessary.

Section 8-3. (a) Notification of Resignation of Office.

Any person holding an appointive or elected office may resign that office by filing a notice of resignation with the town clerk.

(b) Notification of Appointed Vacancy to Appointing Authority.

In the event of a vacancy on a board, commission or committee, the town clerk, upon notification of such vacancy, shall, within 10 days of notification of such vacancy, notify in writing the designated appointing authority of the vacancy.

Section 8-4. Failure to Fill Appointed Vacancies - town boards, commissions or committees.

(a) Should the appointing authority fail to fill a vacancy on a board, commission or committee within 45 days of having been notified in writing by the town clerk of said vacancy, the board of selectmen shall then become the appointing authority and shall make such appointment within 45 days thereafter.

(b) In the event that the board of selectmen fails to make such appointment within 45 days, then the board of selectmen shall within 10 days after the expiration of the 45 day appointment period, file in writing with the town clerk its reason for such failure to make such appointment.

(c) Upon the failure of the board of selectmen to appoint within 45 days as set forth in paragraph (a), the majority of remaining members of the board, commission or committee shall then become the appointing authority and shall make such appointment within 45 days thereafter.

Section 8-5. Loss of Office, Excessive Absenteeism.

If any person appointed as member of a board, commission or committee shall fail to attend 4 or more consecutive meetings, or ? or more of all the meetings of such body held over a 12 consecutive month period, the remaining members of the board, commission or committee may, by majority vote of the remaining members of such body, declare the office vacant; provided, however, that not less than 10 days prior to the date of said vote is scheduled to be taken, the body has given in hand or mailed by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, notice of such proposed or pending vote to the last known address of such person.

Upon the occurrence of a vacancy pursuant to this section, the board, commission or committee shall notify the town clerk, in writing, of said vacancy in accordance with paragraph (b) of section 8-3.

Section 8-6. Severability.

The provisions of this charter are severable. If any of the provisions of this charter are held to be unconstitutional, or invalid, the remaining provisions of this charter shall not be affected thereby. If the application of this charter, or any of its provisions, to any person or circumstances is held to be invalid the application of said charter and its provisions to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

Section 8-7. Rules of Interpretation.

The following rules shall apply when interpreting the charter:

(a) Specific provisions to prevail.

To the extent that any specific provision of the charter shall conflict with any provision expressed in general terms, the specific provision shall prevail.

(b) Number and gender.

Words imparting the singular number may extend and be applied to several persons or things; words imparting the plural number may include the singular; words imparting the masculine gender shall include the feminine gender.

(c) References to General Laws.

All references to the General Laws or any other general or special law contained in the charter refer to the General Laws and are intended to include any amendments or revisions to such chapters and sections or to the corresponding chapters and sections of any rearrangement of the General Laws enacted subsequent to the adoption of the charter.

(d) Computation of time.

In computing time under the charter, if 7 days or less, only business days, not including Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays shall be counted; if more than 7 days, every day shall be counted, except if the last day counted in a computation falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the last day of the computation shall be extended to the next business day thereafter.

Section 8-8. Definitions.

Unless another meaning is clearly apparent from the manner in which the word is used, the following words as used in the charter shall have the following meanings:-

(a) "Charter", shall mean this charter and any amendments to it made through any methods provided under Article LXXXIX of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth.

(b) "Town", shall mean the town of Ashland.

(c) "Voters", shall mean registered voters of the town.

(d) "Majority Vote", shall mean a majority of those present and voting, provided a quorum is present when a vote is taken, unless a higher number is required by law, this charter, or by its own rules.

(e) "Town agency or agency", shall mean any board, commission, committee, department or office of town government, whether elected, appointed or otherwise constituted.

(f) "Business day", shall mean any day in which the town offices are open to conduct business.

SECTION 25. Part IX of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the title "Transitional Provisions" and inserting in place thereof the following title:- Miscellaneous Provisions.

SECTION 26. Section 9-1 of said charter is hereby amended by striking out the first paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-

All by-laws, resolutions, rules, regulations and votes of town meeting which are in force at the time this charter is amended, not inconsistent with the provisions of this charter, shall continue in force until further amended or repealed.

SECTION 27. Said charter is hereby further amended by striking out section 9-2 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 9-2. Appointments.

Until such time as a different form of organization is provided in accordance with the procedures made available in section 6-1, the following organization shall be in effect in the town of Ashland:

The board of selectmen shall appoint the town manager, town counsel, zoning board of appeals, conservation commission, historical commission, council on aging, youth advisory board, town forest committee, economic development committee, registrars of voters, representative to the metropolitan area planning council, representative to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, personnel advisory board, post audit committee, charter review committee, and municipal improvement committee.

The town moderator shall appoint the finance committee.

The town manager shall appoint the assistant town manager, town accountant, town treasurer/collector, town clerk, police chief, fire chief, town constables, inspector of buildings, inspector of wires, inspector of plumbing, veterans' agent, sealer of weights and measures, director of public services, emergency management coordinator, and all other officers and employees for which no other method of selection is provided by this charter.

