Articles From Past MMA Newsletters

Browse the archive of Massachusetts Moderators Association Newsletters

September 2011
>Annual Meeting Friday October 21
>Large Town Meetings
>What Would You Do?
>Website Highlights
June 2011
>Appeal of Moderator’s Rulings
>What Would You Do?
>Welcome New Moderators
>Electronic Voting at Town Meeting
>Newsletter Delivery
>Links to Information
February 2011
>President Pledges Support for Association’s Initiatives, Asks for Member Involvement
>A Curriculum For Civics In Our Classrooms
>What Would You Do?
>What You Should Know About the Gavel Line
>Members-Only Pages Added to Website
>Use the Directory
>Future Website Enhancements
September 2010
>2010 Annual Meeting at Old Sturbridge Village
>Call for Material for the Association Archives
>What Would You Do?
>Into the Twenty-First Century
>Gavel Line
September 2009
>2009 Annual Meeting Friday October 30 in Worcester
>What Would You Do?
>Invite New Moderators to Annual Meeting
>Town Meeting Documents Needed for Archives
>Edward E. Newman, Jr.
>Bylaw Amendment Proposed
June 2009
>New Town Meeting DVD Released
>What Would You Do?
>Record Membership
>Who Wants to Come to Town Meeting?
>Welcome New Moderators
February 2009
>President Invites Members to Support Moderators and Town Meeting
>What Would You Do?
>MGL Amendments May Affect Town Meeting
September 2008
>2008 Annual Meeting Friday October 17 in Boylston
>Warrant Style and TM Practice
>What Would You Have Done?
>A Tale of Two Town Meetings
>Invite a New Moderator to Annual Meeting
June 2008
>What Would You Have Done?
>Municipal Law Unit
>Special Municipal Employee
>Why This Disclosure Notice?
>Are You Guilty of Conflict of Interest?
February 2008
>President Outlines Focus of Association’s Efforts
>What Would You Have Done?
>Special Municipal Employee
September 2007
>Annual Meeting Friday November 16
>What Would You Have Done?
>Bylaw Amendment Proposed
>Invite a New Moderator to Annual Meeting

Annual Meeting Friday October 21
   The 2011 Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Moderators Association will be held on Friday, October 21, in Worcester at the Hogan Center on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross. The day of workshops and informal discussion sessions provides an opportunity to join with other moderators to share information and learn techniques to improve town meetings.
   Included with this newsletter is the registration form with a return date by October 14. We hope the nominal registration fee necessary to assist in defraying costs will not deter you from attending.
Morning Sessions
For New Moderators (first elected in 2010 or 2011)
   The New Moderators Workshop, led by 1st Vice-president Edward (Sandy) Gadsby (Brookline), will provide a detailed discussion of parliamentary fundamentals and issues faced by newly elected moderators. Presentations by members of our Technical Assistance Committee will focus the discussions.
For Seasoned Moderators
   Second Vice-president Robert (Bob) Saquet (Mansfield) will host a discussion of specialized topics selected from our own Gavel Line exchanges. This meeting for seasoned moderators will occur at the same time as the New Moderators Workshop.
   A buffet lunch will be available, by reservation. Participants in the New Moderators Workshop will be provided complimentary lunches as part of their program.
Afternoon Sessions
Electronic Voting
   C. Peter Gossels, (former Wayland) will provide an overview of the history-making town meeting held this spring in Wayland. It is believed to be the first time a town meeting (specifically, a legislative body comprised of all registered voters who show up at the meeting without any advance requirement to advise of intended participation) has used electronic voting to enact legislation.
Free-Fire Zones
   This year’s popular forums will be held in two concurrent sessions for Open Town Meetings and Representative Town Meetings.
White Paper: Promoting Town Meeting
   Discussion will be held on the recommendations from the White Paper Committee following an almost-three-year study of the best ways the Association can promote the town meeting form of government in the face of changing times. Everyone is encouraged to read beforehand the committee’s recommendations which will be made available to the membership prior to the annual meeting.
Annual Business Meeting
   As part of our annual meeting, our officers and committees will make brief reports, and we will conduct the election of officers and directors for 2011.
Cocktails and Dinner follow.
   For guests who may wish to spend part of the day away from the meeting, the Cantor Art Gallery on campus is recommended. (See <>.)
—President Deborah Medders (Tisbury)
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Large Town Meetings
   When town meetings for the purpose of establishing laws to regulate behavior and practices and to appropriate funds for the common welfare emerged in New England, it can be argued that the people wanted to obtain just the right amount of benefits from local government and they wanted to be taxed as little as possible.
   They seemed inclined to adopt a do-it-yourself approach. Those people in each town most directly affected by decisions made by town meeting—that is, male property owners—gathered to debate what actions ought to be undertaken, decided by majority vote on exactly what to do, and appropriated the funds necessary.
   Most considered it an obligation to participate in town meeting. (In some towns, those less inclined to make the effort were fined for being absent.)
   Today, the tradition to gather at town meeting to debate and to decide is very much alive in New England towns. But, some things are remarkably different. Population and eligible participants are vastly increased. However, no longer do people consider themselves obligated to attend.
   The result is that most of the business of town meeting that is similar one year to the next is handled by a small percentage of voters who seem to enjoy their role in town government and who consider themselves, when gathered in town meeting, as representative of the varied opinions of all the voters.
   Nevertheless, at times, some significant issues engage the attention of many voters in town who are motivated anew to gather at town meeting to debate and to decide the action to be taken on these issues.
   For want of a better word, the term “large town meeting” is used in this article to describe a town meeting that involves a significantly larger number of voters than usual. Often, the usual meeting location cannot accommodate all the people who want to attend, and additional locations must be used. In addition, a large town meeting usually includes many voters who are first-time attendees, unfamiliar with how their town’s business is conducted at town meeting.
   Yet, all in attendance expect to debate and decide the issues before them and are trusting that town meeting will reach each decision in a fair and just manner (even when they may have favored a different outcome).
   Moderators have these same expectations as well. However, they know that they need to visualize what may happen at a large town meeting (both good and bad), encourage all responsible officials to modify or augment the advance preparations they are making, and ensure that all voters receive sufficient advance information about what they should expect to happen at town meeting (especially what is different from usual).
   The balance of this article describes experiences shared by moderators who recently presided at large town meetings. The towns are Marshfield, Norton, and Shirley. (See the table for comparative statistics.)
Large Town Meetings
Voters (2010 census)18,00011,6004,000
ATM attendance, typical500 first; 100-200 last150-200200-300 first night
Large town meetingATM w/ STM April 2011STM June 2011STM March 2010
Locations, preparedGymnasium, cafeteria, library, music room2 bldgs. (2 gymnasiums, 1 auditorium, 2 cafeterias)Auditorium, gymnasium
Attendance, planned for230030001200
Attendance, actual21001700706
   Moderator Jim Fitzgerald tried to estimate the turnout expected for the ATM in April 2011. The STM was also scheduled for the same date. The STM included articles to appropriate funds through borrowing for (1) the preliminary design of a new high school and (2) the second phase of a seawall construction project. The first phase was approved in August 2010. However, there was another article to modify the funding source of the first phase so that betterments could be assessed to certain property owners. Similar assessments were suggested by some for the second phase.
   Fitzgerald estimated a turnout in excess of 2000. Based on inputs from the building inspector and fire chief, maximum capacity in four locations available in the high school was 2300. He realized that if turnout exceeded the maximum he would have to adjourn the meeting.
   As it happened, three locations were needed to accommodate voters, and other residents and visitors occupied the fourth location. Cable feeds were set up in the auxiliary locations so that everyone could follow the proceedings in the main location. However, anyone who wished to speak was required to come to the main location to do so. Deputy moderators presided in the auxiliary locations (with voters) for communication with the moderator and for vote counting. (Use of cell phones for communication was not effective; therefore, runners had to be employed.)
   The standard number of check-in locations for an ATM (seven) were used. At the scheduled starting time, the line of voters waiting to be checked-in was half-an-hour long. Fitzgerald opened the meeting on time because he believed that the traditional opening ceremonies would last long enough to allow all voters waiting at the starting time to be seated. He was ready to recess the meeting if these voters had not been seated.
   On the main motions on the high-interest articles, Fitzgerald planned to conduct a counted vote. After substantial debate on these motions, he advised voters that he wanted to move along with the voting unless there was some new information that had not yet been heard. After some attempts by a few speakers who promised something new, but just repeated what had been stated earlier (as the moderator brought to their attention), debate ended. Fitzgerald took care to make sure everyone was in a room before the doors were closed and the votes were counted in each room.
   In summary, both main motions achieved the required 2/3 vote. The motion for the high school preliminary design received 89% support. The motion for the second phase of the seawall construction project did not include any provisions for partial funding through betterments. The article to adjust funding for the first phase was passed over.
   Fitzgerald is taking notes from this town meeting as he prepares for a late November STM to consider funding construction for a new high school. One proposal (beyond more rooms in the high school) to accommodate more voters is to utilize the middle school auditorium about 800 yards distant. In such a case, additional AV equipment to allow complete communication among all locations is necessary. The alternative of an outdoor location is not feasible (unlike Middleborough’s town meeting in July 2007 with more than 3800 voters in attendance.)
   Moderator Bill Gouveia described the recent STM in June with a warrant containing two school-related articles for renovation projects that had debt-exclusion override votes scheduled five days later.
   Five locations (with the moderator and four assistant moderators communicating by radio) were used. Recognizing that a secret ballot could be requested by just a few voters, the moderator, at his discretion, planned for the use of a secret ballot.
   The town clerk planned to implement electronic check-in of voters. She coordinated with the Office of the Secretary of State for the purpose of obtaining a voter list in a database format, but the staff did not have the voter list available in that way. Instead, she converted the spreadsheet version into a database.
   She also recruited knowledgeable high school students to help produce the database or to staff the ten check-in stations to be utilized. The system was tested satisfactorily a few days before the town meeting.
   A stamp on the hand identified a checked-in voter; a different stamp on the same hand, a voter who cast a vote on the first question; and similarly another stamp for the second question.
   The optical readers (for elections) were used to scan the votes and cumulate the results.
   Unfortunately, at town meeting, electronic check-in was impeded by competition for resources probably from the cable TV broadcast that utilized the same network.
   Because of the slowdown in check-in, the moderator had to declare a recess a number of times for a total delay of 80 minutes before he called town meeting to order.
   Both questions at town meeting and both debt-exclusion overrides at the special election were approved by wide margins.
   Moderator George Knittel described the STM in March 2010 in Shirley when the towns of Shirley and Ayer simultaneously were considering the adoption of a regional school agreement. The governing law for the adoption of such an agreement calls for a special town meeting with voting to be conducted by secret ballot.
   There was a single article on the warrant. No amendments would be permitted (since both towns were voting at the same time).
   Knittel reported that the town clerk had added more check-in locations by splitting up the voting list (by street) into more segments. Check-in proceeded expeditiously. The moderator called the meeting to order only 15 minutes after the scheduled starting time in order to permit those waiting in line at the scheduled starting time to be seated. Two locations (school auditorium and gymnasium, with special AV capabilities installed for the meeting) were utilized.
   Ballots were distributed to voters at check-in. Two ballot boxes were positioned in each location, along with some voting booths close by (for privacy in marking ballots, if needed).
   After the motion to approve the regional school agreement was before the town meeting and a number of town officials had made presentations or reported the recommendations of their boards and committees, the moderator announced that the motion for the previous question would not be in order until the town meeting heard debate from at least one voter for and against the question. Fairly soon, debated was terminated by the motion for the previous question. A count of the ballot vote showed 76% in favor of regionalization.
   One aspect of this town meeting merits comment. In advance of the town meeting, some in the town strongly promoted the idea that the better way to conduct the balloting would be a process akin to a town election with polls open a number of hours throughout the day.
   Although not acceptable to those advocating such a process, Knittel attempted to accommodate those voters who just wanted to cast a vote without listening to all the debate by announcing beforehand the following process. When the vote was to be taken and the doors to the locations were closed, late-arriving voters could report to the cafeteria to be checked in and wait there until all those who were currently voting had finished. Then, without causing any disruption to the voting process, they would be escorted into the meeting locations to the ballot box areas to cast their votes. After this, voting was officially ended. (Note that, after casting their ballots, voters were permitted to leave the meeting locations, but, except as described above, no one was permitted to enter during the voting process.)
—Contributors: Jim Fitzgerald (Marshfield); Bill Gouveia and Danielle Sicard (Norton); and George Knittel (Shirley)
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What Would You Do?
   Your town meeting is embroiled in hot debate over an issue relating to paving of streets, and many hands are in the air requesting recognition. As the DPW manager, Mr. Smith, seems to be winding down his remarks, a voice booms out from the back of the hall, “POINT OF INFORMATION!”
   You and everybody else look at the individual who spoke out. He continues, “I just want one piece of information. Where did Mr. Smith get this so-called data on traffic flows on West Main Street?” Smith, who is still at the microphone, answers immediately and precisely, in a manner that totally silences the questioner, and then he completes his remarks.
   Debate continues, but it is not long before another member interrupts a speech with a cry of “Point of Information!”
   What would you do?
   Unlike the Point of Order and the Point of Personal Privilege, both of which do justify an interruption of another speaker, the so-called Point of Information is in actuality simply an attempt to jump into the debate ahead of others who might otherwise have been called upon first. Because it has somewhat the same ring about it as the other two queries, an assertive participant may try his or her luck at “jumping the line” and breaking into the conversation in this manner.
   However, the maneuver should not be allowed. (See Town Meeting Time, Third Edition, page 121.) In the example given, the moderator would have to explain that the first use of the motion had caught him off guard, but now that it has occurred again, it is time to explain when interruption of a speaker is allowed. An interruption is only justified if the issue brought to the attention of the moderator relates to (1) a purported violation of the rules of order or (2) a breach of some sort believed to violate the rights, privileges, or integrity of the town meeting as a whole, or the rights, reputation, or conduct of individual town meeting members. (TMT3, page 123)
   A strong desire to make a point or get a question answered does not suffice, however it is phrased. If it did, it would not be long before the moderator would be confronted with numerous competing “points of information” and would find herself on a slippery slope indeed.
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee
Henry Hall, former Belmont
Ellen Harde, Westford
Joe Harrington, Westborough
Harry Terkanian, former Wellfleet
Members of the Technical Assistance Committee are available to respond to individual requests from members for advice on parliamentary practice and other more general aspects of conducting a town meeting. Team members often find it useful to hold discussions by telephone in order to understand fully the issues involved and provide a person-to-person response.

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Website Highlights
   The association website <> is designed with two sections: (1) public pages and (2) members-only pages.
   The public pages provide the association with a presence on the world-wide web so that anyone may learn about the purpose of our association. Various types of information are accessed using buttons on the home page, some of which are highlighted in this article.
   The Town Meeting Time button gives access to information about purchasing the parliamentary law manual Town Meeting Time. Follow the instructions on the webpage to download an order form and submit it to the address listed, or submit an order and pay online via PayPal.
   Harry Pape (Princeton) is the manager of Town Meeting Time sales.
   The Town Meeting DVDs button leads to information about two educational DVDs, Town Meeting and You and Voice of the People: The Representative Town Meeting, produced and distributed by the association. Download an order form and submit it.
   Alan Foulds (Reading) is the manager of DVD sales.
   The Gavel Line button opens a page where members may initiate a subscription to the Gavel Line—the email forum for members to share viewpoints on any topic of interest to moderators. The page also provides access to options to manage an existing subscription, for example, to obtain a password reminder or to (temporarily) disable receipt of messages.
