County adopts suggested changes
Dukes County Commissioners have adopted a number of administrative recommendations made in the final report of the Charter Study Commission, which completed its work this past May.
At their September 10 meeting, the county commissioners approved several changes in the administrative code, which governs their actions.
The amended code now requires that all appointments be made in an open meeting, that only one commissioner can be appointed to any given organization, and no commissioner may be appointed to an organization that compensates its members, unless otherwise specified by state law. The county commission has been severely criticized over several controversies involving appointment of its own commissioners to other boards.
The changes also call for the county commission to advertise for all open positions in January, and appointments made in March. In past years, the code required appointments be made in January, and open positions were advertised during the busy holiday seasons in November and December.
Also adopted were new regulations that require the commissioners to hold meetings in different Island towns from time to time, and that one county-wide public meeting be scheduled each year to discuss county programs and budgets, prior to formal approval of the budget. Another change requires that the county commissioner live in Dukes County.
"We're absolutely delighted that they're moving forward," said Paddy Moore, who was vice-chairman of the Charter Study Commission. "We think that the recommendations about accountability, working with the towns, communication with the towns, the citizens of the towns, not just town governments, will all be a move toward more open government. That will help the citizens of Martha's Vineyard know that the county government is important."
County commissioner Tristan Israel of Tisbury said the recommendations were made "to see if we can improve the confidence in the county. It is my hope that the result of adopting these recommendations is a more responsive and transparent county government."
County manager Russell Smith said the commission will now turn its attention to Charter Study Commission recommendations that require changes in state laws. The commissioners have already requested a change in state law that would allow them to hire a part-time county manager, who would serve at the will of the commission. Current laws require a full-time commissioner be hired for "an indefinite term."
Voters will be asked to weigh in on only one change to the county charter in the November 4th election. A ballot question asks whether voters want to change the county commissioners terms from four-year staggered terms, to two-year concurrent terms.