, Salem, MA

May 18, 2013

City Council sits on appointments to Board of Health

Salem: Board reappointments stall in committee

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — Six weeks after city councilors urged the mayor to keep up with reappointments to city boards and committees, the council has stalled four of Mayor Kim Driscoll’s suggested reappointments in committee.

Councilors voted on nearly 60 board reappointments on April 11, but held four and sent them to committee: Board of Health members Martin Fair, Barbara Poremba and Gayle Sullivan and Planning Board member Randy Clarke.

Councilors did not say why they wouldn’t support the four reappointments on April 11.

No action has been taken since then. When asked this week, Council President Jerry Ryan said he plans to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue soon, perhaps by the end of May.

Ryan said other issues, such as the city’s new CPA committee, have taken precedence at recent meetings.

Clarke, Poremba, Sullivan and Fair continue to serve on their respective boards, waiting to hear if they’ll be reappointed or replaced.

On March 28, the City Council voted to ask Driscoll to appoint members to the Board of Health. The following week, Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey complained that a majority of city boards and committees were operating with members whose terms had expired.

In response, Driscoll sent 59 reappointments and two new appointments to the City Council on April 11. All but four were approved.

Prevey asked the council to hold off on voting to reappoint Clarke to the Planning Board. Prevey said he could not support Clarke’s reappointment, but did not say why and asked to discuss the matter behind closed doors. He could not be reached for comment for this article.

This week, Ryan said he’d prefer to consider both Clarke and the three Board of Health reappointments all together in one open session, and planned to discuss the issue with Prevey.

Under Massachusetts law, public boards can meet behind closed doors for just a handful of reasons, such as contract negotiations, discussion of strategy for lawsuits or to investigate charges of criminal misconduct.

Councilor Todd Siegel made the motion to send the reappointments of the three Board of Health members to committee. When contacted by The Salem News this week, he would not say why, but said the issue will be “addressed in the council chambers.”

Councilor Thomas Furey was the lone vote in opposition to sending the Board of Health reappointments to committee.

Board of Health members have come before the City Council several times over the past year to speak in favor of reducing the board’s size from seven to three members. The Board of Health is currently meeting with four members: Poremba, Sullivan, Fair and Danielle Ledoux, a pediatric ophthalmologist who was appointed this spring. Traditionally, members whose terms have expired can continue to serve until they are reappointed or replaced.

The board’s four members — its minimum quorum — met this week and re-elected Poremba as chairwoman.

The Board of Health voted April 8 to send the City Council a petition seeking to decrease their size to three members. Furey, the board’s council liaison, submitted the Board of Health’s petition to the council on April 25; it was sent to committee and has yet to be discussed.

Driscoll does not plan on appointing any more people to the Board of Health until the issue of its size is resolved.

“At this point, the mayor has no immediate plans to make additional appointments until the City Council makes clear their decision on the final and appropriate size of the board,” Driscoll’s aide, Dominick Pangallo, said.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.