   Charlie Salisbury (North Andover) is the administrator of the Gavel Line and can provide help to members with difficulties via <>.
   The Member Login button on the home page serves as the gateway to the members-only section of the website. (Logging in requires use of the email address and password associated with your Gavel Line subscription.)
   Information for members is accessed using buttons on the Members Login home page. The Newsletters button provides access to articles in past newsletters; the Bylaws button, to a copy of the association bylaws; and the Directory button , to a look-up capability for obtaining contact information for officers, committee members, members, and indeed all moderators (insofar as that information is publicly available).
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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Appeal of Moderator’s Rulings
   In my town counsel role, I recently encountered the question of whether Town Meeting members have the authority to “appeal” a moderator’s procedural ruling. What is a moderator to do when faced with this sticky challenge to his or her authority?
   Any analysis of the moderator’s power begins with G.L. c. 39, s. 15. Section 15 provides in pertinent part as follows:
The moderator shall preside and regulate the proceedings, decide all questions of order, and make public declaration of all votes, and may administer in open meeting the oath of office to any town officer chosen thereat. If a vote so declared is immediately questioned by seven or more voters, he shall verify it by polling the voters or by dividing the meeting unless the town has by a previous order or by-law provided another method.
A town may pass by-laws, subject to this section, for the regulation of the proceedings at town meetings. Such by-laws shall be approved and published in the manner prescribed by section thirty-two of chapter forty.
   Three provisions of Section 15 bear on the question of procedural appeals. First, by statute, the moderator alone regulates the proceedings and decides all questions of order. Second, although the statute provides a mechanism for challenging the moderator’s declaration of a vote, it provides no mechanism for challenging a moderator’s procedural ruling. Third, and a potential source of misadventure, is that the statute allows a town to pass by-laws concerning the regulation of town meeting.
   A moderator who is governed by Section 15 alone need not entertain an appeal of his or her procedural rulings. In that case, the only appeal mechanism is the ballot box on election day. But what if the town has adopted a by-law “for the regulation of the proceedings at town meetings”? While such by-laws can be highly detailed, and theoretically might address appeals, typically they touch on but a few main procedural points, for example, quorum requirements or reconsideration. The “detail” is incorporated by a general reference to either Town Meeting TimeRobert’s Rules of Order, or occasionally (and confusingly) both.
   What if you moderate in a TMT town? TMT sets out a “two schools of thought” theme in Section 48 of the original edition concerning whether an appeal might be had. The editors of the third edition have revised Section 48 to advise that since the moderator’s power derives from G.L. c. 39, s. 15 in the Commonwealth, “(t)he better rule … is that the statute puts the burden on the moderator, and it cannot be avoided by letting the meeting decide.” (Compare Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th edition, page 250, which suggests that the presiding officer might welcome avoiding the onus of decision.) However, even the revised Section 48 provides enough latitude to the moderator who wishes to consult with and defer to the meeting on a procedural point. Thus the import of there being “two schools” is that you may matriculate in either, and rule accordingly.
   What if you moderate in a Robert’s Rules town? Although Robert’s Rules lacks the specialist appeal of TMT, in this instance it is very precise, reflecting a long-standing tradition of allowing appeals of a presiding officer’s procedural rulings. (See, for example, Section 21 of the 4th edition.)
   Demeter’s Manual appears to take a similar line. (See 1969 “Blue Book,” pages 126-127.)
   Although on its face Section 15 declares an “infallibility doctrine,” be mindful that the statute also allows the voters to put a brake on your procedural power by by-law. Any by-law that generally incorporates Robert’s Rules may limit your authority by allowing appeals.
—Richard Bowen, Moderator of Scituate and town counsel with the municipal law firm Blatman, Bobrowski & Mead
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What Would You Do?
   A controversial revision to your town’s zoning by-laws is the first order of business as you convene a special town meeting on a weekday evening. The planning board is split 3-2 against the measure, and the meeting is likewise sharply divided. The question is moved after a lively debate, and the vote on the main motion is taken at 8:20 PM. The measure gains a majority, but not a two-thirds vote; accordingly, it is defeated.
   Your town has a by-law that provides that a motion for reconsideration may be entertained, but only if the motion is made within 90 minutes of the original vote. The crowd is starting to thin by 9:40 PM; nevertheless, it is clear that a quorum is still present.
   You believe you have time to take up one more article before adjournment. However, before a motion is made for the next item of business, a voter gains recognition and moves reconsideration of the zoning article. An outcry ensues, and you are urged to deny the motion “because of the lateness of the hour.”
   One of the three planning board members who oppose the measure is recognized and asserts that you have no latitude to reconsider the motion at all because the state statutes governing zoning provide that no proposed zoning by-law which has been unfavorably acted upon by a town meeting can be considered again by the town meeting within two years after the date of the unfavorable action unless the planning board is in favor of it.
   Your opponent in the most recent election, who has made quite a study of Town Meeting Time and likes to let people know about it, waves his copy of that respected volume, and points out that among the Exceptions to the Power to Reconsider (�34) is number 5 that reads “Where statutes provide that an unfavorable vote precludes a second attempt for a specified period of time.”
   The voter moving reconsideration responds hotly that that provision of state law is only meant to keep the measure from being brought up at a future town meeting. It does not apply in the current situation because “we have a by-law that expressly allows this motion if it is timely made—and it was!”
   How do you rule?
   The motion for reconsideration is in order.
   You were going to go forward to entertain further business, and the motion to reconsider (a main motion) was properly made, when no other motion was pending. While it may be unfortunate that it comes at a late hour, when the makeup of the meeting may have changed, the voters must be aware of the possibility of reconsideration granted by the by-law, and ought to consider that fact in deciding when to depart.
   Your Technical Assistance Committee has pondered long and hard over this case, but the consensus is that there has been no final action on the article until the allowable time for reconsideration has elapsed. Hence the motion is in order.
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, former Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Ellen Harde, Westford; Joe Harrington, Westborough)
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Welcome New Moderators
   In recent years about twenty to twenty-five new moderators have been elected each year. Some of the new moderators learn about the Massachusetts Moderators Association from their predecessor, a newspaper article, or from our website. However, many do not. Still, the association attempts to contact every new moderator following his/her election.
   One of the goals of our association is to provide education for all moderators, and we begin this process with an excellent workshop for new moderators at our annual meeting each year. Led by several very experienced moderators, participants learn about the laws, customs, and practices in different communities and have the opportunity to ask many questions. Everyone who has attended as a new moderator has found the workshop to be both helpful and reassuring, especially when facing the new and challenging experience of moderating a town meeting. However, in order to do this effectively and to reach as many new moderators as possible, we need your help.
   If there is a new moderator in your community or in an adjoining one, please provide the name and contact information to Deborah Medders, president, Michael Miller, treasurer or Betsey Anderson, chair of the Membership Committee. Each newly elected moderator receives a letter from the president welcoming him/her to the association as well as a copy of the Manual for Moderators. Dues for new moderators are free in the year they are elected and the following year, but we need their contact information so that they can receive our newsletters, have easy access to our DVDs and participate in the Gavel Line.
   The new moderators for 2011 known at this time are listed below. We are pleased to congratulate them and to welcome them to the Massachusetts Moderators Association.
Adam ShusterAshland
Richard DeFreitasChelmsford
David SchropferEastham
Thomas MurphyIpswich
Aaron BurkeLakeville
Jack LawOak Bluffs
John M. DonahueRaynham
David L. YasSharon
Keith RauseoTewksbury
Dennis BerryWayland
   Please help us identify the remaining newly elected moderators so that we may welcome them into the association. While we do receive information from the Massachusetts Municipal Association, you are the best source of information and the quickest way for us to identify and provide help to new moderators. Please don’t assume someone else has given us the information.
   It is also helpful if you can call a newly elected moderator in your area to offer congratulations and to welcome them. If you have any questions, please contact Betsey Anderson at <>.
—Betsey Anderson (Bedford)
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Electronic Voting at Town Meeting
   In Wayland this year, Moderator Peter Gossels marked his thirtieth year as presiding officer at the annual town meeting. Remarkable as this was, there were several other memorable happenings this year—in addition, of course, to the legislative actions that were accomplished.
   For Gossels, it was his final time as moderator. He chose not to run for reelection.
   For the voters, there was a new location at the Wayland Middle School—smaller and with less parking. (This temporary change from the familiar field house at the high school complex was necessitated by new school construction.) There would also be a (new) Sunday afternoon adjourned session..
   Perhaps the most talked-about happening was the use of electronic voting by all voters at town meeting.
   Last spring, the Town voted to implement a pilot program making use of hand-held electronic devices for voting at the 2011 annual town meeting. The Town entered into an agreement with a vendor, Option Technologies Interactive, of Orlando, FL, to provide all equipment and expertise (at essentially no cost to the Town) for the pilot program.
   Both the Town and the vendor believe that this pilot program is the first time a town meeting (specifically, a legislative body comprised of all voters who show up at the meeting without any advance requirement to advise of intended participation) has used electronic voting.
   Last year, the moderator appointed a special Electronic Voting Implementation Subcommittee (ELVIS) to visualize all the steps needed to conduct a successful pilot program and to coordinate the efforts of all parties involved. The advance publicity certainly reached the voters. The Town website contained information about the doings of the committee, descriptions of the equipment (including technical details for those who appreciate the technology), and a video illustrating what the voters should experience at town meeting. The video included proceeding through check-in, using the hand-held devices, conducting the voting, and returning the devices upon exiting the building. The video was broadcast on the local cable channels
   The local press carried numerous articles to keep the public informed. In addition, local blogs kept the conversation on electronic voting in the minds of voters.
   The vendor provided 1600 handsets (20% of the number of registered voters) and ten computers with the required software installed, along with support personnel who were relied upon to carry out some key tasks during the meeting. ELVIS members formed the nucleus of a help desk team. The usual cast of tellers and check-in personnel also had their roles at town meeting and would have stepped up to complete tasks in the traditional manner if the pilot program had to be terminated in the event of irrecoverable technical problems.
   Approximately 500 voters were present at the opening session, with smaller turnouts at the second and third. As it turned out, all attendees were accommodated in the gymnasium; therefore, the overflow location did not have to be utilized. After the second session, the pilot test program was concluded; and the vendor personnel returned to Florida with all equipment. Traditional voting methods marked the third session.
   [See the sidebar for more details on what voters experienced with electronic voting.]
   Several days after the conclusion of the annual town meeting, the public had an opportunity to offer their perspectives on all aspects of the 2011 annual town meeting. Most expressed hope that electronic voting would continue.
   The speed in obtaining a counted vote using electronic voting as demonstrated versus counting by tellers and calculating the totals was highly praised. Moreover, many supporters valued the privacy of the method demonstrated. They felt that they were free of the threat of intimidating stares—quite possible if they were standing for a counted vote.
   What is Wayland going to do for future town meetings? The Board of Selectmen is going to explore ways of leasing equipment for electronic voting at reasonable cost (probably not buying) or contracting with a consultant who will provide all services needed (perhaps in an arrangement with other towns). If financial considerations can be addressed and if funds can be located in the FY2012 appropriation (by transfer), voters may again witness electronic voting at the 2012 annual town meeting. There are no plans to call a special town meeting to propose funding.
Describe the hand-held electronic devices used for voting.
OTI’s OptionFinder G3 wireless keypads (with some adaptation) are used. The keypads, with a small display screen, are the size of a TV remote. Only the number 1, 2, and 3 keys are used (1 – YES; 2 – NO; 3 – clear the display), along with the Power button. When the 1 or 2 key is pressed, the number 1 or 2 appears in the display. When a key is pressed, the appropriate signal is sent to the tabulating computer, along with an identifying code for the particular keypad.
Are there restrictions on using the devices.
Yes. They may be used only in the room for which they are programmed. The keypads are marked externally with a colored dot (for the room) and a number. If keypads are out of range of the transceiver in the room for a specified period of time, they power down and need to be reactivated.
Explain what happens when voters check in.
Wayland uses a voter list arranged alphabetically by last name. Beside each name is an identifying barcode. The voter list can be split to provide for the number of check-in stations desired. A computer ( named “welcoming station”) is located at each check-in station. A keypad is activated and assigned to each voter. The barcode is scanned and the code on the keypad is scanned into the computer. That information is transmitted to the tabulating computer which maintains a roster of all activated keypads.
What is a voter who leaves the meeting temporarily expected to do?
The voter should leave the keypad along with some appropriate identification (e.g., driver’s license) at the check-in station for retrieval upon return.
What is a voter who leaves the meeting permanently expected to do?
The voter should leave the keypad in one of the big containers near the exits. Voters who forget to do so can expect to be contacted early the next day to return the equipment. If voters leave early, the keypad can be deactivated and removed from the roster in the tabulating computer.
What are matters that demand the attention of the moderator?
The moderator needs to explain to the voters how to vote using a keypad and, if appropriate, conduct a test vote to insure that the voters are not having difficulties. During voting, the moderator is alert to any voters needing assistance so that assigned tellers can come to their aid. The moderator coordinates with the person operating/monitoring the tabulating computer to insure that (1) before voting begins, a duplicate of the roster of activated keypads is acquired and held constant for use in the voting, and the process of receiving signals from the keypads is enabled; (2) as soon as the voting period (30 seconds) ends, the process of receiving signals from the keypads is disabled; (3) the process of tabulating the vote completes normally and the results are displayed for the moderator. The moderator activates a signal light to start the voting period and signals the end of voting by turning off the light. The moderator declares the vote (as tabulated and including any other votes from manual counting).
What accommodations are made for a voter unable to use a keypad?
These voters are seated in a special section where tellers will manually tabulate their votes.
What is the plan for the situation when a voter’s keypad appears to fail during voting?
The help desk team keeps a number of activated keypads ready in reserve. Assigned tellers respond with a voting slip for the voter to use for the immediate question and swap keypads with the voter. The code numbers of both keypads are noted. At the first opportunity, the change in code numbers is transmitted to the tabulating computer to update the roster, and the replaced keypad is deactivated. The voting slip is returned immediately to the moderator.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick) and Dennis Berry (Wayland)
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Newsletter Delivery
   What is the preferred way for you to receive your newsletter?
   Currently, copies are mailed to all members. In addition, copies of the September issue that previews the upcoming annual meeting are mailed to non-member moderators as an invitation to them to become members of the association.
   Recently, some members have made suggestions to the Executive Committee that the newsletter be sent to members electronically. For some members, electronic transmission of the newsletter is the preferred method of delivery. Other members value the convenience of a printed copy that has the look and feel of a classic newsletter and that they did not have to print themselves (perhaps after struggling with software issues.)
   What do you prefer? Please tell the Communications Committee via email to <> whether you want a mailed copy or a downloaded copy. If you do not choose to state a preference, the assumption is that either method of delivery is okay with you.
   The plan for delivery of the September issue of the newsletter is to comply with the individual delivery preferences received and to mail the issue to all others.
   In the future, the Executive Committee may decide to adopt electronic delivery as the default delivery method. Electronic delivery of most of the newsletters will result in considerable cost savings.
   For the September issue, the Communications Committee will send an email notification to members requesting electronic delivery as soon as the newsletter is completed. The message will contain the link to the location from which a PDF copy of the print version of the newsletter may be downloaded. The committee will not mail a copy to these members.
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Links to Information
   One of the features of the members-only section of the association website <> is the Links page. This page needs to provide more links to information of particular interest to moderators.
   What links do you suggest be added? Send your suggestions via email to <>.
   Current practice is to provide a descriptive annotation for each link.
