Tisbury selectmen keep port council post in-house
Reaffirming an unwritten policy that selectmen get first choice, Tisbury selectmen reappointed one of their own as the town's Steamship Authority (SSA) port council representative, at their regular Tuesday night meeting on Dec. 12.
With no advance notice or public advertisement, the selectmen voted unanimously to reappoint Tom Pachico to another two-year term on the council, an advisory panel to the SSA board members. Mr. Pachico voted for himself.
In the past, Tisbury selectmen had indicated they might cast a wider net and seek other interested citizens. But with only limited dissent, the three selectmen voted to make the appointment.
Tisbury selectmen Denys Wortman, Tristan Israel, and Tom Pachico meeting earlier this year. MV Times File Photo
The port council, made up of one representative from each of the boatline's seven member ports, meets once a month in Hyannis or Woods Hole. According to the SSA, Mr. Pachico attended all 10 port council meetings in 2006. One of the benefits of port council membership is free SSA passenger and vehicle passage throughout the term.
Mr. Pachico is employed full-time by the town as its health agent and owns his own business, Septic Solutions. He was first appointed to the newly formed port council in 2002 as an interim appointee, following a change in the SSA's enabling legislation that added a New Bedford voting member. Although there was some discussion about opening up the process, Mr. Pachico was reappointed in 2003 and again in 2005.
Denys Wortman, elected selectman last spring, expressed the only concern about the lack of public notice.
On a motion by board chairman Tristan Israel to reappoint Mr. Pachico, Mr. Wortman interrupted to question the process. "Should it be something that should be going out, though, to be advertised for? We have for other appointments," Mr. Wortman said, adding, "Now, I think that Tom is doing a good job - nothing against what he's saying or what he's doing."
First dibs for selectmen
Mr. Wortman's hesitation prompted Mr. Israel to recollect, "Right, this has been an issue on which we have discussions from time to time concerning that." However, he added, "My own feeling is that if a member of the board of selectmen wishes to do it, I don't have a problem with it. But whatever the board wishes on this is fine with me."
Pressing further, Mr. Wortman explained, "It's more of a procedural thing."
While Mr. Pachico agreed that the selectmen often advertise for interested candidates for most appointments to town committees and said he had no problem with them doing so, he stated again that he would like to continue serving on the port council.
Mr. Israel defended the board's practice of not advertising a position when there is a selectman who wants the job or already has been doing it. "To me, number one, it creates a situation which I don't find I want to deal with," Mr. Israel said. "I think we all try and work together. Number two, I don't have a problem, if one of us wants to serve, of allowing that to happen. I think we get direct communication. And I just don't have a problem with that."
"I don't see the moral end of it or anything else," Mr. Israel said. "So that's my feeling on it. Having said that, if the board wishes to go out to advertise, I'm fine to do that, too."
Highlighting the advantages of self-appointment, Mr. Pachico told Mr. Wortman, "We always know what's coming up if a member of this board is on these committees. We've had problems with things, with VTA things, of lack of communication and programs being cut we didn't know were coming. That doesn't happen when one of us sits on these different committees. I mean, people can say what they want with it, but it is what it is. It's an advisory position."
Mr. Israel, a former self-appointed member of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, said the port council appointment is a "different animal" as compared to the conservation commission or the zoning board of appeals, for example. He said if a selectman wants to serve on the port council or perhaps the Martha's Vineyard Commission, he or she should be allowed to serve, in the interest of not creating ill will among the board members.
Apparently convinced, Mr. Wortman said he was fine with the reappointment and made a motion to appoint Mr. Pachico.
In a telephone conversation after the meeting last week, Mr. Wortman said he felt that bringing up questions about the appointment process made his point, and that he voted for Mr. Pachico in the interest of promoting cohesiveness among the selectmen. Mr. Wortman said that as far as he knew, Mr. Pachico had done his job in attending past port council meetings.
Business community's input
In October 2005, during a meeting with Vineyard SSA member Marc Hanover, the Tisbury Business Association (TBA) raised the question of whether the port council representative should be a selectman. The TBA complained to Mr. Hanover that they were not receiving information from the SSA that affected them as business owners, particularly scheduling changes.
Mr. Hanover said it was the job of the town's appointed port council member to keep town officials and community leaders informed.
At the time, Paul Watts, executive vice president of the Bank of Martha's Vineyard, suggested that the TBA draft a letter to the selectmen to ask that a business owner and not a selectman be appointed as the town's port council representative, as is the case in other port communities.
Current TBA president pro tem Jon Nelson said the organization has not followed up on Mr. Watt's suggestion as far as he knows, concentrating instead this year on the issues of beer and wine sales in Vineyard Haven and downtown beautification.
Steve Perlman, who served as TBA president when the October 2005 meeting took place, attended last week's selectmen's meeting. "Regardless of whether or not the TBA followed through on that, there are a lot of talented individuals who can contribute their time and effort, and it would be good to spread these jobs out a little," he commented a few days later. "It's not an indictment of any individual and their commitment, but rather a matter of opening the gate to make sure we're not missing opportunities for a greater number of people to participate in serving the town."
Selectman or not?
In the past, Tisbury selectmen, including Mr. Israel, briefly entertained the notion of looking for other applicants.
In September 2002, Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen decided to fill their respective seats on the SSA's new port council with interim appointments from within their own board while they waited for the SSA board to reorganize. Tisbury named Mr. Pachico, and Oak Bluffs named selectmen Roger Wey.
Tisbury advertised for individuals interested in the port council appointment. Despite receiving letters from two people that fall, the selectmen took no action.
In January 2003, Mr. Pachico, who by then was the port council's vice chairman, said that while it was not his idea to serve on the council, he had begun to build relationships with the other members and asked to continue as the town's representative.
Former selectman chairman Raymond LaPorte, Mr. Wortman's predecessor on the board, said it was his intention to fill the position with someone other than a selectman. At that time, Mr. Israel said he agreed with Mr. LaPorte. However, in June 2003, with no public advertisement, the selectmen appointed Mr. Pachico to a full two-year port council term.
Debate about the process surfaced again before Mr. Pachico's term was due to expire in June 2005. Speaking about the upcoming port council appointment in a Times article published Dec. 8, 2004, Mr. Israel said, "We have a policy: unless a selectman wants the job, we advertise it. So if Tommy wants reappointment to the port council, we don't advertise it."
Mr. LaPorte, however, made clear his strong support of filling the position with someone other than a selectman. Mr. LaPorte said he thought the practice of selectman preference for town positions only further inhibited public participation.
When asked whether Mr. Pachico deserved to keep his seat on the port council, Mr. LaPorte said he most definitely did not. "I am not supporting Tommy for reappointment to port council," he said. "There are a number of individuals who could serve ably, and not in a potentially conflicting way."
Despite Mr. LaPorte's protests, Mr. Pachico was reappointed to the current term that expires this month.