Proposed charter amendments on Falmouth ballot

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FALMOUTH — Voters will see two proposed Town Charter amendments on the November ballot.

The Town Council Monday approved putting the two measures out to referendum after receiving the Charter Commission’s final report.

One of the questions is mostly housekeeping, although it would change the ability to remove a councilor or School Board member from office for “moral turpitude.”

Instead the justification for removal would be conviction for a “serious crime,” which includes, but is not limited to, fraud, dishonesty or causing “serious injury” or death.

The first set of amendments to the charter would also make it clear that no town, School Department or library employee could run for either the Town Council or the School Board.

This became an issue during the June municipal election, when John Lane, a science teacher at Falmouth High School, sought a seat on the council.

At the time Town Manager Nathan Poore received a legal opinion from the town attorney that said “the charter is clear: ‘No councilor shall hold any paid office or position of employment with the town.’”

Even so, Lane argued he didn’t see any legal reason he couldn’t serve on the Town Council and continued to actively campaign. He lost the election to Ted Asherman.

The other charter question calls for increasing the threshold for capital expenditures requiring citizen approval from $1 million to $2 million, and would exclude wastewater improvements and the expenditure of funds to cover a declared public emergency.

If approved by voters, the amendments would become effective next July.

Former Councilor Karen Farber headed the Charter Commission, which also included Bill Lunt, David Goldberg, David McConnell, Richard Olsen, Rachel Reed, former Councilor Ned Kitchel, Sean Mahoney and Mary Nelson.

Farber said the commission spent the summer reviewing charter provisions and “gave due consideration to each of the recommendations.” She said the commission also tried to be “forward-thinking.”

In approving the amendments for the ballot, councilors praised the work of the commission, with Council Chairman Caleb Hemphill saying it created “a high quality result with important changes” to consider.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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