   One potential general class of links is survey information that a Gavel Line user has requested from other members. Typically, via the Gavel Line, a member may ask other members what is the practice in their towns concerning the matter for which feedback is desired. Often, the member promises to summarize the information received in the form of results of a survey.
   There is seldom any attempt to represent such survey information as a comprehensive or even a representative poll of all towns. Nevertheless, the information has value, and there are often requests for similar types of survey information.
   The Communications Committee is suggesting that a member can provide such survey information as a file for placement in the members-only section of the website. Then a link to the file is added to the Links page.
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President Pledges Support for Association’s Initiatives, Asks for Member Involvement
   I remarked to the new officers and committee chairs at the Executive Committee meeting on January 15, and I now repeat to all members of the Association, that I look forward to working with each of you and want you to know that I will welcome your comments and feedback.
   As president, my function will be one of support—supporting the work of the Association’s current committee structure and the tasks that each has been charged with to further the Association’s objectives.
Specifics …
At that Executive Committee meeting in January, the Communications Committee was directed to present to the Board of Directors, for its scheduled meeting in May, an outline, with timeline and protocols, for instituting changes to the Association website that will allow for expanded use by members of the Association, other moderators, and the public. This process will involve input from the Archives Committee on those documents to be made available on the website.
   It was recently announced on the Gavel Line that the Association website, maintained by the Communications Committee, has inaugurated a Members-Only section.
   The White Paper Committee: Promoting Town Meeting will prepare a report for Association membership review and comment before the Annual Meeting in October. Currently being prepared is a map of the Commonwealth (including population figures) illustrating what towns have converted away from town meeting form of government.
   The Association is re-establishing its relationship with the Massachusetts Municipal Association in areas of mutual interest for our respective organizations. Our membership concerns itself with the principles governing town meetings, whereas their membership provides much of the subject matter presented at town meetings. In that regard, a working relationship between the associations greatly improves the opportunity for smooth municipal governing.
   Another working relationship will be through communications between our Legislative Committee and their Legislative Division about pending legislative initiatives that relate to town meetings.
   As always, I prevail on all of our members to contribute anything they think appropriate to further the Association’s objectives. Our organization relies on you to further the interest of town meeting government throughout the Commonwealth.
—President Deborah Medders (Tisbury)
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The following essay is a reflection influenced by words written by members of the Association.
—President Deborah Medders (Tisbury)
A Curriculum For Civics In Our Classrooms
New England Town Meeting
Foundation for Participatory Government by Citizens
   New England was formed around villages and towns made up of people who grouped together for common interest and purpose. It is these common interests and the need to govern themselves that gave birth to the New England town meeting. It is important to note that this need to self-govern took place before government, as we have come to know it, began. 1
   Town meetings serve as the legislative component of local municipal government in many communities throughout New England. Town meetings operate in accordance with rules of procedure established by general laws, by local bylaws, and, just as important, by local customs and traditions. 2
   To have our young people study the history of the evolution of the New England town meeting—through classroom curriculum known as civics, social studies, American government—provides them with a framework that can be readily assimilated and understood. What is fundamental is a foundation in the history of a community’s formulation of its education, health, public safety services, public works and the infrastructure of municipal operations. This historical formulation is uniquely defined by the annual assemblage of citizens at their own town meetings in the spring.
   As town moderators, we serve as stewards of the town meeting form of government and promote participatory government by our town residents; and we have the opportunity to teach our young people community involvement and responsibility.
1  Gary Swanson, former Moderator, Town of Southampton; Chair, White Paper Committee: Promoting Town Meeting.
2  Johnson, Trustman, and Wadsworth, Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law, 3rd ed. Boston: Massachusetts Moderators Association, 2001. See §3.
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What Would You Do?
   You are the moderator of Whoville, an open town meeting town. The by-laws provide that the ATM begins at 7 PM on the third Monday in March, with a quorum of 20.
   You awake on town meeting day to find the air (and the streets) full of snow. Several inches have already fallen, and the forecasters are hastily updating yesterday’s prediction of “flurries” to “15 inches by nightfall,” with much more snow possible in the evening, accompanied by high winds and temperatures in the single digits.
   You confer with your clerk and the selectmen. Everyone agrees that it would be foolhardy to encourage people to come out on such a night. The chief of police puts in a strong pitch for “cancellation,” although the clerk points out that technically nothing short of action by the Legislature can cancel a meeting set by a properly drawn up and posted warrant. The selectmen undertake to publicize the postponement via the town website, as well as local cable TV, and, a local newsblogging site.
   Your town has a small but vocal contingent that strongly supports radical budget reduction. They are extremely media-savvy, and they have also carefully familiarized themselves with the provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws governing town meetings and with relevant town by-laws. They have been talking for weeks about the need to cut the budget sharply. They pounce on the news of the postponement and spend the day blogging and e-mailing one another, encouraging their enthusiasts to appear at the meeting place at 7 PM.
   You telephone their leadership with an appeal to reason, but to no avail. They cite the provisions of MGL 39:14 and MGL 41:14 and assert that, if you and the clerk are not present, they will elect a temporary moderator and a temporary clerk from among those that are on hand, and proceed with the agenda. They are not sure that they can muster 20 people but are putting forth a major effort to do so.
   What would you do?
Our Response
   We would appeal to the chief of police and the head of the DPW for rides to the meeting place for both the moderator and the clerk in a suitably equipped police vehicle or, if necessary, on a snow plow. Promptly at 7 PM, we would convene the “meeting” and announce to whoever was there that, in the interest of public safety, the meeting will not be held.
   Relying on MGL 39:15, we would declare out of order any motion other than a motion to adjourn to the following evening, on grounds of fairness to those who heeded the sensible warnings to stay at home. We would then simply declare the meeting adjourned and depart, along with the clerk.
   The clerk would ultimately record the goings-on in her record of the meeting. That record should suffice to render any subsequent activity at the site null and void, since the meeting was declared adjourned.
   We recognize that a moderator who is solely devoted to enforcing written established procedures may have difficulty with this response. We feel, however, that just as a moderator has a duty to exercise discretion in not accepting a motion to close debate until both sides have had an opportunity to be heard, a moderator, in the situation described here, has a duty to assure that the budget is not acted upon until all interested parties have had a fair opportunity to weigh in and be part of the debate and the vote.
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, former Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Ellen Harde, Westford; Joe Harrington, Westborough)
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What You Should Know About the Gavel Line
   To share viewpoints on any topic of interest to moderators, join the Gavel Line. The Gavel Line is the e-mail discussion group among moderators who are members of the association.
   To participate, you do need to subscribe to the service. Subscribing is easy. To subscribe (or to make changes to your service), go to <>.
   Click on the Gavel Line button. The initial instruction page that appears contains four topics (three of which are intended for all users). To subscribe, go to the topic Subscribing to Gavel Line and provide the identifying information requested.
   After you are a subscriber, you use Gavel Line by sending email messages to <>. Your message is duplicated and sent to all subscribers.
Security Management Software
The Gavel Line makes use of a limited set of security features. For example, only the email address you provided when initiating (or subsequently modifying) your subscription may be used as the From address to send a message to the Gavel Line. Also, to change any aspects of your subscription, both your email address and password must be validated before action is permitted.
   (Access to the recently added members-only pages of the website is controlled through use of the same security management software. Therefore, logging in requires use of the email address and password associated with your Gavel Line subscription.)
   You may have occasion to make changes to your Gavel Line subscription or to ask for a password reminder. To do so, go to the topic Changing Your List Membership, enter your email address, and proceed. Three subtopics are shown; but, if you wish to remain a member of the Association, avoid the Unsubscribe option.
   To make changes to your subscription information (e.g., email address, password, name, town, and various options), log in using your password. A new page appears showing all the things you may modify.
   If by chance you want to interrupt reception of email messages from other Gavel Line users, the subscription option to change is the Mail Delivery option. Set it to Disabled. (Such action retains your capability to access the members-only pages of the website, but effectively prevents your active participation in Gavel Line conversations.)
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Members-Only Pages Added to Website
   In January, pages comprising a members-only section of the website <> were added to augment the public pages that have been in use for a number of years.
   This section can be accessed from the home page by selecting the Member Login button. To complete the process for access, a password is required. Help information is available on the first Member Login page.
   This password has already been issued to those of you who are Gavel Line subscribers. You use the email address that you use for Gavel Line along with the password that you received when you subscribed to the Gavel Line or which you subsequently changed.
   (If you are not presently a Gavel Line subscriber, see the Gavel Line article in this newsletter.)
   The content of the members-only section continues to expand. Indeed, pages describing the archives and the work of committees are yet to be defined.
   Currently, there is a directory page. (See article.) Searchable versions of the bylaws and past newsletter articles are available, as well as links to other information of interest to members.
Technical Information
There is a three-step process to log in: (1) entering the email address and password; (2) validating the entries; (3) confirming successful validation by user action (copy-and-paste). Your browser must allow cookies.
   Once you have logged in successfully, you may visit pages on other websites and then return to the Member Login page again. You are granted access without performing the three-step process again.
   After you close your browser, all information about your past successful login is erased.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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Use the Directory
   Use the directory—one of the new pages now available on the website <> as part of the members-only section.
   In fact, there are five directories available: (1) municipalities, (2) moderators, (3) members, (4) officers and directors, and (5) committees.
   These directories can be searched to locate information such as the following: (1) Does Weymouth have an RTM? (2) Who is the moderator of Nantucket? (3) What is the name of that member? He used to be moderator in Hull. (4) How many members of the Board of Directors are there? And who are they? (5) Who is the chair of the Membership Committee?
   Find contact information for most members and even for some moderators who are not members.
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Future Website Enhancements
   Comments about what content on the present website you value and use and suggestions for future expansion of content are welcome. Direct them to the Communications Committee.
   To what extent should content be developed for the general public, or at least those who have an interest in New England town meetings? What content will be of most value to moderators? What are your ideas? Send them, please. Soon!
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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2010 Annual Meeting at Old Sturbridge Village
   It is now time to plan to attend the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Moderators Association scheduled to be held Friday, October 29, 2010 at Old Sturbridge Village. This event provides an excellent opportunity for moderators to meet with other moderators and to share their experiences and make and renew acquaintances.
   What stands out is that each municipality may have subtle differences in how their town meetings operate, but there is one thing all town meetings have in common-there is a moderator.
   As a result of the different experience levels, there are plenty of opportunities to learn from others attending the annual meeting.
   Again, guests of moderators are invited to attend, and the museum at Old Sturbridge Village will offer discounted admission to the exhibits. There are also a number of shops in the Sturbridge area.
Morning Sessions
For New Moderators (first elected in 2009 or 2010)
The New Moderators Workshop provides detailed discussion of the parliamentary fundamentals, running a “legal meeting,” making appointments, conflict of interest, and many other helpful topics. There are plenty of opportunities for questions during the workshop and during the lunch break.
   The workshop is led by several experienced moderators and is intended to provide information that will be helpful to those new to the role of moderator. This workshop includes a box lunch for participants and panel members.
   (Note: if you were first elected in 2009 but were unable to attend this workshop last year, you may register for this workshop and, if there is room, you will be able to participate this year. Space is limited.)
For Seasoned Moderators
This session runs concurrently with the New Moderators Workshop and is designed to present topics of interest for moderators with a few years of experience or those with even more years of experience.
   The session will focus on running an efficient and effective meeting. There will be open discussion on the similarities and differences in open town meetings, both large and small, and the representative town meeting.
A buffet luncheon will be available, by reservation, at noon. To ensure sufficient food for all, please register for lunch if you plan to be present.
Afternoon Sessions
Electronic Voting – What Should Moderators Do to Prepare for This Additional Technology?
The topic for the afternoon session is electronic voting and how we can use the new technology and maintain the traditional town meeting format.
Smaller Open Town Meetings
Are small open town meetings different? What can we learn from how they operate?
Free-Fire Zones – Large, Small, and Representative
Always a favorite part of the annual meeting, this session allows for a lively exchange of ideas on current issues facing our members. Bring your questions.
Annual Business Meeting
There will be reports from committees, the election of officers and other business.
Cocktail Reception and Dinner
Following the business meeting, a cocktail reception will be held and dinner will be served.
—President Frederick A. George (Northborough)
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Call for Material for the Association Archives
   Since 1992, the Association has been creating “a library of material relevant to the Town Meeting process.”
   Begun on the initiative of the Legislative Committee, the archives now include legal opinions, handbooks for town meeting from many towns, newspaper and magazine articles, and white papers and reports prepared by committees of the Association.
   The papers are housed at the Hazen Memorial Library in Shirley. Their organization and distribution are administered by the Archives Committee, comprised of Marge Battin, former moderator in Lexington; Barry Eager, moderator in Berlin; Henry Hall, former Belmont moderator; and Ellen Harde, moderator in Westford.
   The library director, Debra Roy, gives the Association excellent support, processing requests received from moderators for materials from the collection.
   Copies of the complete index to the archives will be available at the annual meeting on October 29.
   Moderators who are planning to attend the annual meeting are invited to bring with them documents to be added to the archives.
   Current copies of town meeting handbooks are especially useful, providing templates for other moderators who might be creating such a document for their own town meeting.
   Articles that have been published by or about current and past moderators are also invaluable as a record of the Association.
   Moderators who have documents for the archives but are not attending the annual meeting may send them to Ellen Harde, 39 Main Street, PO Box 391, Westford MA 01886.
—Ellen Harde (Westford)
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What Would You Do?
   You are in your first term as moderator. Things went fairly well during your first year. At your second annual meeting, however, during debate over the fire department budget, things get a bit out of hand. The fire chief, as is sometimes his custom, makes statements that cause tempers to flare. In reaction, one particularly aggrieved citizen moves �that the selectmen be instructed to take steps to terminate the fire chief.� You could calmly rule the motion out of order on the grounds that there is nothing in the warrant that in any way suggests that such an action is contemplated.
   But, since you recall reading material published by the Mass�achusetts Moderators Association on motions of doubtful legality, you ask town counsel to explain the respective roles of the town meeting and the board of selectmen. Town counsel does this, noting that the meeting is not legally in a position to instruct the selectmen to do something that is under their sole jurisdiction. Town counsel concludes by saying that the motion is �out of order� on these grounds. Things quiet down.
   A subsequent article deals with an appropriation of �$36,000 for the purchase and equipping of a new cruiser for the police department.� The police chief�s motion, however, is for $39,000 for the purposes of the article. The police chief, who is quite popular with many townspeople (unlike the fire chief), casually explains the discrepancy between the two figures by saying, �Some additional expenses came up when we looked more closely at the equipment we need to install in the vehicle.� You are aware that your predecessor always held strictly to the dollar figures published in the warrant unless they were qualified by the phrase �or such other sum as the Town may vote.� This article has no such qualifying language.
   You rule the motion out of order on these grounds, and an outcry ensues. You recognize a voter who says, �I think we need this cruiser, with all the equipment that the chief wants! What business does the moderator have making decisions on what the police department can and can�t buy, anyway? I request a ruling from town counsel on whether the motion for $39,000 is in order, just like we got on the fire department motion!�
   What would your response be?
   Deciding whether a motion falls within the four corners of the article is not a legal issue, it is a matter of order. The moderator is charged with �deciding all questions of order� under MGL Chapter 39, Section 15. It may be safely assumed that if the Legislature had meant to make this authority subject to review by a parliamentarian, or by the meeting as a whole, it would have so stated. (See Town Meeting Time, Chapter 7, Section 48, Third Edition, page 111, especially footnote 6.) Town counsel, on the other hand, is an attorney hired to provide legal advice.
