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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE TOWN OF READING 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.  Article 2 of the town of Reading home rule charter, as amended by article 7 of the January 5, 2015 special town meeting, is hereby amended by striking out section 2.1 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     2.1 Composition
     The legislative body of the town shall be a representative town meeting consisting of 192 members from 8 precincts who shall be elected by the voters in each precinct. Each precinct shall be equally represented in town meetings by members elected so that the term of office of 1/3 of the members shall expire each year.
     SECTION 2.  Said article 2 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 2.2 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     2.2 Revision of Precincts
     When required by law or every 10 years, the board of selectmen shall review and, if necessary, re-divide the territory of the town into 8 plainly designated precincts. The precincts shall be divided into as nearly an equal number of inhabitants as possible. The territory of each precinct shall be contiguous and as compact as possible. The territory of each precinct shall be defined, where reasonably possible, by the centerline of known streets or other well-defined limits. Within 10 days of completing its review, the board of selectmen shall file a report with the town clerk and the board of registrars of voters, showing any revisions to the precincts that are being made pursuant to this section. If revisions are being made, the report shall include a map showing the boundaries of each precinct and a list of its inhabitants' names and addresses.
     The board of selectmen shall also post the map and list in the town hall and in at least 1 public place in each precinct. Any such precinct revision shall be effective on the date it is filed with the town clerk. The town clerk shall forthwith notify the secretary of state of the revision in writing.
     SECTION 3.  Said article 2 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 2.3 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     2.3 Town Meeting Membership
     At the first town-wide election after any precincts are revised, the voters of each precinct shall elect 24 town meeting members to represent the precinct. Terms of office shall be determined by the number of votes received. The 8 candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall serve for a term of 3 years, the 8 receiving the next highest number of votes shall serve for a term of 2 years, and 8 candidates receiving the next highest number of votes shall serve for a term of 1 year from the day of election. Upon the certification of such election, the term of office of all previously elected town meeting members shall cease.
     At each annual election thereafter, the voters in each precinct shall elect 8 town meeting members to represent the precinct for a term of 3 years and shall also elect town meeting members to fill any vacant unexpired terms. After each election of town meeting members, the town clerk shall notify each town meeting member of that member’s election in writing. In the event of a tie vote, resulting in a failure to elect the full number of town meeting members in any precinct, the vacancy created thereby shall be filled until the next annual town election by a vote of the remaining town meeting members of the precinct; provided, however, that the balance of any unexpired term shall be filled at the next annual town election. In the event of such a vacancy, the town clerk shall give written notice of the tie vote and the vacancy created thereby, to the remaining town meeting members of that precinct and shall publish such notice in the local news medium. Such notice shall provide at least 7 day’s advance notification of the time and place for a precinct meeting for the purpose of filling the vacancy.
     SECTION 4.  Said article 2 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 2.5 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     2.5 Nomination Procedures
     Nomination of candidates for town meeting member shall be made by nomination papers bearing no political designation and signed by not fewer than 10 voters from the candidate's precinct. Nomination papers shall be obtained in person and signed by the candidate in the presence of the town clerk or a designee. Completed nomination papers shall be filed with the town clerk at least 35 days before the election.
     SECTION 5.  Said article 2 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 2.6 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     2.6 Vacancies
     A town meeting member may resign by filing a written notice with the town clerk. A town meeting member who terminates residency in the town shall cease to be a town meeting member. A town meeting member who moves a residence from the precinct from which that member was elected to another precinct shall serve only until the next annual town election. If any person elected as a town meeting member fails to attend 1/2 or more of the total town meeting sessions within 1 year preceding the most recent annual town election, that member’s seat may be declared vacant by a majority vote of the town meeting. The board of selectmen shall place an Article on the annual town meeting warrant to remove any such town meeting member from office. At least 7 days prior to the annual town meeting, the town clerk shall notify any such town meeting member that the member may be removed from office; provided, however, that such notice shall be deemed adequate if mailed postage prepaid to the town meeting member’s last known address. Any vacancy in a town meeting position may be filled until the next annual town election by a vote of the remaining town meeting members of the precinct; provided, however, that the balance of any unexpired term shall be filled at the next annual town election. In the event of a vacancy, the town clerk shall give written notice thereof to the remaining town meeting members of the precinct and shall publish such notice in a local news medium. Such notice shall provide at least 7 day’s advance notification of the time and place for a precinct meeting for the purpose of temporarily filling the vacancy.
