Lawyer agrees with mayor

Appointments to board dominate town government

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
Greenfield Mayor William Martin in his office in the town hall

Recorder/Peter MacDonald Greenfield Mayor William Martin in his office in the town hall

GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin had the right to withdraw the appointments of two men to alternate seats on the Planning Board last month, the town’s lawyer has concluded.

Gordon Quinn of the Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn law firm in Springfield said in a letter to Martin dated July 2 that he believes the town’s founding charter allows him to take the action he did.

On June 19, Town Council voted to accept the mayor’s appointment of both Wilson Roberts and George Touloumtzis to the alternate positions, even though Martin had withdrawn their names several days before the vote.

Since that time, Roberts has asked that he be sworn in anyway, saying he believes his appointment became official after the mayor sent him a letter and the council accepted his appointment.

Some councilors agreed with Roberts, but said they would wait for Quinn’s opinion.

Quinn said there is no provision in the charter that prohibits the mayor from doing what he did, because any appointment made by the mayor does not become effective for 35 days after it is presented to the council.

Also, according to the charter, the council may only reject an appointment, it cannot make one.

“Based on my understanding of the charter, I agree with the attorney,” said Martin Tuesday. “I will now review the vacancies on the Planning Board and other boards.”

Martin said he has already received a couple of inquiries about the vacancies.

Former Town Council President David Singer said that though he is not versed in municipal law, he thought after reading the charter that the opinion could have gone either way because of what it doesn’t say.

“The charter wants a strong mayor,” said Singer. “So, I believe the attorney is saying that if the charter is silent about what the mayor cannot do, it means he can do it.”

Singer said the charter does not say that the mayor cannot withdraw an appointment before the 35-day waiting period, so Quinn is saying the charter assumes he can.

Singer said it appears Quinn recognizes silence as power, rather than restriction. He said another lawyer might think just the opposite.

Some councilors, including newly elected Town Council President Mark Wisnewski, had said they might ask for a second opinion on the matter, which was discussed at this week’s council reorganization meeting.

Wisnewski could not be reached by press time for comment on whether he or other councilors will pursue another opinion and what would happen if that opinion were different than Quinn’s.

At the reorganization meeting this week, the council unanimously voted Wisnewski as president and Precinct 6 Councilor Hillary Hoffman as vice president. Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis did not attend the meeting.

Council’s Monday night discussion turns to appointments

It didn’t take long Monday for the council to unanimously vote Wisnewski as its president and Hoffman as its vice president. Then, the discussion turned to Wilson Roberts and George Touloumtzis, who the council wants on the Planning Board but the mayor no longer does.

By the end of the 15-minute discussion, Mayor William Martin was telling councilors that he has “directed” the town clerk not to swear in Roberts or Touloumtzis, and if she does, Martin said he would take disciplinary action for insubordination.

Precinct 7 Councilor Karen “Rudy” Renaud, who is a union organizer, said she will stand up for any town employee who is publicly or privately threatened by the mayor, or anyone else.

“It’s one thing for the mayor to lash out at the Town Council, but it’s a whole other thing for him to publicly threaten the town clerk,” said Renaud on Tuesday, the day after the meeting.

On June 19, the council voted to go forward with the confirmation of the Roberts and Touloumtzis nominations, even though the mayor had withdrawn their names earlier in the month.

Town Clerk Maureen Winseck is on vacation this week, so it is not clear when any of the mayor’s appointments and reappointments for this year will be sworn in.

Roberts recently asked councilors to request that Winseck swear him in.

Wisnewski said Tuesday that the town clerk is the employee of the council. Under Section 2-8 of the town’s charter, the council elects a town clerk to serve for a term of three years and until a successor is chosen.

“I thought the mayor’s comment about disciplinary action was unwarranted,” said Wisnewski. “I’m not sure he has the power to do what he says. Making the town clerk a pawn in the game is rather foolish.”

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