   In the present case, we would respond to the voter�s request by saying, �This is a matter of order, not law, and the buck stops with me.� After a brief explanation along the lines given above, dealing with the basis for your authority and an explanation of why you intend to continue your predecessor�s practice, we would continue, �Town counsel is always welcome to speak, and I will of course defer to counsel on matters requiring legal judgment. But on matters of order, the final decision is mine.�
   The foregoing situation was intentionally kept simple in order to make the basic point: Drawing the distinction between matters of order and issues of law can be difficult. This is particularly true because a number of the rules of order are found in the General Laws, and applying them may appear to many to be an exercise in application of the law. For example, the requirement that a count be taken if seven voters immediately stand and call for it is found in the law (MGL, c.39, s.15) but the application of this rule falls in the province of the moderator, not town counsel.
   A wise town counsel will recognize that good fences make good neighbors and will decline to opine on matters of order. In particular, he or she should avoid statements that a particular proposal is out of order. A wise moderator, in turn, will steer clear of rendering legal judgments—a course of action that can be particularly trying for moderators who are themselves attorneys. If your confidence in your town counsel is less than 100 per cent, it may be prudent to consult with him or her off microphone when tricky points come up during the meeting in order to be sure both of you are on the same page before proceeding. In addition, one-on-one discussions prior to the meeting can also be very beneficial.
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, former Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Joe Harrington, Westborough; Ellen Harde, Westford)
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Into the Twenty-First Century
   Our Massachusetts Moderators Association, dedicated to upholding the sacred traditions of participatory democracy inculcated in our national traditions in an age when purchases were made face-to-face, has jumped into the new century by now offering on-line ordering of Town Meeting Time.
   Without killing a tree, without printing a piece of paper which must be folded, without writing a paper check, without inserting both into a paper envelope to a which a stamp must be affixed, etc.— you can now do it all on-line from the MMA website. Go to and click on Town Meeting Time to discover that you can use PayPal to buy “the bible” with a few clicks of the mouse.
   If you don’t have a PayPal account, it is simple and safe to create one (linked to a credit card or your bank account, just like a debit card).
   I can cheerfully report that a resident of Natick enjoys the distinction of being the very first to exercise this new capability.
   We’ll take a straw poll at the annual meeting to see if this on-line ordering capability should be extended to DVD orders and even annual dues and meals at annual meeting.
   So, the waters have been tested. Why not buy your TMT just like you buy a book from Amazon! Y’all jump in! The water’s fine.
—Harry A Pape (Princeton)
Harry Pape is the manager of Town Meeting Time sales.
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   Copies of two educational DVDs, Town Meeting and You and Voice of the People: The Representative Town Meeting, produced and distributed by the association, can be purchased at $10.00 each, or three for $25.00. Go to the association website and click on Town Meeting DVDs to obtain an order form.
   To obtain copies of the third edition of Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law, for $25 per copy, go to the website and click on Town Meeting Time.
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Gavel Line
   To share viewpoints on any topic of interest to moderators, join the Gavel Line. The Gavel Line is the e-mail discussion group among moderators who are members of the association.
   To subscribe (or to make changes to your service) go to Click on Gavel Line and follow the instructions. Or send a request, including name, town, and email address, to
   As a subscriber, send emails to, and they are forwarded to all subscribers.
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2009 Annual Meeting Friday October 30 in Worcester
   Town meetings have the potential of being the most perfect form of democracy on earth. However, democracy doesn�t just happen.
   Some people, while wringing their hands about participation rates and unfair procedures, say we need to change our form of local government. The good news is that many other people, including many moderators, understand that our town meetings have the potential—with new energy, new ideas and new procedures—of being even better forums for democracy.
   On October 30, you are invited to participate in our annual meeting where we will have a number of different sessions to learn about current developments in our communities and, particularly, in our town meetings.
   This year our annual meeting will be held on Friday, October 30, in the Hogan Center on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.
   This all-day event provides moderators from across the commonwealth an opportunity to meet other moderators, learn about procedures being used to make our town meetings more efficient and attractive to our voters, and to ask questions about traditions and procedures used in each of our towns.
   If you are unable to attend for the entire day, please consider joining the meeting for just the morning workshops, the afternoon sessions detailed below, or the business meeting and dinner.
   Guests of moderators are invited to walk the paths of Mass Audubon�s Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary, visit the Higgins Armory Museum or take a tour of the Holy Cross campus before joining us for the reception at 5 PM and dinner at 6 PM.
Morning Sessions
For New Moderators (first elected in 2009)
The New Moderators Workshop, organized by 1st VP Fred George (Northborough), will provide a detailed discussion of parliamentary fundamentals, running a �legal meeting,� making appointments, conflict of interest and other issues faced by newly elected moderators. The workshop will be led by several of our experienced moderators and is intended to assist you in your new role. (This is recognized as one of the best activities of the Association, year after year.) Questions and �best practices� will continue over lunch.
   (Note: If you were elected in 2008 but were unable to attend this workshop last year, you may register for this workshop and, if there is room, you will be able to participate this year. Limit: 26 participants.)
For Seasoned Moderators
Running concurrently with the New Moderators Workshop, the Seasoned Moderators Workshop, led by 2nd VP Deborah Medders (Tisbury) is designed to present topics of interest to those who have served as moderators for just a few years or a few decades. The first half of the morning will be focused on increasing participation in town meetings in small towns (under 5,000 inhabitants). The second half of the morning will be focused on increasing diversity in town meetings in larger towns (including representative town meeting).
A buffet lunch will be available, by reservation, at noon. The lunch is free for participants in the New Moderators Workshop. To insure sufficient food for all, please register for lunch if you will be present. (There are no nearby restaurants.)
Afternoon Sessions
Community Preservation Act – Participatory Budgeting
In many towns, the Community Preservation Act has increased citizen participation in the budgeting process.
   Led by a panel of moderators from towns which have adopted the CPA, this session will cover the procedural steps that must be followed to adopt the CPA; the handling of CPA issues, including the variety of ways CPA budget proposals may be presented to town meeting; and procedures that must be followed to change funding levels or to withdraw from the CPA.
Voice of the People – Educating Our Voters
One key to voter participation is educating our voters to what town meeting is.
   Running concurrently with the Community Preservation Act session, this panel discussion will include the showing of our newest educational DVD focusing on representative town meeting. The panel will discuss ways of increasing the number of people running to be elected as town meeting representatives and increasing participation in town meeting in general by such means as hearings and public forums and information on the Internet leading up to town meeting.
The Australian Ballot – What Form of Democracy?
Voters in several towns have recently studied their town meetings with a charge to see if improvements should be made.
   This session will revisit the resolution passed by the association on October 24, 1997 opposing the Australian Ballot. (See insert in this newsletter.) The 1997 vote charged the Executive Committee with establishing and implementing a program of public education in favor of retaining town meeting in its present form. The panel will discuss the Australian Ballot and steps the association has taken to promote and retain town meeting in its present form. Recent reports from towns that have looked at their town meetings will be available and discussed.
Free-Fire Zones
Always a favorite part of the annual meeting, these sessions allow for a lively exchange of ideas on current issues facing our members. There will be separate free-fire zones for small towns (under 5,000 inhabitants), large towns (over 5,000), and RTM towns. Bring a difficult question or a presentation on how you handled a hot issue and hear some answers and suggestions on ways to handle similar issues.
Annual Business Meeting
We will conduct a brief business meeting during which our officers and committees will make brief reports, and we will conduct the election of officers and directors for 2010.
Cocktail Reception and Dinner
Following the business meeting, we will have a cocktail reception, enjoying discussions with members and guests as the sun sets over Worcester. During our evening dinner, we will recognize a number of moderators who have retired and remember moderators who died during the past year.
—President Edward N. Perry (Concord)
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What Would You Do?
   Your town’s bylaws have a quorum requirement of 200 voters for a special town meeting, and the selectmen have called a special with five articles on the warrant.
   As the 7:30 PM meeting time rolls around, there are 172 voters in the school gymnasium. One by one, voters arrive, and by 8:10 you declare a quorum present with 209 voters in the hall.
   The first four articles are small budget transfers and pass unanimously with little discussion. But Article 5 ends up being quite controversial. When you call for a voice vote, it is too close for you to call. You then ask for a show of hands, but still it appears to be about fifty-fifty.
   At this point, you ask the tellers to come forward and count the vote. When the warden hands you the paper with the vote count on it, the vote is 105 in favor and 89 opposed. You do some quick math and realize that only 194 voters have cast votes—six less than the number of voters constituting a quorum.
   Do you declare that the motion under the article has passed with a majority vote? Or do you advise the meeting that, for lack of a quorum, the meeting must adjourn with action on the motion still pending?
   What would you do?
   The motion passes.
   There could easily have been six voters who abstained from voting (e.g., yourself and the clerk and other voters who chose not to vote).
   But even if the number of voters at the special town meeting had dropped below 200, Town Meeting Time advises that if a point of no quorum has not been raised before the moderator calls for the vote, the vote is valid, no matter how many voters remain in the hall.
   A voter’s subsequent challenge of a quorum after the moderator declares a vote (even when the total number of votes cast is less than the number of voters constituting a quorum) does not affect any business completed before the point of no quorum is raised.
   For more discussion of this topic, see Town Meeting Time, Chapter 8, Section 59, (page 128 in the Third Edition).
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, former Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Joe Harrington, Westborough; Ellen Harde, Westford)
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Invite New Moderators to Annual Meeting
   Please consider contacting new moderators in nearby towns to encourage them to attend the annual meeting and suggest that you drive together on October 30.
   The moderators first elected in 2009 are listed. If you would like contact information for any of the moderators, contact our president at <>.
BellinghamLinda L. Cartier
BridgewaterMichael W. Levy
CarlisleWayne Davis
CharltonPeter Cooper, Jr.
DouglasKeith Menard
EastonWalter Galas
EssexRolf P. Madsen
FoxboroughFrancis J. Spillane
HalifaxJohn H. Bruno II
HampdenRobert L. Howarth
HarvardRobert Eubank
HuntingtonPierre Jacques
KingstonJanet M. Wallace
LexingtonDeborah J. Brown
MendonJay Byer
MiddleboroughWayne C. Perkins
NewburyJoan M. Weyburn
NorthfieldNathan L’Etoile
PembrokeStephen C. Dodge
PlainvilleAndrew R. Martin
ShrewsburyChristopher G. Mehne
ShutesburyPenelope Kim
SpencerPeter J. Adams
WellesleyMargaret Ann Metzger
West BridgewaterJames Benson

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Town Meeting Documents Needed for Archives
   During the early years of the association, the records traveled from home to home as the membership of the Board of Directors changed. During the summer of 2001, the association�s archives were moved to the then new public library in Shirley, Massachusetts. Liz Noyes, the former moderator of Shirley and a past president of the association helped to make this possible.
   Subsequently, the archives were professionally organized. Through a detailed index, the archives are now very accessible. However, many of the records and documents in the archives are quite old.
   At present, it would be hard for a researcher looking into the development of town meeting over the last twenty years in the Commonwealth to have much source material to write a report. Accordingly, the Archives Committee is requesting that all moderators who participate in the annual meeting bring with them a copy of the procedural documents you hand out or use to conduct your town meeting. It also would be helpful if you would bring a town warrant for each town meeting over the last five years. These materials will be filed by town so it will be easier for a researcher to understand, at least from the documents, the differences and similarities among our town meetings.
   If you are not able to participate in the annual meeting this year, please collect the materials referenced above for your town and mail them to the library.
   Materials may include:
Published articles about town meeting
Pamphlets/handbooks published by individual towns explaining their town meeting bylaws, practices and procedures
Copies of town counsel memorandum and opinions regarding town meetings (that have been made public).
Massachusetts Moderators Association
Hazen Memorial Library
3 Keady Way
P.O. Box 1129
Shirley, MA 01464

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Edward E. Newman, Jr.
June 1, 1944 – July 17, 2009
   It is with great sadness that we note the death of Ed Newman, Moderator of Stow from 1994 until he died on July 17, 2009.
   Ed Newman was a modest and effective leader of the association. He was a friend to all and a mentor for many moderators. During his first two terms on the Board of Directors from 1998 to 2003, he served on most of our committees, chairing both the Legislative Committee and the Town Meeting 2020 Committee, which he helped start. Ed was re-elected to his third term in 2005, and the following year he readily agreed to serve in executive leadership positions—Second Vice President and then First Vice President—leading to President this year had he not become ill.
   Ed�s creative leadership, steady guidance, and thoughtful encouragement will be missed by his fellow moderators and his many friends.
—President Edward N. Perry (Concord)
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Bylaw Amendment Proposed
   At the annual meeting, members will have the opportunity to consider a proposed amendment to the bylaws of the association. Proposed by Treasurer Michael Miller and supported by the Board of Directors at their most recent meeting, the amendment would change the fiscal year of the association from the calendar year to a year beginning October 1 and ending September 30.
   At present, our bylaws state that our fiscal year begins on January 1 and ends on December 31. Our membership year runs from October 1 through September 30 and our budgets have been prepared for the same period of time for the last several years. The proposed change (listed in the box below) would bring the fiscal year in our bylaws in line with how our annual budget is voted and how the annual financial reports are prepared and approved at the annual meeting.
   Michael Miller reports that the purpose of this change is simply to make the bookkeeping simpler. It should be noted that because the amount of receipts is low each year, no tax returns are required to be filed with the IRS or DOR.
Bylaw Amendment
   Change the single sentence in ARTICLE XVI  FISCAL YEAR of the Bylaws, which currently reads:
The Fiscal Year of the Association shall begin on the first day of January and end on the last day of December.
so that it shall read:
The Fiscal Year of the Association shall begin on the first day of October and end on the last day of September.

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   The Technical Assistance Committee is a team of experienced moderators available to respond to individual requests from members for advice on parliamentary practice and other more general aspects of conducting a town meeting. Team members often find it useful to hold discussions by telephone in order to understand fully the issues involved and provide a person-to-person response.
   Copies of two educational DVDs, Town Meeting and You and Voice of the People: The Representative Town Meeting, produced and distributed by the association, can be purchased at $10.00 each, or three for $25.00. Go to the association website <> and click on Town Meeting DVDs to obtain an order form. With your order, include a check, payable to the Massachusetts Moderators Association, and indicate your shipping address.
   To obtain an order form for copies of the third edition of Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law, go to the website <> and click on Town Meeting Time. Include a check for $25 per copy, payable to the Massachusetts Moderators Association, along with the return shipping address.
Town Meeting and You
Voice of the People
Alan E. Foulds
9 Ide Street
Reading, MA 01867-2753
Town Meeting Time
Harry A. Pape
70 Merriam Road
Princeton, MA 01541
   To share viewpoints on any topic of interest to moderators, join the Gavel Line. The Gavel Line is the e-mail discussion group among moderators who are members of the association.
   To subscribe (or to make changes to your service) go to <>. Click on Gavel Line and follow the instructions. Or send a request, including name, town, and email address, to <>.
   As a subscriber, send emails to <>, and they are forwarded to all subscribers.
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New Town Meeting DVD Released
   The new educational DVD on representative town meeting is now complete and available for purchase. Entitled Voice of the People: The Representative Town Meeting, the DVD is 25 minutes long, and it features R.D. Sahl of NECN as narrator. Also appearing are moderators from the association, together with town meeting members from several towns who help explain the workings of this form of local government and de-mystify the process. It also encourages citizens to get involved in town meeting and stand for election as town meeting members.
   Voice of the People made its official debut at a release party held at the senior center in Reading on Friday, May 1. Attending were many of the participants in the project, officers of the Massachusetts Moderators Association, and local officials. The release version of the DVD was shown to those present, and the DVD went on sale.
