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ZBA member at odds with new reappointment policy


July 07, 2010
SANBORNTON — One Sanbornton Zoning Board of Adjustment member wants to know why he has not been reappointed or replaced, but instead has been asked to serve as a "de facto" member until he has an interview with the board of selectmen and is sworn in for a second term.

Bill Whalen, a three-year member of the board, said he and two other members were notified in May that their term on the ZBA would expire on June 1 of this year. A new policy would require anyone seeking a seat on town boards or committees to meet with selectmen for an interview prior to their appointment.

"I can understand doing this with new people coming onto a board, but I've served for three years already and they know me," Whalen said.

For over a month now the three members of the Zoning Board whose terms expired have been considered "de facto" members and have been asked to continue their service until interviews could be scheduled.

Whalen said he disagrees with the legality of such a position and has not attended ZBA meetings since his term ended. The other two members, Ann Littlefield, clerk/alternate for the board, and Tim Grant, co-chair, have continued to attend the meetings as they await their interview with selectmen.

Whalen said it is time for selectmen to make a decision as to who is actually on the Zoning Board, one they knew was coming since May.

"I'm either on the board or I'm not. Reappointment me or find someone else," he said.

Chairman David Nickerson said the new policy was put in place sometime in mid to late May when selectmen decided it would be appropriate to make sure those looking to serve are aware of the responsibilities of a position. He said has heard many times from new members who did not realize a seat on a committee would be so encompassing or time consuming.

"We just want to make sure they understand what they're getting into and not have them quit after a couple of meetings," Nickerson said.

He said interviews for those seeking re-appointment are basically a chance for selectmen to chat briefly with them and hear how things have been working out with their board or committee. After they have met with the selectmen they have all been immediately sworn in.

"We've asked Bill to come in and meet with us three times now and he's refused, saying we're insulting him. It's not meant to be that - we're interviewing everyone now," said Nickerson.

In order to schedule time for these interviews, which take place during a regular weekly selectmen meeting, some people were maintaining their seats on a board "de facto," especially in the case of the ZBA, he said, which had several ongoing matters before it when the terms expired for three of the members. State law does provide for people to remain on a board de facto in an instance such as this.

"We wanted to keep the board intact and not change the nature of it at that time," he said.

Feedback on the new policy has been "nothing but positive," and Nickerson said it was too bad that Whalen had not attended any ZBA meetings since June 1, especially since he had a lot of prior knowledge on cases before the board.

"I wish he would come in and meet with us and just say 'I have a lot of experience - reappoint me.' It's the new policy and we have to follow it," Nickerson said.

Without the interview process he said Whalen will have to be replaced by a new member on the board.

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