SALEM — City Councilor Paul Prevey is working on an ordinance to ensure city board and committee members are replaced or reappointed as their terms expire.
Prevey, the Ward 6 councilor, broached the subject this spring because a majority of Salem boards and committees were operating with members whose terms had expired.
City councilors at a subcommittee meeting last night spoke mostly in favor of Prevey’s idea but voted to keep the issue in committee to iron out details.
Last night, Prevey said he’ll work with the city’s attorney to create a city ordinance to require board members be replaced or reappointed within a certain amount of time, possibly 90 days, as their term expires.
This will bring “more accountability and scrutiny to the entire system,” Prevey said. “... In the end, this would make our board system better, not weaker.”
In Salem, the mayor selects and recommends residents for appointment to non-elected boards and committees. The City Council votes to give final approval of each appointment.
The city has more than 30 boards, from the Bike Path Committee to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Prevey said appointed board members are staying one, two, even three years past their term’s expiration date. In essence, they’re serving a double term without having to come before the City Council for reappointment.
“This has gone on for years. It predates this (mayoral) administration,” he said.
Last night, members of the council’s subcommittee on ordinances, licenses and legal affairs asked City Solicitor Beth Rennard to look into what language exists already in city and state statutes about board members with expired terms.
Prevey said he’ll work with Rennard to draft an ordinance to submit to the subcommittee, as well as survey area cities to see what measures they take, if any, to ensure board members are reappointed.
The ordinance should be flexible, Prevey said, and allow for exceptions, such as when the council is on summer break and unable to vote to confirm board appointments.
Several councilors have noted that having expired board members making weighty decisions — such as with planning, zoning or other areas — could open the city up to legal trouble as well.
Prevey brought up the need for timely board reappointments at an April meeting of the City Council, and the issue was sent to the subcommittee on ordinances, licenses and legal affairs for discussion.
In response, Mayor Kim Driscoll has sent more than 60 board appointments and reappointments to the City Council for approval this spring.
In addition to Prevey, Councilors Michael Sosnowski, Todd Siegel, William Legault, Arthur Sargent, Thomas Furey and Josh Turiel attended last night’s discussion.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.