   President Edward Perry (Concord) expressed the appreciation of the association to all those who contributed to the making of the DVD and presented a commemorative plaque to Alan Foulds (Reading) of the Town Meeting 2020 Committee for his leadership in bringing the project to a successful completion.
   The new DVD joins its companion product Town Meeting and You that focuses on open town meeting. The association released Town Meeting and You in January 2007.
   Copies of both the new RTM DVD and the OTM DVD can be ordered now. Go to <> and click on Town Meeting DVDs and download an order form. Price for one is $10 or three for $25. The price includes postage. With your order, include a check, payable to the Massachusetts Moderators Association, and indicate your shipping address. Write to:
Alan E. Foulds
9 Ide Street
Reading, MA 01867-2753

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What Would You Do?
   A recent development project has your community up in arms. An existing home—controversial years ago when it was quadrupled in size—is located in perhaps the most visible location in town.
   A purchaser has proposed a further tripling of the size of the structure. The purchaser’s permit has been appealed. There have been zoning hearings—some with over a hundred attendees—and debate has been strident at times. The viability of the permit is now a matter for the courts.
   However, a result of all this has been a rush to plug a perceived “mansionization” loophole in your town�s zoning by-laws. The warrant for an upcoming special town meeting contains no less than three related articles. Two of them, taken together, constitute the proposal of two town boards, while a third article by petitioners competes with these two.
   You have a conflict that prevents you from presiding over these articles. The substitute moderators who usually stand in for you are similarly conflicted or are unavailable. The selectmen have identified a willing but inexperienced volunteer to act in your stead.
   A local citizens� forum regularly sponsors a pre-town-meeting meeting which you customarily attend to address procedural questions. How much assistance can you give the substitute moderator? Should you participate at the pre-town-meeting meeting at all?
   What would you do?
   A moderator who faced just this situation (one of the authors of this article) acted as follows. He attended the pre-town-meeting meeting, announced that he could not preside over these articles, and confined his comments to the procedural requirements of the zoning act for amending the zoning by-laws.
   The moderator also met with the presumptive substitute moderator to discuss the issues the substitute might encounter and to answer his questions.
   The moderator also provided the substitute with a copy of his procedural notes and a copy of an article discussing “scope of the article” issues. (The procedural notes constitute a “cheat sheet” for handling a generic article, covering subjects such as how to deal with amendments, debate, voting, etc. These notes appear on the town website.) None of these dealt with the specifics of the three articles on the warrant.
   At the town meeting, the moderator recused himself and waited in the back of the hall for the articles to be acted upon, taking care not to coach or guide the substitute moderator by nodding or gesturing or giving any indication of approval or disapproval as the meeting went on.
   For more discussion of this topic, see Town Meeting Time, Chapter 10, Section 65, (page 142 in the Third Edition).
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, former Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Joe Harrington, Westborough; Ellen Harde, Westford)
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Record Membership
   At the Membership Committee meeting on March 28, committee chairperson Betsey Anderson announced we had reached a record number of members in the association – 230. Since that date, the number has been increased by the election of new moderators this spring. Our membership number now stands at 249.
   Betsey attributed this record number to the separate membership solicitation that was done last September, as well as to a growing appreciation of the benefits of membership by new moderators. These benefits include opportunities to share viewpoints on any topic of interest to moderators via the Gavel Line (the e-mail discussion group among members), availability of responses to individual requests about procedural issues from members of the Technical Assistance Committee, and workshops for new and more experienced moderators.
—President Edward Perry (Concord)
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Membership Breakdown
(as of 6/4/09)
67% of OTM towns
73% of RTM towns
better than 2 out of 3
AssociateFormer Moderators39
AffiliateDep, Asst Moderators6

Who Wants to Come to Town Meeting?
   Good question! Some might reply, “I do. Although I may never want to speak in front of all those people to give my opinion, I can listen to both sides of an issue and then vote on what is best for the town. I will come whenever I do not have a conflict. Voting on issues at town meeting is just as important as voting at elections.”
   Some might reply, “I keep informed about what is happening in town. I watch the telecasts of town meeting frequently. When there is an issue important to me, I come and vote.”
   Still others might say, “I don’t really keep up to speed on what is happening in town. I would never have the time to attend town meeting. I may vote in local elections for candidates and ballot questions if a neighbor has acquainted me with the issues.”
   Moderators recognize that the inclination of voters to participate in town meeting varies. Moderators do not gauge the effectiveness of the town’s legislative body simply by counting noses. But, a downward trend in attendance may merit attention.
   Dan Winslow (Norfolk) recognized such a downward trend in Norfolk and was especially concerned about very low turnout on second or third nights of town meeting. He actively promoted a number of initiatives to make town meeting a destination for voters to want to attend.
   One set of initiatives involved education. An ad hoc town meeting procedures task force looked at what was happening in comparable towns and drafted a bylaw on procedures for Norfolk town meeting. The bylaw was adopted in May 2008.
   Compared to similar bylaws in other towns, this bylaw is quite extensive, even establishing an organizational meeting in advance of town meeting. It is quite helpful for those who want to learn about Norfolk town meeting procedures.
   In addition, Winslow, as moderator, conducts some Town Meeting 101 sessions. In 2008 he produced a town meeting voter handbook which answers the how-do-I-do-this type of question. In an appendix, there is a Norfolk town history quiz prepared by the historical society. Quiz takers can check their answers against the ones on the back page.
   Other initiatives can be described as spirit-raising. Happening in conjunction with town meeting are a free spaghetti dinner, a bake sale, jazz band-provided music, discount baby sitting service, and a raffle (on second night) for Red Sox tickets and other prizes.
   Westborough also has a meal available (for purchase) between its Saturday afternoon and evening town meeting sessions. The hope is to finish in one day. (That happened this May.) If needed, adjourned sessions continue evenings of the following week.
   Joe Harrington (Westborough) said that the two-session format with an intervening meal was not created to stimulate increased attendance. “It has been part of the show since colonial times.” Growing up in Wenham (quite a few years after colonial times), he remembers bean suppers organized by the historical society.
   In conjunction with town meeting, Westborough does have an array of groups at tables providing information or selling products as part of fundraising.
   Harrington, along with the town clerk, runs a well-publicized annual workshop primarily for newcomers who want to become knowledgeable about what to expect at town meeting. He provides introductory and follow-up segments to accompany the DVD Town Meeting and You run on the local cable TV channel in the weeks before town meeting, along with videos on the town website for voters who prefer their information online in this fashion.
   Harrington stated that voter attendance fluctuates depending on the issues. Less than 10 years ago, the date of town meeting was switched from March to May supposedly to increase attendance. There have been suggestions to switch back. There have been complaints that May Saturdays are not good for attendance. But, no specific proposals for change have been filed.
   Turning to representative town meeting, Sandy Gadsby (Brookline), Peg Metzger (Wellesley), and Ed Noonan (Framingham) all said that attendance is not a problem. Town meeting members are elected with the implied promise that they intend to represent the voters at town meeting.
   All said that some precincts historically seem to have less than a full slate of candidates running for election. Precincts are drawn up on the basis of population census blocks, not on numbers of voters. If a precinct contains many persons who have not established roots in the town, it is understandable that fewer persons may be inclined to seek election to town meeting from that precinct. Noonan noted that 4 of 18 precincts in Framingham now have less than full representation at town meeting because of lack of candidates.
   Generally (and certainly in the case of this small survey), RTMs have more sessions than OTMs. As the number of sessions exceeds a number that many town meeting members had anticipated, other commitments do seem to result in declining attendance at later sessions. Issues are the key factor correlated with attendance; and in RTMs they may draw many voters (not just representatives) to participate in debate as well.
   Perhaps, it can be said, in summary, that only a minority of voters can be expected to have the inclination to participate frequently, if not enthusiastically, at town meeting. What is important is that those who do attend reflect adequately the various viewpoints throughout the community and vote conscientiously, recognizing that many of their neighbors are trusting in their judgments.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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Welcome New Moderators
   For the last few years, 25 to 30 new moderators have been elected for the first time each year. Many of these new moderators are learning about the Massachusetts Moderators Association from their predecessor, a newspaper article, or our website. Conversely, the officers of the association want to learn who the new moderators are so they may be welcomed into the association and encouraged to participate in our annual meeting and other activities.
   If you learn of a moderator stepping down, please try to determine who is elected to take over the position in that town and forward the name and contact information for the new person to the president or treasurer. Telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for the president and treasurer are posted on our web site.
   The president sends each new moderator a welcoming letter and a copy of the Manual for Moderators. In addition, new moderators are invited to attend the workshop designed especially for them at the annual meeting. This is an excellent opportunity for new moderators to learn from their peers and to ask questions.
   New moderators are welcomed into the association and their membership dues are waived until September 30 of the year following the year in which they were elected.
   The assistant treasurer is in charge of gathering the names of newly elected moderators. To ensure we have all the names by early August, the assistant treasurer coordinates our information with the list maintained by the Massachusetts Municipal Association; however, the best and often the quickest information about new moderators is developed from our members. Please don�t assume someone else has forwarded the information about that new moderator in the neighboring town. It also is helpful if you call a new moderator to offer congratulations and information about the association.
—President Edward Perry (Concord)
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President Invites Members to Support Moderators and Town Meeting
   At our 2008 Annual Meeting last October 17 in Boylston, the theme of “Sharing Information About Our Town Meetings” was put forward. To facilitate this sharing of information, I hope as many moderators as possible will participate in the work of our committees, in the regional breakfast meetings this spring, and in our 2009 Annual Meeting at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester on Friday, October 30.
   Through these activities, I hope each of you will let me know how the association can be of assistance to you in improving your town meeting. Please send me your suggestions for seminar topics for our annual meeting. I also welcome ideas for newsletter articles, issues for sharpening our white paper defending our town meeting form of local government, and ways this association could improve the conduct of and participation in the town meetings throughout Massachusetts.
   As a result of a number of moderators stepping forward to host our regional meetings this March, you will see listed elsewhere on this page the four regional meetings scheduled for the Saturdays in March and the release event for our new RTM DVD in April. Moderators who have attended these spring meetings often report they are able to have their questions answered more readily and the subjects covered are more helpful then other types of meetings they attend.
   At our annual meeting last October, to accomplish the sharing of information about town meetings, I challenged each member of the association to try to attend at least one night of a town meeting in another community to see how another moderator and another town conducts town meeting. We all do it differently, and I have learned a number of constructive steps to use in my Concord Town Meeting from observing other moderators.
   We plan to post on our website <> the starting date, time and location of several town meetings across the Commonwealth. If you plan to attend a town meeting, I recommend letting the host moderator know you expect to attend so the moderator will have an opportunity to recognize you during the session, and you will have a chance to learn about any interesting issues that may arise the night you attend.
   With the financial pressures all of our communities are under, it is more important than ever to be able to share information about issues that will impact the running of our town meetings. Elsewhere in this newsletter, Sandy Gadsby (Brookline), writes about several legislative issues we all should be aware of.
   Betsey Anderson, our president last year, revamped the membership renewal process. The result in 2008-09 is many more members—the highest membership count we have had in many years.
   Again, as the association reaches out to you, please let me know how the association may best serve you and support your activities as town moderator. My email address is <>. My telephone numbers are 617-348-4335 (office) and 978-369-6758 (home).
—Edward Perry (Concord), President
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What Would You Do?
   Your town is abuzz with controversy over a proposal to light the high school athletic field to enable night games. Many parents are enthusiastic about the proposal. They are dismayed by the opposition who have organized a support group and raised funds to help reduce the expense to the taxpayer.
   The field is in the immediate vicinity of a long-established residential district. The neighbors and the older residents of the town ask, “Would you like to have this in your back yard—bright lights on well into the night—loudspeakers calling the games—large groups of unsupervised out-of-town kids roaming around your neighborhood after night games?” History buffs note that the light standards will not be in keeping with the neighborhood.
   Now the matter is before your town meeting in the form of an appropriation article put forward by the School Committee. An up-or-down vote on the motion to appropriate the funds requested by the School Committee is expected. But after an hour of heated debate, a respected elder statesman rises and declaims, �I hate to see our community so splintered. Surely some middle ground can be found. I move that the matter be referred to a committee, to be named by the moderator, to study this matter and report back at a future meeting.�
   What would you do?
   The motion to refer to a committee is in order, and it takes precedence over the main motion. Whether it is the right course of action is not your problem; that falls to the meeting to decide.
   However, the motion in its present form is in serious need of more specifics. It leaves far too much to the imagination, and to the extent that the vagueness may lead to future problems, you as appointing authority would find yourself right in the middle of them.
   Here is a suggested checklist of things to look for, and consider asking the proponent of such a motion to pin down, before debate begins:
Name of the committee and a succinct statement of its task or mission
How and to whom shall the committee report? (School Committee, Selectmen, the Town Meeting?) Within what timeframe? Will there be a sunset provision if the committee does not report?
Appointing authority
Number of members (can be a range, with the final number at the appointing authority�s discretion)
(If the article under which the motion to refer is made provides sufficient warning, the committee may be given a budget.) If a budget is desired, how much? From what funding source?
   Some meetings are prone to specifying the structure of an ad hoc committee, naming specific constituencies that are to be represented. Our experience with this is that it can be helpful if not overdone, but that the meeting should be discouraged from getting carried away in writing a prescription for an ad hoc committee�s membership and should leave the appointing authority some latitude.
   Many experienced moderators keep handy during meetings a list similar to the above to be consulted when proposals such as this arise.
   For a more extensive discussion of this topic, see Town Meeting Time, Chapter 2, Section 12, “Select Committees” (page 35 in the Third Edition).
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, former Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Joe Harrington, Westborough; Ellen Harde, Westford)
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MGL Amendments May Affect Town Meeting
   The Legislative Committee reports that several legislative enactments during 2008 affect generally the role or function of town meeting.
   Chapter 85 of the Acts of 2008 amends Sections 9 and 9A of Chapter 39 of the Massachusetts General Laws to permit town elections and annual town meetings to be held in June, provided that the ATM must still be concluded on or before June 30.
   This provision might be useful to enable the ATM to consider budgets that reflect the latest information about state aid.
   Chapter 188 of the Acts of 2008 amends Section 4A of Chapter 40 of the MGL to permit intermunicipal agreements to be entered into by the board of selectmen (or by an official of the town in whom such authority is vested by its charter).
   This legislation eliminates the requirement for a town meeting vote for such agreements, even when they involve present or future financial commitments of the town. While this may not be of much practical significance when an agreement involves routine sharing of services, such as those of an animal control officer, it would also apply to agreements that may involve significant financial commitments, such as sewage disposal or wastewater treatment agreements.
   The Legislative Committee is a standing committee of the association. The principal purpose of the committee, as its functions have developed over the years, is to track proposed state legislation affecting town meetings or the role of the moderator, with a view to recommending that the association, generally acting through the Board of Directors, take a position on pending legislation in appropriate instances.
   The committee also prepares from time to time articles of general interest to the membership about relevant legislation and judicial decisions concerning the power of moderators and the conduct of town meetings.
—Sandy Gadsby (Brookline), Chair, Legislative Committee
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2008 Annual Meeting Friday October 17 in Boylston
   Moderators from across the Commonwealth are invited to gather on Friday, October 17 for the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Moderators Association. This year the meeting will be held at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston just minutes from Route I-290 and close to Route I-495 and the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90).