SECTION 28. Part X of said charter is hereby amended by adding the following 4 sections under the title Historical Provisions.

Section 10-1. Existing Officials and Employees.

Any person holding a town office or employment under the town shall retain such office or employment and shall continue to perform the duties of the office until provisions shall have been made in accordance with this charter for the performance of the duties by another person or agency. No person in the permanent full-time service or employment of the town shall forfeit pay grade or time in service. Each such person shall be retained in a capacity as similar to the person's former capacity as is practical.

Section 10-2. Continuation of Government.

All town officers, boards, commissions or agencies shall continue to perform their duties until reappointed, or reelected, or until successors to their respective positions are fully appointed or elected or until their duties have been transferred and assumed by another town office, board, commission or agency.

Section 10-3. Transfer of Records and Property.

All records, property and equipment whatsoever of any office, board, commission, committee or agency or part thereof, the powers and duties of which are assigned in whole or in part to another town office, board, commission or agency shall be transferred forthwith to such office, board, commission or agency.

Section 10-4. Time of Taking Effect.

This charter shall become fully effective upon ratification by the voters, except as otherwise provided in this section:

(a) Forthwith following the election at which the charter is adopted the chairman of the board of selectmen shall initiate proceedings to establish a town manager screening committee. The town manager screening committee shall be composed of 5 members, 2 of whom shall be members of the board of selectmen, 1 of whom shall be the town moderator and 2 of whom shall be citizens at large appointed by the board of selectmen. The committee shall undertake a wide search, shall review all applications received and shall conduct such interviews as deemed desirable or necessary. The screening committee shall employ a personnel consultant to assist in the recruitment and selection of the first town manager. The screening committee shall submit to the board of selectmen the names of such a number of candidates that the committee deems best suited to perform the duties of the town manager. The intention and purpose of this screening committee is to assist the board of selectmen in the recruitment and selection of the town manager but nothing in this section shall limit the right of the board of selectmen to appoint the town manager.

(b) Upon the appointment of the town manager the position of executive administrator shall be abolished; provided, however, that the executive administrator shall continue to receive a salary for a period of 90 days to assist the town in the transition. It is the intention of this charter that the incumbent executive administrator shall not automatically continue in office under the designation of town manager. The incumbent executive administrator may be a candidate for the office of town manager, if qualified.

(c) The incumbent in the office of treasurer shall continue to serve until June 30, 1989 or if a vacancy in the office shall sooner occur, the term of office of the treasurer shall be terminated and the office of treasurer shall be appointed in the manner provided by section 5-5.

(d) The incumbent in the office of town clerk shall continue to serve for the balance of the term for which the town clerk was elected. Upon the expiration of the term of office of the town clerk, or if a vacancy shall sooner occur, the office shall be appointed in the manner provided by section 5-5.

(e) The incumbent in the office of highway surveyor shall continue to serve for the balance of the term for which the highway surveyor was elected. Upon the expiration of the term of office of the highway surveyor, or if a vacancy shall sooner occur, the office of highway surveyor shall be appointed by the town manager, until such other form of organization is provided for in accordance with section 6-1.

(f) The incumbents serving as members of the cemetery, park and tree commission and the water and sewer commission shall continue to serve for the balance of the terms for which they were elected. Upon the expiration of the terms of office of members of the cemetery, park and tree commission and the water and sewer commission the offices shall be appointed by the board of selectmen until such other form of organization is provided for in accordance with section 6-1.

(g) Upon the appointment of a town manager, the personnel board shall be abolished and the town manager shall succeed to all the powers previously exercised by the personnel board.

(h) At the annual town election held in the year following the year in which this charter is adopted, the board of trustees of the public library shall be reduced in size from 6 members to 5 members as provided in section 3-8. The offices of the 2 members of the board of trustees of the public library, whose term of office expire in the year following the year in which this charter is adopted, shall be consolidated into 1 office, elected for a 3 year term.

(i) Until such time as provided otherwise by by-law, beginning in the year following the year in which this charter is adopted, the annual town meeting shall be called for the third Wednesday in March, annually, and the annual town election for the election of town officers and for the determination of all other matters to be decided by ballot of the voters shall be held on the third Tuesday in April of each year.

(j) At the next annual town meeting following the adoption of this charter, the town moderator shall appoint a committee of 5 members to review town by-laws and report back to the town meeting with recommendations to bring by-laws in conformity with the provisions of the charter.

SECTION 29. This act shall be submitted to the voters of the town of Ashland at the next annual or special town election in the form of the following question which shall be placed on the official ballot to be used at the election:-

"Shall an act passed by the general court in the year 2002, entitled 'An Act Relative to the Ashland Home Rule Charter', be accepted?"

If a majority of the votes cast in answer to such question is in the affirmative, this act shall thereupon take effect, but not otherwise.

Approved March 8, 2002.