MOULTONBOROUGH — Some 50 residents have renewed the effort to oust Town Administrator Carter Terenzini, which failed in 2013, by placing a petitioned article on the warrant of Town Meeting to eliminate his position altogether.
Article 29 reads as follows: "to see if the town will vote to eliminate the position of town administrator and to transfer the duties of the position to the Board of Selectmen. For transition purposes only, this change shall take effect on May 1, 2015. Nothin contained herein shall authorize the Board of Selectmen to increase the salary of the town administrator, nor to provide severance payments and/or to amend the existing agreement (if any) with the incumbent town administrator."
In October 2013 approximately 200 residents signed a petition urging the selectmen not to renew Terenzini's contract, but the board, with one dissenting vote, chose not to terminate him. That maneuver, like the current warrant article, was motivated by Terenzini's role in initiating an effort to remove two members of the Planning Board — Josh Bartlett and Judy Ryerson — after the pair changed their votes, enabling the Planning Board to approve construction of an observation tower on Red Hill, which was built without the requisite permits. The selectmen said they were acting in response to complaints from "several" residents, whom they refused to identify, but when the proceedings opened, Terenzini revealed he was the lone complainant. After a public hearing the selectmen unanimously rejected a motion to dismiss Bartlett and to abandon proceedings against Ryerson.
This year Bartlett is among five candidates, including Kelley Marsh, John Anderson, Jean Beadle and Chuck Connell, bidding for two seats on the Board of Selectmen.
After reviewing the proposed warrant article, town counsel Peter Minkow advised the Selectboard that it would be only "advisory" since the authority to create and fill the position of town administrator rests with the selectmen, who alone can eliminate it.
However, Eric Taussig, one of the petitioners and himself an attorney, notes that the decision to create the position of town administrator was taken by a vote of Town Meeting in 1989 and concludes that if the town can create the position, it can also eliminate it. He concedes that there is no state statute authorizing the appointment of a town administrator, but refers to RSA 37, which refers to a town manager. RSA 37:11, he claims, specifies that the decision to hire a town manager must be authorized by the town meeting while RSA 37:13 requires a vote of town meeting to rescind the decision.
Minkow disagreed, countering that the original vote in 1989 to authorize a town administrator was also "advisory." Furthermore, he reminded Taussig that Terenzini has a contract. which must be either terminated or renewed prior to Town Meeting and that to the extent the terms of his contract are at odds with the language of the warrant article the contract would take precedence.
Last week Terenzini hosted "Talk of the Town", a monthly video posted on the town website and broadcast on cable television. His guest was Jerry Hopkins, the town moderator and the two reviewed the warrant, explaining the import of each article. But, when they reached Article 29 to eliminate the position of town administrator, neither read or explained the article. Instead, Hopkins noted that both the Board of Selectmen and the Board Committee recommended against the article then remarked "I'll just leave that as far as my curiosity goes to those who want to read it."