   This all-day event provides moderators an opportunity to meet other moderators and to share their expertise as well as their questions. The annual meeting will include workshops, speakers and much opportunity for learning and camaraderie. Workshops will address the needs of new moderators and of those who are more experienced.
   If you cannot attend for the whole day, consider coming for just the morning workshops, the afternoon program or even for the business meeting and dinner.
   Guests of moderators are invited to tour the beautiful gardens and the Orangerie at Tower Hill during the meeting. It is not far from Boylston to Worcester for other interesting attractions, and there is shopping at the nearby Solomon Pond Mall in Marlborough. Check the Tower Hill website for directions and other information at <>.
Morning Sessions
For New Moderators (elected in 2008 or 2007)
The New Moderators Workshop, organized by 1st VP Edward Newman, will provide detailed discussion of parliamentary fundamentals, running a �legal meeting�, making appointments, conflict of interest and other helpful topics. There will be opportunities for questions during the meeting and during the lunch break. The workshop will be led by several experienced moderators and is intended to assist you in your new role.
   (Note: If you were elected in 2007 and attended this workshop last year, you may want to attend the Seasoned Moderators Workshop this year since the material presented each year is very similar.)
For Seasoned Moderators
Running concurrently with the New Moderators Workshop, the Seasoned Moderators Workshop, led by 2nd VP Tom Gralinksi, is designed to present topics of interest to those who have served as moderators for just a few years or even longer. This year the theme of the workshop will be Educating the Voter about Town Meeting. Topics presented will include connecting with and educating high school students – our future voters. In addition, panelists will address educating current voters and residents in order to increase participation in Town Meetings. The workshop should provide new ideas and an opportunity to share successful strategies.
A box lunch will be served at noon. The lunch is free for participants in the New Moderators Workshop. You must register for lunch.
Afternoon Sessions
Civic Engagement and Town Meetings
The topic for the afternoon sessions will be civic engagement of citizens – young and not so young – as it relates to participation in local government, especially at the legislative level.
   Nancy Wilson, Director and Associate Dean of Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University will speak about the mission of Tisch College and some recent research at the college relating to young people and voting. Tisch College was established in 2000 to support Tufts� core mission of promoting civic engagement. It is a national leader in preparing students to become engaged public citizens and community leaders.
   Maintaining strong Town Meetings and active voter participation remains a challenge for many communities. Recent experiences of some of our members in encouraging participation will also be presented.
Representative Town Meeting DVD
Clearly good citizen education programs play an important role. We plan to have the premiere showing of our long awaited Representative Town Meeting DVD during the afternoon. Be the first to see the latest effort of our association!
Free-Fire Zone
Always a favorite part of the annual meeting, this session allows for a lively exchange of ideas on current issues facing our members. Bring your questions.
   This year we plan to split into two groups according to the size of your communities and share some of the key issues from each group prior to the business meeting.
Annual Business Meeting
During this meeting, there will be reports from committees, the election of officers, and other business.
Cocktail Reception and Dinner
Following the business meeting, a cocktail reception will be held and a buffet dinner will be served. Guests are welcome throughout the day and for the evening.
—President Betsey Anderson (Bedford)
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Warrant Style and TM Practice
   The Massachusetts General Laws are very clear that every town meeting is called in pursuance of a warrant issued by the selectmen (c.39, s.10). The warrant must state the time and the place of holding the meeting and the subjects to be acted upon.
   The warrant is intended to give notice to the voters of the town so that they may attend if they so choose. Accordingly, the MGL specifies a minimum time for this notice: at least seven days before the annual meeting (or a town election); at least 14 days before a special town meeting.
   Voters themselves may request the selectmen to include subjects on the warrant. Only a few voter signatures are required. For all except very small towns, the number of signatures is 10 for an annual meeting and 100 for a special.
   Some interesting points may be pertinent to a discussion of warrants. First, the term warrant is used in other instances in town government, but with a different meaning. The selectmen approve and transmit warrants for the payment of bills. A police officer may arrest a person named in a warrant.
   Secondly, other town government bodies call meetings, but notices of such meetings do not make use of the term warrant. Interestingly, these notices must state the date, time, and place (c.39, s.23B); but the subjects to be acted upon are not required. The notices must be filed with the town clerk and posted on an official bulletin board.
   Thirdly, the statement in the MGL of what a warrant must contain and when it must be issued is hardly sufficient as a description of the business that is going to be conducted at town meeting. Consequently, most towns have adopted bylaws and customs that define in greater detail how and when a warrant is issued and what it must contain.
   When moderators respond to queries on the Gavel Line about whether or not a proposed motion can be considered to be within scope of the article in the warrant, most recognize that a simple yes or no answer is not obvious because of the divergence in practice from town to town.
   What kinds of divergence in practice are we talking about? One major difference in practice is related to the time between the issuance of the warrant and the start of town meeting. If the warrant is issued several weeks before, then many of the questions and alternatives have come out during advance preparations by town boards. In these situations, the warrant articles often have all the specifics included that are needed in a motion to take action. If the warrant is issued several months before, then the expectation is that town boards still have to explore alternatives. Specifics will have to come later, for example, in a finance committee report.
   But, there are perhaps numerous differences that lead to divergence in practice from town to town. Instead of examining a list of possible differences, the approach taken is to describe the practices in two towns: Becket and Reading. Why these two towns? These towns differ in the length of time between issuance of the warrant and the start of town meeting (as discussed above), and they differ significantly in population. It just seemed to be an interesting situation to explore and hopefully lead to a newsletter article. Read the accompanying feature articles that take a snapshot of practices in Becket and Reading and decide if you see a correlation between warrant style and town meeting practice.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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What Would You Have Done?
   As you approach your annual town meeting, a lengthy contract dispute with the teachers’ union shows no signs of nearing a settlement. Informational picketing has devolved into a shouting match on two occasions.
   In local newspapers, letters to the editor decry the fact that the school department has proposed a budget that makes no allowance for any increases in salaries at all which everyone assumes will result from the new contract that sooner or later will be put in place.
   In response, members of the union announce that they will come to the town meeting prepared to move a hefty increase in the school budget, clearly designated for wages and salaries, “in order to give them the resources they claim they don’t have when we’re at the bargaining table!”
   Ad hoc groups sympathetic to the teachers spring up; and in response, senior citizens and others concerned about constantly rising property taxes mobilize in opposition. In the face of all this, the school committee maintains a stony silence.
   How would you handle the motion to amend if made as described?
   To begin with, the town meeting cannot direct the school committee how to spend the school budget; town meeting acts on the bottom line only. This could, and probably should, be pointed out to the meeting.
    So although a motion to increase the school budget is certainly in order, characterizing the increase as being for one purpose or another is not. A moderator could safely decline to accept the language dealing with the purpose of the increase, but need not do so.
   If the discussion on town meeting floor were to deal with negotiations in progress, any union representative or town official who participated would be exposed to charges of engaging in an unfair labor practice. (Neither party to the negotiations is supposed to take the case away from the bargaining table and attempt to settle it in another forum.)
   While it is not the moderator’s direct responsibility to save people from themselves, it would be advisable to ensure that town counsel and/or labor counsel to both parties had warned their clients.
   It would also be wise to have town counsel warn everyone, on both sides, of this danger at the very beginning of the discussion on town meeting floor.
   Indeed, if these warnings are issued sufficiently in advance of the meeting, cooler heads may prevail at the meeting, thus avoiding potential problems entirely. A future special town meeting can consider an additional appropriation to fund the contract once it has been settled.
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, former Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Ralph Copeland, former Medfield; Joe Harrington, Westborough)
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A Tale of Two Town Meetings
Becket and Reading
Becket2007 Census
Population 1,795
Voters 1,174
   The Town of Becket in its bylaws specifies that the annual town meeting is held on the second Saturday in May, with the town election on the following Saturday as an adjourned session.
   In 2008, there were two articles on the warrant for bonding for capital projects contingent on successful debt exclusion overrides and the corresponding two questions on the town election ballot.
   There were also two articles to authorize use of the procedure in MGL, c.41, s.1B to change the positions of tax collector and treasurer, respectively, from elected to appointed. The corresponding two questions were already on the ballot. It might be noted that in 2007 motions under similar articles were approved but both questions were defeated on the ballot. In 2008, both questions prevailed.
   There was also an article for local acceptance of the Community Preservation Act with the corresponding question on the ballot.
   Voters could clearly see the relationships between the articles and the questions. The fact that the town election closely followed upon the consideration of the articles at town meeting and that the preparation by the selectmen and others in the town administration treated the two related parts together in their discussions facilitated that clear understanding.
   In Becket, there does not appear to be any end date for submitting articles for the warrant. The selectmen add articles to the warrant under construction as submitted. When the time is approaching when the warrant must be posted (at least seven days before the annual meeting; 14 days before a special) and the work of construction is complete, the selectmen sign the warrant.
   In 2008, the selectmen took this action on April 16 for the annual town meeting plus a special town meeting scheduled for the same time. Becket uses the vehicle of a special town meeting to carry out transfers and other adjustments for the current fiscal year before tackling the business related to the upcoming fiscal year in the annual town meeting.
   At a number of previous meetings, the selectmen had voted to make recommendations on most articles.
   The warrant actually starts to take shape with the January submission by the town administrator of the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In fact, the word “warrant” seems to embrace the term “budget” in most discussions in the minutes of the selectmen and the finance committee. The finance committee refers to a first and second draft of the warrant early in the process. Later, as the work of the finance committee really gets rolling, the first step at each meeting is to review the latest adjustments to some of the numbers in the warrant.
   The finance committee must make a recommendation on all warrant articles related to appropriations and borrowing authorizations and may do so on any other articles as it chooses. (It seldom so chooses.) There is no written report.
   Becket voters accepted in 1990 a special act (Chapter 662 of the Acts of 1989) that established a board of selectmen / administrator form of government in Becket. As a result, the town administrator has the central role in the preparation of the budget.
   A Becket bylaw lists the locations where the warrant is posted. Although not required, current practice if for the town administrator to mail the warrant to each household along with any introductory message or supporting materials he determines are helpful.
   In Becket, the warrant articles are concise, but they have all the details about amounts to be appropriated. However, in the case of amendments to bylaws where the text would be lengthy, there is instead a reference to a document for the detailed text. (Such documents are available on the town website.) When such articles are on the floor, the moderator allows reading time for the voters to familiarize themselves with the detailed text before debate begins.
   In 2008, the main article for the operating budget for FY09 contained 89 line items in a table that, in addition to the column for recommended amounts, contained additional columns for approved amounts for FY08, requested amounts for FY09, and percent change. The moderator described the process to the voters: (1) not read each item, but just headings of each main section; (2) allow voters to seek a “hold” on a line item; (3) vote on all non-held items as a group; (4) take up each line item with a “hold” for debate and vote. The moderator also explained to the voters that they were only voting on the amounts in the recommended column.
   It should be noted that the source of funding for all items in the main article was the current tax levy. Consequently, there was no need to make mention of funding source. Separate articles were used for appropriations involving other types of funding sources or for purposes that required specialized wording. The necessary details appeared in the text of the warrant article.
   One convenient result of finalizing the language of the warrant very close to the use of that warrant at town meeting is that brief affirmative main motions were employed. The town clerk usually wrote the following words in the record: “Article # was moved and seconded on the floor.”
   One Interesting Note. The moderator announced at the beginning of the meeting that after the business is completed and immediately before adjournment there would be presentations on the Community Preservation Act and an update on the plans for the new highway department facility.
   Second Interesting Note. The special act (referred to previously) has been amended by the legislature several times, and the town has chosen to print the updated version of the special act as Article 2B of the bylaws. (It is not a bylaw.) In the articles mentioned above to take action to change the positions of tax collector and treasurer from elected to appointed, there was in fact an additional article involved: a petition to the legislature to further amend the special act to change the text in several places so that the new status of the two positions is accurately described. After that occurs, Becket can print an updated Article 2B. Although Becket does many things in a user-friendly way for the voters, this seemingly additional step of asking the legislature to validate what the voters did at the polls is an exception.
Reading2007 Census
Population 23,665
Voters 16,450
   In accordance with its charter, adopted in 1986, the Town of Reading has two scheduled town meetings a year: one in the spring, referred to as the annual town meeting; one in the fall, called the “subsequent town meeting.”
   Provisions in Reading’s bylaw set the date for the town election portion of the annual town meeting to be 20 days prior to the fourth Monday of April, which is the adjourned date to start the business portion of the annual town meeting. The subsequent town meeting is scheduled for the second Monday of November.
   The subsequent town meeting, like the annual town meeting, requires just 10 signatures for voters to petition the selectmen to place an article on the warrant.
   There are closing dates for the receipt of articles by the selectmen. (Without capturing all the special details described in the bylaw), those dates are 55 days prior to the dates when the representative town meeting is scheduled to convene.
   When the warrant is complete, the selectmen insure that the warrant is delivered promptly to each member of the finance committee, the community planning and development commission [planning board function], and the bylaw committee and to the moderator.
   At this point of time, however, the warrant is not officially posted. Official posting is required at least 14 days before holding the meeting. Much closer to that end date for notification, the warrant is posted in one public place in each precinct.
There are additional postings required: (1) in local newspaper, or providing in a manner such as electronic submission; (2) holding for pickup, or mailing, an attested copy to each town meeting member.
   Take note of the “55 days prior” mentioned above. Obviously, at this early date there is still much work to be done to finalize numbers and to formulate required wording for motions and even to make “go/no-go” decisions.
   As a consequence, sometimes warrant articles use generic language only. The article to appropriate funds for the operating budget for the next fiscal year is just boilerplate copied from year to year, with the number for the fiscal year being the only change. There are no “numbers.”
   What help is such an article? It satisfies the legal requirement to describe the subject. Knowledgeable voters are alerted that the entire operating budget is to be acted upon; and they quickly learn the whereabouts of other specific documents available to them to get all the “numbers” they are interested in.
   It should be noted that Reading employs verbose articles when the subject is, for example, amending the zoning bylaws. All the wording changes appear in the text of the article. Hopefully, articles dealing with bylaw changes surface early enough to permit coordination and discussion and public hearings and preparation of written reports so that the language in the article in the warrant is indeed the language that is recommended.
   Reading’s charter tasks the town manager as the chief architect of the operating budget and the capital improvements program. Preparation and presentation of the operating budget encompasses the use of numerous financial tables with indexing keys to each line item of the operating budget as well as various sub-totals and major organizing groups.
   The finance committee conducts the major review of the budget, including a public hearing with notice of the hearing in the newspaper, and of other subjects on the warrant involving appropriations and prepares recommendations in a written report to town meeting.
   The bylaw committee reviews all subjects on the warrant dealing with changes in the bylaws or charter, petitions for a special act, or local acceptance of a state statute which is subject to town meeting acceptance and prepares recommendations in a written report to town meeting.
   Copies of these reports to town meeting and the financial tables presenting the budget, along with the copy of the warrant, are prepared for each town meeting member at least seven days in advance of the opening session of the representative town meeting. Copies of the main motions are provided the night of the opening session. The main motions for the operating budget make use of the indexing keys and can be worded concisely.
   Other voters can view all of these materials at town hall or on the town website.
   One Interesting Note. A Reading bylaw allows the selectmen to advance the date of the town election to coincide with the date of the presidential primary. For 2008, the selectmen voted to do so. Then, the secretary of state moved the presidential primary a month earlier. To comply with posting requirements, the selectmen signed the warrant on January 2. All other dates associated with the date of the town election, such as filing dates for local office, seemed to take many by surprise this year.
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Invite a New Moderator to Annual Meeting
   Consider calling a new moderator in a nearby town and drive together to the annual meeting on October 17.
