By. S.D. Plissken | September 20, 2018
Our Board of Selectmen (BOS) try so very hard to avoid dancing a pas-de-deux (a “step-of-two,” a ballet or part of a ballet, that features two dancers only) They seem to devote a considerable amount of their time trying to work this out.
Strictly speaking, whenever two of the three of them are together that constitutes a quorum and makes for an official BOS Meeting.
Most recently, Chairman Thibeault touted the Milton Historical Society in the BOS Meeting of Monday, August 20. Rightly so. (Just don’t buy them a new roof with public money).
Vice-chairwoman Hutchings would like to go too, but has difficulties:
Hutchings: Can I have a comment on that?
Hutchings: Only because Bonnie … Dutton? … calls me, every time you all have a meeting, and asks me to go to the meeting. Because I’m a member. But, because I never know if you’re going to be there and, since two of us can’t be in the same room without calling it a meeting, what can we do to …
Administrator Thibodeau: Tell me if you’re going and I’ll post a meeting.
Hutchings: But, see, sometimes I don’t know. It depends on if there’s a conflict with another meeting … I mean, what, there’s got to be a way to get around this, so that …
Thibodeau: I have to post a meeting.
Hutchings: Can we just have a standard posting? Do you go to all of their meetings?
Thibodeau: Now you’re going to …
Thibeault: Pretty much, if I can, and now that I’m one of …
Hutchings: So, can we just do a standard posting of it?
Thibeault: … the people that was elected Tuesday, I will be at almost every one.
Thibodeau. Yes, now you’re, what, vice-chair or something, or …
Hutchings: I mean it does make it difficult, with a three-member board, if I’m a member of the Historical Society and, now you’re the chairman or whatever, it does … you know, I mean, it makes it hard.
Thibeault: No, we can, … I mean, we can post it … I mean, … it’s a 91-A. We just need to be very cautious.
Hutchings: Right, can we post it?
Thibeault: We can’t make decisions about the town or talk about town business.
Thibodeau: Don’t talk about town …
Hutchings: And I get that, but can we just put a standard “blanket”? Does it have to be that we’re both going to be there? What can we do to circumvent?
Thibodeau: Well, you could say you’re not going to talk about the town.
Hutchings: Well, that goes without saying. I mean, it’s the Historical Society. It’s a total separate entity.
Thibodeau: And you’re not going to make any decisions. But, if you’re very cautious …
Thibeault: If we post it … when we’re going to go … just post it. E-mail Heather and have her post it, … just to be as transparent as we can. Again, it’s really not a meeting.
Hutchings: Right. Do we have a schedule of when you guys are meeting? Cause it seems …
Thibeault: I think it’s the second Tuesday. Or the first Tuesday, the first Tuesday of the Month.
Hutchings: The first Tuesday.
Thibeault: There’s probably going to be some adjustments.
They pretty much went around in a circle and arrived back at the start: posting every time they are in the same place as a meeting.
(By the way, Vice-chairwoman Hutchings, you might want to stay away from terms like “circumvent” and “get around” when you are talking about laws, even silly ones. Just a suggestion. It leaves a bad impression).
Consider the absurdity of it all. Hmm. We might even apply a logical reductio-ad-absurdum method or test to this process. Say two of the selectmen go to a pie contest or a parade or some other event. There are many people there, perhaps hundreds. The two selectman are standing together. Oh, well, that’s a meeting, definitely. Plain as the nose on your face.
How about if they move apart, say ten feet? Or different ends of the table? Well, they can still talk at ten feet. I guess the other people present there make it a more “public” meeting. We’re right here, we can hear you.
How about if they move further apart, say fifty or sixty feet? Or sit at different, widely-spaced tables. They could still shout something out, I suppose. Alright, let’s say they are on opposite ends of the crowd, hundreds of feet apart. They would have trouble communicating, even by shouting. Are they still in the same “meeting”? Obviously not, to think that would be absurd.
But if they moved closer together again? There’s a crowd there. How could we know they didn’t do that? Someone would have to watch them all the time. Or they would have to post it as a meeting.
How about if all the selectmen wore bodycams all the time instead? No, I suppose that’s a non-starter.
Is it time to expand the BOS to a five-member board? It might solve some of the smaller issues, like a Milton Historical Society meeting. The same problems would persist for larger public events. (Politicians tend to gravitate to large public events). The quorum number would just be bigger – three, rather than two. But a five-member board might have other advantages.
Lots of NH towns do have five-member boards instead of three-member boards. Even the residents of that other Milton – Milton, Massachusetts – discussed expanding their board last year (see References below). They mentioned better representation, spreading the workload, more heads being better than fewer heads, etc.
With five-member boards, two of them are a “subcommittee” instead of a “meeting.” And subcommittees could meet to hash out problems – you know, green eyeshade stuff – like reducing our tax burden.
Maybe a really efficient subcommittee could find and figure out how to return last year’s supposed $1.4 million tax overage? The full board seems unable to work that out. Not even in an unrecorded workshop meeting. They just dance away from it.
Milton [MA] Scene. (2017, April 23). Opinion: Five Member Board of Selectmen. Retrieved from www.miltonscene.com/2017/04/opinion-five-member-board-selectmen/
Town of Milton. (2018, September 20). BOS Meeting, August 20, 2018. Retrieved from youtube/LfPichonEYQ?t=4117
Town of Milton. (2018, September 16). Special Meeting – Town Event. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/bos_agendas_826_1598026346.pdf
Town of Milton. (2018, July 4). Special Meeting – Town Event. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/index_759_2301862641.pdf
Town of Milton. (2018, June 9). Special Meeting. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/index_759_2301862641.pdf
Town of Milton. (2018, May 28). Special Meeting. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/bos_agendas_810_2871105304.pdf
Town of Milton. (2018, April 21). Special Meeting. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/bos_agendas_800_1356514139.pdf
Wikipedia. (2017, August 7). Pas de Deux. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pas_de_deux