     SECTION 6.  Article 3 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 3.2 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     3.2 Board of Selectmen
     There shall be a board of selectmen consisting of 5 members elected for  3-year terms so arranged that as nearly an equal number of terms as possible shall expire each year. The executive powers of the town shall be vested in the board of selectmen. The board of selectmen shall have all of the powers and duties granted to boards of selectmen by the constitution and General Laws of Massachusetts and such additional powers and duties as may be provided by the charter, by town by-law or by town meeting vote. The board of selectmen shall cause the laws and orders for the government of the town to be enforced and shall cause a record of all its official acts to be kept. The board of selectmen shall appoint a town manager, a town counsel, a town accountant, not more than 5 constables and any other appointed board or committee member for whom no other method of selection is provided by the charter or by town by-law. The board of selectmen or its designee shall be the licensing board of the town and shall have the power to issue licenses, to make all necessary rules and regulations regarding the issuance of such licenses, to attach such conditions and restrictions thereto as it deems to be in the public interest and to enforce the laws relating to all businesses for which it issues licenses.
     SECTION 7.  Article 5 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 5.1 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     5.1 Appointment, Qualifications and Term
     The board of selectmen shall appoint a town manager, who shall be appointed solely on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications. The town manager shall be a professionally qualified person of proven ability, especially fitted by education, training and previous experience. He shall have had at least 5 years of full-time paid experience as a city or town manager or assistant city or town manager or the equivalent level public or private sector experience.
     The terms of the town manager's employment shall be the subject of a written contract, for a term not to exceed 3 years, setting forth the town manager’s tenure, compensation, vacation, sick leave, benefits and such other matters as are customarily included in an employment contract. The town manager’s employment contract shall be in accordance with and subject to the charter and shall prevail over any conflicting provision of any personnel by-law, rule or regulation. The town manager’s compensation shall not exceed the amount annually appropriated for that purpose.
     The town manager shall devote full-time to the office and, except as expressly authorized by the board of selectmen, shall not engage in any other business or occupation. Except as expressly provided in the charter, the town manager shall not hold any other public elective or appointive office in the town; provided, however, that, with the approval of the board of selectmen, the town manager may serve as the town’s representative to regional boards, commissions or similar entities, but shall not receive any additional salary from the town for such services. Upon the termination of the town manager's appointment, whether voluntary or otherwise, the town manager may receive termination pay as determined by the board of selectmen, not to exceed 12 months’ salary in total. To be eligible for this benefit upon voluntary termination, the town manager shall provide the board of selectmen a minimum of 60 days written notice of the intent to leave. This benefit shall not be available if the town manager is terminated for cause.
     SECTION 8.  Said article 5 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 5.4 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     5.4 Acting Town Manager
     5.4.1 Temporary Absence - By letter filed with the town clerk and the board of selectmen, the town manager shall designate a qualified individual to serve as acting town manager during any anticipated temporary absence, not to exceed 30 days.
     5.4.2 Long-Term Absence - In the event of the absence, incapacity or illness of the town manager in excess of 30 days, the board of selectmen shall appoint a qualified individual to serve as acting town manager until the town manager returns.
     5.4.3 Vacancy - When the office of town manager is vacant or the town manager is under suspension, as provided in section 5.5, the board of selectmen shall appoint a qualified individual to serve as acting town manager under terms of employment to be determined by the board of selectmen. In the event of vacancy, the board of selectmen shall initiate recruitment for a new town manager without delay and shall appoint a new town manager within 180 days.
     5.4.4 Powers – Except as authorized by a 4/5 vote of the board of selectmen, the powers of an acting town manager shall be limited to routine matters requiring immediate action and to making emergency temporary appointments to any town office or employment within the scope of the town manager's responsibilities.
     SECTION 9.  Article 8 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 8.11 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     8.9 Elections
     8.9.1 Annual Town Elections - The choice of elected town officers and town meeting members, as well as referendum questions, shall be acted upon and determined on the date fixed by town by-law by voters on official ballots without party or other designation.
     8.9.2 Procedures - All elections held pursuant to the charter shall be conducted in accordance with the election laws of the commonwealth.