   The new moderators first elected in 2008 are listed here.
AbingtonShawn P. Reilly
AshburnhamDonald J. Lawrence, Jr.
BelmontMichael J. Widmer
FairhavenMark Sylvia
GraftonRoger Trahan, Jr.
LancasterDavid Spanagel
MarshfieldJames J. Fitzgerald
MonroeJames Heavey
New BraintreeHoward Ziff
NewburyRichard T. Joy
NortonWilliam Gouveia
OakhamJeffrey A. Young
OxfordRussell Rheault
PetershamBart R. Wendell
PlymptonJohn Traynor
ProvincetownIrene S. Rabinowitz
RussellIlltyd Fernandez-Sierra
SouthamptonEdward Batchelder
SouthboroughDavid A. Coombs
TempletonPeter R. Haley
TewksburyWarren Layne
TollandJames Deming
TruroMonica Kraft
WestwoodAnthony J. Antonellis
WorthingtonSean Reagan
YarmouthDaniel Horgan

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What Would You Have Done?
   You are the moderator of the representative town meeting in your town. The warrant for your annual town meeting includes a complex article, sponsored by the planning board, to delete in its entirety the existing section in the zoning by-law that relates to non-conforming uses and to enact a new section.
   During the discussion following the planning board’s report and explanation of its proposal, a town meeting member rises to offer—in writing as required by your rules, but without prior notice—a substantial amendment to the motion on the floor. You call for a brief recess to review the proposed amendment with the planning board chair and town counsel. You conclude that the proposed amendment, if adopted, would still result in an amended main motion within the scope of the article. However, neither you nor the planning board chair feels wholly confident that you understand the full impact of the amendment. The planning board chair expresses her reservations.
   You call town meeting back to order and state the motion to amend to town meeting. The amendment is discussed and voted upon; and it is defeated, in large measure because of confusion among the town meeting members.
   You wonder if, in the future, there could be a better way to proceed in the situation when complex, difficult-to-understand amendments are offered from the floor without prior notice. What might that better way be?
   Some towns have adopted a procedural rule requiring town meeting members who expect to offer complex substantive amendments or motions under an article to submit their proposal to the town clerk a certain period in advance of the session at which the article is to be taken up. Advance submission is intended to provide time for review by the moderator, town counsel and any applicable board or committee and time for the proposal to be printed for distribution to town meeting members before commencement of the session at which the motion is to be considered.
   Exceptions to the rule are permitted in the case of motions that are easy to understand—such exceptions to be at the exclusive discretion of the moderator.
   The rule in one town is as follows:
All substantive amendments and motions to be offered under an article in the warrant must be submitted to the town clerk in writing not later than the close of business on the third business day before the commencement of the session at which the article is to be considered, in order to provide sufficient time for review by the moderator and town counsel and to be printed for distribution to the town meeting members before commencement of such session. The moderator may allow exceptions to the advance-filing requirement in the case of motions that are readily understood, but such exceptions are within the exclusive discretion of the moderator.
   This rule was promulgated by the moderator under the statutory power to regulate the proceedings of town meeting and to decide all questions of order.
   In order to implement the rule, the town prepares and mails to the town meeting members proposed motions to be offered under the articles in the warrant, along with the warrant itself, which, by by-law, must be mailed or delivered at least seven days in advance of the town meeting
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Ralph Copeland, former Medfield; Joe Harrington, Westborough)
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Municipal Law Unit
   The Attorney General reviews all home rule charters, revisions, and amendments proposed to the voters, as well as the bylaws adopted by Massachusetts towns.
   Assistant Attorney General Kelli Gunagan, By-Law Coordinator, Municipal Law Unit (413-784-1240; Springfield) heads up this effort. Information on the status of submittals is available to public officials and the general public via the following link: <>.
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Special Municipal Employee
   This article focuses on aspects of special municipal employee status for the position of town moderator and for other positions for which the moderator is the appointing authority.
   The previous newsletter (Winter 2008) provided a quick look at the purposes of the Conflict of Interest Law (MGL Chapter 268A) and described the use of the designation of special municipal employee status for a position as a means to permit small town government to function in full compliance with the law when it relies on many persons in a part-time and volunteer capacity to exercise important responsibilities.
Moderator Status?
Several moderators provided background for this article. Although almost all said that they were not aware of whether or not the position of moderator was then designated as having SME status when they were first elected to the position, they recommend that any moderator should find out as soon as entering upon the duties of the office. If the position has SME status, there seems little reason to change what has been decided sometime in the past. In any event, understanding what additional actions are permitted a person holding a position with SME status as opposed to (regular) municipal employee status is important if the moderator and the town want to be in compliance with 268A.
   How does a moderator find out? Check with the town clerk. A record of the action by the board of selectmen to designate positions as having SME status is required to be on file with the town clerk. (A copy is also sent to the State Ethics Commission.)
SME Status for Moderator, Yes? Or No?
The position of moderator easily meets the cutoff requirements for consideration for such status: low (no) pay and few hours. The board of selectmen makes the decision for SME status.
   If the board of selectmen exercises its power to define positions in the town government in a systematic way of classifying jobs, then the board probably is applying standards in a uniform manner for all positions that can be considered for SME status, moderator among them.
   In some towns, the board of selectmen exercises its power in a helter-skelter fashion when someone asks the board to reclassify a particular position from the default municipal employee status to special municipal employee status.
   Chapter 268A insures that the board does not have to make any determination for the position of selectman. The law states that members of the board of selectmen in towns with populations less than 10,000 have special municipal employee status, while they may not have such status in towns with greater populations.
   In the small towns, it seems reasonable that the board can readily classify all positions that are eligible for SME status to have that status, since, if the designation is appropriate for members of the board, the board is applying the same treatment uniformly to other volunteer-dependent positions in local government.
   In the larger towns, there is more of a political decision to be made. The board may decide that the position of moderator is one that precludes the incumbent from ever representing interests other than the town’s in any situations involving the town. For example, it could be maintained that a person serving as moderator who worked as a professional architect should not be able to explain the architectural plans and designs for a homeowner requesting a variance before the zoning board of appeals because just the fact of her being moderator may unduly influence the decision of that board. (Whether that alleged influence has a positive or negative impact as far as the homeowner is concerned is another question!)
   But, it is well known that development corporations do engage local attorneys as part of their legal team in dealings with towns precisely because they believe familiarity with the main players and the local issues will help them.
   If the tradition of the board of selectmen is to wait for someone to request SME status for a position, should the moderator make the request for that change? That really depends on whether or not the moderator is comfortable accepting the board’s (yes or no) answer.
   In some towns, the board expects to see disclosure information from the requestor and expects to make a judgment about whether the requestor and others holding the same position (e.g., in the past) “need” to be allowed to perform those other few actions that are permitted a person in a position with SME status. Moreover, it also happens that a board may classify the position as SME and include in the declaration that the classification is rescinded at some future date (e.g., one year later). After that time, the requestor can reapply.
SME Status for Positions Appointed by Moderator
The moderator appoints standing committees, such as the finance committee, and special committees that town meeting authorizes for a specific purpose with the expectation that recommendations or a report will go back to town meeting.
   For standing committees, the discussion about SME status is similar to the discussion about SME status for moderator.
   From the point of view of the moderator, the type of status does determine the pool of candidates that may be considered. If positions on the committee have regular status, then persons who are classified as municipal employees by virtue of even one other position with the town or persons with business or professional interests that may compete with town interests even though not connected with the scope of the committee’s work may not wish consideration because, if appointed and if continuing previous involvement with the town, they can readily fall afoul of 268A.
   If positions on the committee have SME status, then such persons may wish consideration because no flag for possible violation of 268A is raised.
   For special committees just beginning, municipal employee is the default status. It certainly seems appropriate for the moderator to request of the board of selectmen SME status in advance of considering persons for appointment.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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Why This Disclosure Notice?
   As moderator, have you ever received a formal disclosure notice from one of the members of a committee that you appointed?
   The person making the disclosure is stating that he has some interest or relationship that he describes and he believes that without this disclosure some uninformed person might think that he may be showing favoritism or in some manner not acting impartially in a particular matter that he will be considering as a member of the committee.
   There is also the implication that the action of sending the disclosure notice to you somehow corrects the misimpression of that uninformed person. Not required, although advised, is that the member read the disclosure notice at an upcoming committee meeting.
   If this happened to you, perhaps you guessed that something related to provisions of the Conflict of Interest Law (MGL Chapter 268A) was the stimulus for what you received.
   You received the disclosure (probably at the advice of town counsel or a staff attorney at the State Ethics Commission) because you are the appointing authority.
   If you had been the supervisor of a municipal employee, the procedure in 268A for an employee to report to a supervisor a possible conflict-of-interest situation that might arise if the employee carries on with his normal responsibilities in a particular matter makes a good deal of sense. In such a case, the supervisor can decide whether the employee should carry on since there is no conflict or whether another employee should assume responsibility for any action required.
   However, as moderator, you are not the supervisor of your appointees, as all of them will be quick to point out if you had some mistaken impression. Sending the disclosure notice to you is not seeking your acquiescence nor a reply. You are simply the addressee for a document in the paper trail mandated by the law.
   It seems that following this disclosure process in 268A is sufficient justification for the State Ethics Commission to decide that a complaint alleging violation of the provision about an appearance of conflict by a member of a committee you appoint ought not be investigated further.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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Are You Guilty of Conflict of Interest?
   The answer is: It is hard to tell … until you are so informed by the State Ethics Commission.
   The process leading to that determination begins with a complaint to the staff of the State Ethics Commission alleging violations of specific provisions of the Conflict of Interest Law (MGL Chapter 268A). Neither the name of the complaintant nor the fact that a complaint has been received is revealed to the subject of the complaint.
   The staff conducts an initial screening of each complaint. Most are dismissed (70% of 1000 complaints in FY 2007). For some (20%), the staff sends a private educational letter to the subject (although no formal charge of violation is brought) and concludes the matter confidentially. For the rest, the commission usually authorizes an investigation, and the case may proceed through final enforcement action.
   Final action usually is one of the following: (1) public education letter, (2) disposition agreement, (3) decision and order. Moreover, the commission insures that there is a press release issued.
   If you have occasion to read those press releases, you realize that you never want your name mentioned in such a news item.
   Take the advice of the State Ethics Commission seriously: If you have any question about potential conflict of interest, obtain an advance opinion from the staff attorney at the commission or from town counsel. Document what you receive. Comply with the opinion. It is your insurance policy.
   The significant number of dismissed complaints mentioned above suggests the act of submitting a complaint may be a tool employed by some in local town politics to get back at a public official. The anonymity for the complaintant is so attractive.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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President Outlines Focus of Association’s Efforts
   The purpose of the Massachusetts Moderators Association, according to our Bylaws, is to “foster and encourage moderators of towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to communicate and meet for the purpose of exchanging ideas and information which would enhance the conduct of town meetings in attaining the highest ideals of democratic government.” We do this through the Gavel Line, our newsletters, our annual meeting, and the regional meetings that we hold each year.
   This year, as your president, I hope to see us continue to support and assist new moderators, to offer advice to moderators no matter what their level of experience, and to do all that we can to help town meetings serve as the place where each voter or each voter’s elected representative can have an impact on the present and the future of his or her community.
   It seems to me that the institution of town meeting is at an interesting point in 2008. In many towns, it is thriving as a much-valued part of the local government. In 2007 Middleborough held what was probably the largest town meeting in history. Many of us have experienced large meetings filled with heat and emotion and have seen that town meeting can work. Some communities are using much technology while others are just beginning to try out new things. And in some communities, town meeting is being challenged as other forms of government are being considered.
   As your Executive Committee plans for the coming year, we will do so in this context. We plan to expand opportunities for moderators to meet each other and to exchange ideas and experiences. Two regional meetings are planned and, hopefully, two additional meetings will be held, including a meeting in southeastern Massachusetts.
   At the Annual Meeting, we voted to fund the production of the Representative Town Meeting DVD. We expect it to be ready for viewing at the 2008 Annual Meeting and in those towns with representative town meetings later this year. Our first DVD, Town Meeting and You, has sold over 400 copies. These efforts at education are an excellent way to encourage and demystify participation in town meetings across the state.
   The Town Meeting 2020 Committee will continue to address ways that we can make our town meetings more efficient in this day of technology. Even small changes can make a big difference.
   There is much focus on active citizenship and volunteerism in our high schools and colleges today. I think this is very hopeful, and I would like to see us continue to focus on educating all ages about the value of active participation in local government. As the population ages, it is important to attract those in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s to participate more fully. I hope that the Association will be able to play a role in this process. If you have success stories about your educational efforts, especially in conjunction with your use of Town Meeting and You, please share them with us.
   I look forward to working with all of you during the coming year. If you are interested in joining a committee, please contact me at <>.
—President Betsey Anderson (Bedford)
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What Would You Have Done?
   You are in your second year as moderator of the open town meeting of your Massachusetts seashore community. Your revered predecessor, who served as moderator for nearly 25 years, has moved away from town, and you are on your own.
   The summer months in your community are busy and are dedicated nearly completely to serving the needs of the large influx of summer residents, while the time from early October through mid-May is marked by a much more relaxed pace and a feeling of being part of a small, well-knit community. There is good attendance at your annual town meeting in March and at the occasional fall or winter special meeting. The community has not found it necessary to institute a system of voter cards or segregated seating for the occasional visitor. Everyone knows who is who. There are very few procedural by-laws; most everything is handled by well-established local tradition.
   There are several zoning issues toward the end of the warrant for your second annual meeting which deal rather directly withthe interests of the many beach-front condominium owners. You know that virtually none of them are registered voters of the town, but several of them voiced serious dissatisfaction to you over the proposals last summer, when they were just at the talking stage. It crosses your mind to wonder what you should do if some of them happen to appear at the meeting.
   Your predecessor’s instructions to you on the point (during your all-too-brief handoff meeting) were along the lines of “Oh, if a non-voter turns up, you simply advise the meeting that he or she wishes to speak and ask if there is any objection. There never is, because why wouldn’t we want to hear from a consultant or some other out-of-town expert that someone took the trouble to cart all the way out here?”
   When annual meeting day comes, you are surprised to encounter not one or two, but at least a dozen summer residents in the lobby of the high school just minutes before the meeting. They advise you that they are here as a group to speak against the zoning proposals, and you advise them that you will have to ask the meeting if they may speak. At this they are incensed. They point out that they are taxpayers, and that their taxes and the taxes on the other condominiums represent a very significant fraction of the total levy. “It is illegal and unconstitutional to confiscate property without due process of law!” barks one of the more contentious of the group. “You’re gonna get sued—personally—if you try to stand in our way!” Several of his friends take him aside to calm him down, but another member of the contingent who has with her a copy of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40A immediately replaces him. She courteously points out to you a passage in Section 5 which certainly appears to make it necessary for interested parties to zoning changes to be allowed to be heard at public hearings.
   It is plain that you are in for a confrontation. The chairman of the board of selectmen, who came over as soon as he heard the raised voices, takes you to one side and tells you that it is a long-standing tradition that the moderator may admit anyone he pleases to the meeting. He is considerably your senior, in age and in experience. He urges you to “Keep those outsiders in their place!”
   You go through your opening remarks at the start of the meeting, and as you are getting ready to address the first article, someone calls for recognition. You ask who spoke, and one of the group of summer residents rises. He identifies himself, states his interest in the zoning articles at the end of the warrant, and moves that they be advanced to become the first order of business. “We’ve come all the way from Boston to be here, and we’d just as soon not wait around all afternoon for these items to come up,” he says. “They can be dealt with right at the top, because they don’t affect the budget and all this other stuff on the warrant.”
