Revisions to the Weston Town Charter were approved last November after nearly a year of work by an appointed Charter Revision Commission. Some of the biggest changes made to the charter were in regard to the budget process; these were put to the test for the first time last Wednesday, April 24, at the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM).
Ms. Weinstein said there was confusion at the ATBM about a new requirement for a quorum at the ATBM. The charter states 2% of qualified voters must be present at the ATBM in order for any portion of the budget to be reduced. This year, that meant a minimum of 136 voters were needed for a quorum; there were 85 when a quorum check was done.
But more people trickled in as the evening progressed, with a total of 103 present by the end of the meeting.
Since many separate votes are taken at the ATBM, the question arose — several times — whether a new count could be taken before a specific vote to see if a quorum had been reached.
Ms. Weinstein said she had consulted with the town attorney before the meeting and was told that, in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order (the standard by which municipal meetings are run), a quorum check is done only once, just before the voting process begins.
Ms. Weinstein said this gives people some time to arrive a bit after the start of the meeting, since the call of the meeting is read, and procedures are discussed before voting gets under way.
However, it turns out the charter is silent on the question of when, exactly, a quorum check is done, and whether it should, in fact, be done before each individual vote.
This is a flaw Ms. Weinstein believes should be corrected.
“I think we have to call back the Charter Revision Committee … to give us some more specifics,” Ms. Weinstein said after the ATBM. But, she acknowledged, that is not a simple, nor a quick, process.
A simple amendment cannot be made to a town charter; by law, the entire charter must be opened up for revision if any portion is to be considered.
“We can’t limit [a Charter Revision Commission], but we can give specific instructions,” the first selectman said.
She said it’s likely a new commission would be asked to look at some areas other than the budget voting anyway, since some other issues have come to light since the charter was revised.
State law requires the Board of Selectmen to appoint a Charter Revision Commission (the previous one has been dissolved, so it cannot simply be called upon again), and there are time constraints and required public hearings that make charter revision a rather lengthy process, Ms. Weinstein said.
For that reason, she wants to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. The selectmen will likely discuss the first step — appointing a new Charter Revision Commission — at tonight’s meeting, set for 7:30 in the Meeting Room at town hall.
“Even if we start immediately, I don’t think there’s enough time to get everything done in time to put any proposed changes on the November ballot,” Ms. Weinstein said.