     8.9.3 Town-wide election shall be held at the same time for each precinct at a place designated by the board of selectmen.
     SECTION 10.  Said article 8 of said charter, as so amended, is hereby further amended by striking out section 8.13  and inserting in  place thereof the following section:-
     8.11 Recall Procedures
     8.11.1 Application - A holder of an elective office, other than a town meeting member, with more than 6 months remaining in the term for which the official was elected, may be recalled therefrom by the voters in the manner provided in this section. No recall petition shall be filed against a town officer within 3 months after the town officer takes office.
     8.11.2 Recall Petition - Two-hundred and fifty or more voters, including at least 25 voters from each of the precincts into which the town is divided, may file with the town clerk an affidavit containing the name of the town officer whose recall is sought and a sworn statement of the grounds upon which the affidavit is based. The town clerk shall, within 24 hours of receipt, submit the affidavit to the board of registrars of voters who shall forthwith certify thereon the number of signatures that are names of voters. A copy of the affidavit shall be entered in a record book to be kept in the office of the town clerk.
     If the affidavit contains sufficient signatures, the town clerk shall deliver to the first 10 voters listed upon the affidavit, blank petition forms, in such number as requested, demanding such recall, with the town clerk’s signature and official seal attached thereto. The blank petition forms shall be dated and addressed to the board of selectmen; shall contain the names of all persons to whom the forms are issued, the name of the person whose recall is sought and the grounds for recall as stated in the affidavit; and shall demand the election of a successor to the office held by such person.      The recall petitions shall be returned and filed with the town clerk within 21 days following the date of the filing of the affidavit, signed by at least 10 per cent of the voters and containing the voters’ names and addresses; provided, however, that not more than 25 per cent of the total number of signatures may be from voters registered in any 1 precinct.
     8.11.3 Recall Election - If the petition is certified by the board of registrars of voters to be sufficient, the board of registrars of voters shall submit the petition with its certificate to the board of selectmen. Upon its receipt of the certificate, the board of selectmen shall give written notice of the petition and certificate to the town officer whose recall is sought, by mail, postage prepaid, to the town officer’s address as shown on the most recent voting list and shall cause notice of the petition and certificate to be publicly available. If such town officer does not resign from office within 5 days after the date of such notice, the board of selectmen shall order an election to be held not less than 64 days or not more than 90 days from the date the board of selectmen orders the election; provided, however, that if any other town election is to occur not less than 70 days or not more than 90 days after the date of the certificate, the board of selectmen shall hold the recall election on the date of such other election. If a vacancy occurs in the office after a recall election has been ordered, the election shall nevertheless proceed as provided in this section and the ballots for candidates shall, notwithstanding a recall provision to the contrary, be counted to determine a successor in office.
     8.11.4 Nomination of Candidates - No town officer whose recall is sought may be a candidate to succeed in that office in the recall election. The nomination of candidates, the publication of the warrant for the recall election and the conduct of the election shall all be in accordance with the law relating to elections.
     8.11.5 Propositions on Ballot - Ballots used in a recall election shall state the following propositions in the order indicated:
     For the recall of (name of town officer)
     Against the recall of (name of town officer)
     Adjacent to each proposition, there shall be a place to vote for either of the propositions.
     After the proposition shall appear the word "candidates" and the names of candidates nominated pursuant to section 42 of chapter 54 of the General Laws. If a majority of the votes cast upon the question of recall is in the affirmative, the candidate receiving the highest number of votes shall be declared elected and the incumbent shall be deemed removed upon the qualification of a successor, who shall hold office during the unexpired term; provided, however, that, if the successor fails to qualify within 5 days after receiving notification of the election, the incumbent shall thereupon be deemed removed and the office shall be deemed vacant. If a majority of votes cast upon the question of recall is in the negative, no candidate shall be declared elected and the town officer whose recall was sought shall continue in office for the remainder of the unexpired term, subject to recall as before.
     8.11.6 Repeat of Recall Petition - No recall petition shall be filed against a town officer subjected to a recall election and not recalled thereby, until at least 6 months after the election at which the recall was submitted to the voters.
     SECTION 11.  The Reading town clerk may make non-substantive changes to the numbering of the sections of the town of Reading home rule charter.
     SECTION 12.  This act shall take effect as of the date of the certification of the April 7, 2015 election results in the town of Reading

Approved, April 24, 2015