Topsham selectmen send revised conduct code to public hearing

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TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen voted March 18 to send a proposed code of conduct, as well as code changes related to Town Meeting, to an April 1 public hearing.

The Government Improvement Committee met with the board in a workshop March 1 to discuss tweaks to both documents, which are part of a report the committee completed earlier this year after a year of work.

That nearly 100-page document describes ways to improve participation and attendance at town meetings, and makes recommendations for ordinances that govern recall of elected municipal officials and a code of conduct for the Board of Selectmen and the town manager.

Selectman Don Russell said at last week’s meeting that while he favored a code of conduct for the board, he had second thoughts about one for the town manager.

“The town manager works for the Board of Selectmen,” Russell said. “If he is not following his duties and doing what he should do, then it’s our responsibility, following our code of conduct, to address those issues and correct them.”

Russell said he felt “hemmed in” by the 20 points mentioned in the code for the manager.

Committee member Liz Armstrong said much of the proposed language is based on the Maine Town and City Management Association Code of Ethics.

The board ultimately favored eliminating the 20 points from the document, and having it say that the code for Topsham’s town manager is as described by the management association.

Similar discussion concerned language detailing the duties of the manager, which included 16 items. The board favored eliminating all but one of the items and stating that the powers and duties of the town manager are as described under state law. The one preserved item states that the manager will perform other duties determined by the Board of Selectmen.

Also to be discussed April 1 are changes to Chapter 6 of the town code. The Government Improvement Committee’s recommended changes include a description of the town’s government structure, as well as several aspects of Town Meeting.

The board’s April 1 meeting will be held at the Topsham Municipal Building at 7 p.m. The board will decide what items to place on the May Town Meeting warrant later next month.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.