The Salem News
SALEM — SALEM — A majority of city boards and committees are operating with members whose terms have expired.
According to the city’s website, just two boards — the Bike Path Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission — have no members with expired terms.
It’s a practice that has been going on for years, said City Councilor Paul Prevey.
Prevey, the Ward 6 councilor, plans to introduce a city ordinance that would require board members be replaced or reappointed within a certain amount of time, possibly 90 days, as their term expires.
“I feel it would be better, all around, for the people who sit on boards and how our government operates,” said Prevey. “... We want to make sure we’re showing the attention that’s needed to the boards, and one of the ways we can do that is make sure their terms are up to date.”
Prevey brought the issue up at last week’s City Council meeting, and his colleagues voted to send it to the council’s committee on ordinances, licences and legal affairs for discussion. A meeting has yet to be scheduled.
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.
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.
“Once a term expires, the (mayoral) administration should submit a person for reconsideration, or a new person, ” Prevey said. “This is certainly not an attack on the current administration. This has happened with past administrations, too.”
Mayor Kim Driscoll could not be reached for comment Friday.
Timely reappointments would bring more accountability and keep boards from becoming stagnant, said Prevey.
And having members with expired terms making weighty decisions — such as with planning, zoning or other areas — could open the city up to legal trouble as well, Prevey said.
“We certainly wouldn’t want someone to file a legal challenge to a decision made by a board with members with expired terms,” he said. “We want to make sure that never even comes up as a question.”
Prevey said he plans to involve the city’s attorney in drafting the ordinance.
Prevey said he’s been thinking about this issue over the past year, but “sharpened” his focus after recent City Council discussions about the size of Salem’s Board of Health.
Reappointments to the Board of Health have been on hold because the board is seeking to decrease its size. Currently a seven-member board, the Board of Health is down to three members because of vacancies and resignations.
The City Council voted March 28 to ask Driscoll to make appointments so the Board of Health can reach its required quorum of four. After the council’s vote, an aide in Driscoll’s office told the Salem News the mayor plans to make appointments to the Board of Health soon, in order to get the board to a functioning level.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.