   That sets the hall to buzzing. The chairman of the board of selectmen is shaking his head “no” and frowning at you. Despite his words before the meeting, you rely on your predecessor’s advice, point out that the speaker is to your best knowledge not a registered voter, but on the other hand does have an obvious interest in the matter, and ask if there is any objection to his speaking. Immediately several hands are raised, and without being called on, one of those individuals loudly asserts that even one objection is enough to prevent a non-voter from participating “…as we all know from years of experience when this question has come up!”
   How do you deal with this situation and the motion?
   While there is nothing in MGL 40A—in Section 5 or any other—that grants property owners special status at a town meeting, that statute does make it clear that they have the right to initiate zoning changes pertinent to their land, and that they must be allowed to be heard at the related public hearings that are held by the planning board in advance of the town meeting. While it would be both courteous and good taxpayer relations to follow this model and offer them an opportunity to be heard, it is the town meeting’s call. Thus, the first thing to do is to see if the meeting is disposed to admit the non-voter(s).
   Contrary to the objector’s statement, a single negative vote is not enough to bar a non-voter, although it is understandable that people might think so, since the question historically has been, “Is there any objection to [name of non-voter] speaking on town meeting floor?” This might imply to some that a single objection is sufficient to bar a non-voter from being heard, but as pointed out in Town Meeting Time (Third Edition, pp. 41-43), absent a local by-law dealing with the point, non-voters are admitted by majority vote of the meeting. An attempt to find unanimous consent is merely a quick way of dealing with a situation where there is little likelihood that the issue is contested. However, if there is dissent, then the thing to do is to state plainly the name of the individual(s) seeking admission, and a few words of identification sufficient to lay a basis for their interest in being present, and then to take a vote.
   We would attempt to limit any debate to one statement in support and another in opposition. A simple majority suffices to decide the issue. This is far preferable to the situation of a moderator taking on the responsibility for admitting or excluding people, unless a written by-law or charter provision expressly delegates this authority to the moderator.
   With regard to the question to admit the non-voters, there would likely be sentiment both for and against admission. Some voters would be zealous in pursuit of excluding the so-called outsiders. Others, acting either out of a sense of fairness to taxpayers or a sense of self-interest (a good portion of the town’s summer business likely comes from the outsiders) would wish to offer them a chance to be heard.
   Assume that the latter group prevails and the non-voters are admitted. What do you do with their motion to advance the articles? Even though they may be taxpayers and may have been admitted to speak at the town meeting, the condominium owners may not make motions or vote. You must decline to entertain any motions from this quarter, even a procedural one such as the motion to advance the articles. Only if a registered voter proposes this motion is it properly before the meeting (Town Meeting Time, Third Edition, p. 43).
   Any similarity to the Egremont case (recently made available through the Gavel Line) is purely coincidental! But that decision does make excellent reading for those wishing to dig deeper into this issue.
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, Belmont; Harry Terkanian, Wellfleet; Ralph Copeland, former Medfield; Joe Harrington, Westborough)
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Special Municipal Employee
   What is a “special municipal employee”? Contrary to what might be expected, the term does not refer to a municipal employee who is accorded recognition from his supervisor for meritorious service or is honored with the privilege of a reserved parking spot for the next month.
   In most instances when the term is used, it designates a specific class of municipal employees and is strictly defined in the Conflict of Interest Law (MGL Chapter 268A). The law first describes a municipal employee as any person who performs a service on behalf of a municipality, including not only salaried employees but also volunteers who serve in elected or appointed positions. The law defines standards of conduct for all municipal (and county and state) employees, describes actions that violate the law, and specifies penalties that may be imposed by the State Ethics Commission that makes judgments on the guilt or innocence of persons reported to the commission.
   The commission also tries to educate people about the provisions of the law and provides advance advice in response to questions about unlawful conduct. The commission also encourages municipal counsels to provide opinions when asked and to forward written copies to the commission.
   All persons when they first assume positions in the local government should receive information from the town clerk about the provisions of the law. Compliance with the law protects persons in those positions and also the reputation of the municipality for integrity.
   In many towns, there are elected or appointed positions that are unpaid or very part-time positions with little pay. For such positions, the board of selectmen may act to define the positions as having special municipal employee status, as that term is defined in the law. The board of selectmen may exercise this power to define positions in the town government in a systematic way of classifying jobs or in a helter-skelter fashion when someone asks them to reclassify a particular position (e.g., member of the school committee) from the default municipal employee status to special municipal employee status.
   Persons holding even one position with municipal employee status are expected always to represent the interests of the municipality in any actions in which the town has an interest. Any action to the contrary that may lead to potential financial advantage for the individual, his family, friends or associates, or business or other organizations to which he has a connection raises the flag of possible conflict under the law. No flag is raised, of course, when the person acts for his financial advantage when he is acting in the same manner as ordinary citizens and benefits in the same way as the rest.
   Persons holding positions with only special municipal employee status are expected to earn their livelihoods apart from their positions with the town. Therefore, such persons may engage in business that provides them financial gain despite the fact that the municipality has an interest and they may indeed be representing a competing interest. No flag is raised provided they forego any actions where their municipal positions might influence events.
   The law states that members of the board of selectmen in towns with populations less than 10,000 have special municipal employee status, while they may not have such status in towns with greater populations. For all other positions, the board of selectmen must opt for designating positions for special municipal employee status following specific criteria in the law.
   Why would boards of selectmen even want to bother to define positions for special municipal employee status? One reason is to open various elective and appointive positions in the town to persons who are businessmen, employees of local businesses, or professionals with occasional business dealings with the town. In declining to take such action, there may be a desire to maintain certain positions so that no one holding them will ever be representing any interests but the town’s.
   In the next newsletter, we will explore why special municipal employee status may be appropriate or inappropriate for the position of moderator or for positions for which the moderator is the appointing authority.
—Paul Connolly (former Natick)
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Annual Meeting Friday November 16
   Moderators from across the Commonwealth are called to gather on Friday, November 16 for a day of discussion, networking, learning, and camaraderie at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Moderators Association. This year the meeting takes place at the Publick House in Sturbridge, just minutes from Exit 9 on the Mass Pike (I-90). Check for directions and information at
   The all-day event provides moderators with the opportunity to meet their counterparts, share ideas, and hone moderating skills. If you cannot make it for the entire day, consider joining us for the afternoon programs or dinner in the evening.
   Guests of moderators who desire a change of pace for part of the day will find many things to do in the vicinity. Old Sturbridge Village is close by. Some guests may enjoy shopping at the Wrights Factory Outlet, Sturbridge Pottery, or other shops. Check <> for additional suggestions.
Morning Session
For New Moderators (first elected in 2007 or 2006)
   The New Moderators Workshop, led by 1st VP Betsey Anderson (Bedford), will provide detailed discussion of parliamentary fundamentals and issues faced by newly-elected moderators. Presentations by a team of experienced moderators will focus the discussion. Questions and conversation will continue during lunch.
For Seasoned Moderators
   Running concurrently with the New Moderators Workshop, 2nd VP Ed Newman (Stow) will host interactive workshops on two topics: (1) how to react to a planned or unplanned voter turnout at town meeting that exceeds the capacity of the meeting space and (2) how the moderator communicates with town officials and voters via print media, bulletin boards, local cable channel, and the internet.
Afternoon Session
Focused Discussion Topics
   Four interesting topics have been chosen to stimulate much discussion. Expressed in the form of exclamations often heard around town, the topics are:
Why did we argue that issue to death?
The mayor or selectmen decide all that, don’t they?
I never knew that issue was going to come up!
Does anybody want a job on a committee?
   Following a brief presentation to set the focus for the topic, the direction of the discussion can proceed in accordance with the inclination of the participants.
Free-Fire Zone
   Always popular at past meetings, this unstructured forum allows for a lively exchange of ideas on topics of current interest. Bring your difficult questions.
Annual Business Meeting
   As part of this annual meeting, there will be reports of officers and committees, consideration of an amendment to the bylaws, and election of officers and directors for 2008.
   Annual meeting concludes with cocktails and dinner for members and guests.
   Please complete the registration form in this newsletter without delay. If you cannot attend, use the form to remit your annual dues.
   A number of rooms have been committed by the Publick House for attendees who wish to stay Friday night. Telephone the inn (508-347-7323) and mention that you are attending the annual meeting. Rooms with two double beds in the Country Motor Lodge are quoted at $64.00, but only if reserved by October 16.
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What Would You Have Done?
   Your annual town meeting is abuzz with controversy over a proposal to purchase a tract of land known as the Putnam property. The Selectmen have negotiated a price of $5 million with the Putnams. You advise the meeting that a two-thirds vote will be necessary pursuant to MGL 40, Section 14, and because a borrowing is proposed as well.
   Advocates, detractors, and self-appointed negotiation experts abound. Purportedly reliable—but actually hearsay—evidence is advanced in the heated debate to the effect that the Putnams would readily have settled for $4 million and only the ineptitude of the Board of Selectmen as negotiators has brought the town to the $5 million figure. Based on this, a voter moves to amend the amount of the borrowing to $4 million, stating, “If they really need the extra $1 million, which I very much doubt, they can always call a special town meeting to get the terms of the borrowing changed.”
   You accept the motion for debate, and recognize Mr. Brown, who inquires, “What is the quantum of vote necessary to amend the figure from $5 million to $4 million right now, and if it passes at $4 million, what would be the quantum of vote to reverse this action and amend it back up to $5 million at a future special town meeting if it turns out that $5 million really is required, which I strongly suspect it will be?”
   You answer Mr. Brown’s question. The very next speaker, Mrs. Greene, expresses her firm opinion that the purchase is a bad deal for the town at any price, laments the “poor turnout for this meeting,” and asserts that if the main motion passes, she will muster the signatures to call a special town meeting and “get everybody out” to rescind the vote. Mr. Black, a parliamentary gadfly with whom you have had many a tilt already, reminds the meeting of your town’s reconsideration by-law which among other things requires a two-thirds vote to reconsider, and states that Mrs. Greene will therefore have to get a two-thirds vote to rescind the borrowing at a future meeting. Mrs. Greene’s question to you is “Is that true?”
   What would be your answers to Mr. Brown and Mrs. Greene?
   Our answer to Mr. Brown: Amending a main motion requires simply a majority vote. Regardless of the quantum of vote that will be required on the main motion, as a general rule, the specifics of the main motion can be adjusted by a majority vote on a subsidiary motion to amend.
   To change the borrowing figure from $4 million up to $5 million would require an article in a future town meeting along the lines of “To see if the Town will vote to amend its action taken at the May 2007 Annual Town Meeting under Article __ in order to raise the amount of the borrowing from $4 million to $5 million, or to take any other action thereon.” Affirmative action on a motion under this article would require a two-thirds vote, because the Town would be increasing the amount of the borrowing. It does not matter that the borrowing has already been approved; if the amount is changed, a two-thirds vote is required.
   Our answer to Mrs. Greene: Mr. Black is mistaken. Reconsideration rules never apply when seeking to reverse or amend an action taken at a prior town meeting. Reconsideration is a term reserved for taking another look at an issue within a single meeting, prior to dissolving the meeting. So the town’s reconsideration by-law will not apply to a proposal to revisit the issue in a different (future) town meeting. Nor will a two-thirds vote be required, since the Town would not be voting to do a borrowing, but rather to undo it. A majority is all that will be required.
   Assume that Mrs. Greene and her supporters place an article in the warrant for the future special town meeting that reads “To see if the Town will vote to rescind its action under Article __ at the May 2007 annual town meeting in authorizing a borrowing of $X million for the purchase of the Putnam property, or to take any other action thereon.” If—and only if—the Board of Selectmen and the Treasurer have taken no irrevocable steps to enter into a purchase and sale agreement or issue bonds or notes for the purpose, a motion to rescind would be in order under the article. The quantum of vote to rescind would be a simple majority.
   [If the borrowing had been made but the purchase had not been entered into, the meeting could, pursuant to MGL, Chapter 44, Section 20, by a two-thirds vote, abandon the purchase and appropriate the loan proceeds for any purpose for which a loan may be authorized for an equal or longer period of time than that for which the original loan was issued. This would, however, require an appropriately drafted article that not only warned of the contemplated rescission, but also described the new purpose to which the funds would be applied. This scenario would be even more complex if the meeting voted to abandon the purchase, but failed to direct the loan proceeds for another purpose. Bond counsel would need to foresee that possibility and advise on possible actions to take.]
—Prepared by the Technical Assistance Committee (Henry Hall, Belmont; Ralph Copeland, former Medfield; Joe Harrington, Westborough)
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Bylaw Amendment Proposed
   At annual meeting, members will have the opportunity to consider a proposed amendment to the bylaws of the association. The Executive Committee created the Bylaw Amendment Committee to recommend a bylaw amendment on the subject of meetings of the Board of Directors or Executive Committee via electronic communication. Bruce Garlow, chair of the committee, plans to introduce the following motion for consideration:
Bylaw Amendment
Add a new Article XV Meetings by Electronic Communication before the existing Article XV and renumber Article XV and subsequent articles. The new article reads as follows:
Section 1.   Any duly called meeting of the Board of Directors, with the exception of the annual meeting of the Board, and any meeting of the Executive Committee of the Association may be conducted by telephone, email or other electronic method.

Section 2.   Quorum and all other requirements for participation in such meetings shall be the same as specified in pertinent sections of these Bylaws. The Board of Directors shall establish rules governing the calling of such meetings and the procedures to be followed.

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Invite a New Moderator to Annual Meeting
   Consider calling a new moderator in a nearby town and drive together to the annual meeting on November 16.
   Here are the new moderators first elected in 2007:
Sheila DohertyAndover
John D. LeoneArlington
Daniel SwanfeldtAyer
Albion R. FletcherBraintree
Jonathan ArataCanton
Gary McCarthyDracut
Albert H. BailGranby
Scott PurintonHawley
Michael NuesseHull
Stanley B. Starr, Jr.Lancaster
Timothy D. GoddardLittleton
David E. MillerLynnfield
Kevin G. RuddenMendon
Frank W. FossNatick
Daniel B. WinslowNorfolk
William J. Cute, Jr.Rehoboth
Randy JordanRutland
Kevin F. HayesShutesbury
Eric EsiasonWales
Anthony ScibelliWilbraham
Joseph LarkinWilliamsburg

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   The Technical Assistance Committee is a team of experienced moderators available to respond to individual requests from members for advice on parliamentary practice and other more general aspects of conducting a town meeting. Team members often find it useful to hold discussions by telephone in order to understand fully the issues involved and provide a person-to-person response.
   Copies of the educational DVD Town Meeting and You, produced and distributed by the association, can be purchased at $10.00 each, or three for $25.00. The price includes postage charges. Go to the association website <> and click on Town Meeting and You to obtain an order form. With your order, include a check, payable to the Massachusetts Moderators Association, and indicate your shipping address.
   To obtain an order form for copies of the third edition of Town Meeting Time, the association’s handbook of parliamentary law, go to the website <> and click on Town Meeting Time. Include a check for $25 per copy, payable to the Massachusetts Moderators Association, along with the return shipping address.
   To share viewpoints on any topic of interest to moderators, join the Gavel Line. The Gavel Line is the e-mail discussion group among moderators who are members of the association.
   To subscribe (or to make changes to your service) go to <>. Click on Gavel Line and follow the instructions. Or send a request, including name, town, and e-mail address, to <>.
   As a subscriber, send messages to <>, and they are forwarded to all subscribers.
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