Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

'... piece of a longer conversation ...'
         -- Juli Brazile

The Study of the Office of the Town Clerk aims to provide some needed steps to generate discussion about bringing the operation into the 21st century.

The 26-page report, presented to the Select Board by Town Clerk Juli Brazile, assesses the organizational structure of the town clerk’s department.

The Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management, an organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of public management in government, prepared the $8,000 study (Town Meeting had allocated $10,000 for this purpose last year), explained Brazile in an Oct. 6 email to YourArlington.

“The study is a piece of a longer conversation with the Select Board that may lead to a warrant article and a further discussion with Town Meeting. The goal of the study was to have information to help us have those conversations,” wrote Brazile in her email.

Board to discuss after November elections

The Select Board plans to discuss the report during board meetings after the November elections, per the town clerk’s request. The board will then determine what it can/should do next, explained board Chair Len Diggins in an Oct. 5 email to YourArlington.

Research was conducted via interviews with elected and appointed officials, reviewing town-provided documents and available data, and reviewing best practices and guidelines. Findings were developed through analyzing practices in comparable municipalities, conferring with the secretary of the commonwealth’s election division and the Massachusetts Town Clerk’s Association.

Arlington findings

These assessments produced eight Arlington-specific findings:

  1. The complexity of the town clerk’s role has increased well beyond the duties outlined in the town’s bylaws.
  2. Election for the town clerk position historically produces little or no competition.
  3. Low voter turnout and the position’s complex nature make it relatively difficult for the public to evaluate the town clerk’s performance
  4. For the effective functioning of town government, it is important that the town clerk interact and cooperate regularly with other town officials.
  5. The town clerk’s office has been slow to adopt new technology to aid in record keeping and customer service.
  6. A majority of those interviewed described the town clerk’s office performance as adequate.
  7. The process to replace an elected town clerk, per the Town Manager Act, differs from the process to replace an appointed town clerk.
  8. The town clerk is not responsible for public records or Open Meeting Law compliance.
Report's nine general findings:
  1. The municipal clerk role has minimal policy-making responsibility. It is a complex ministerial and administrative position subject to local, state and federal policies, statues and regulations.
  2. The municipal clerk position is a highly responsible role that requires significant training and expertise.
  3. Municipal clerks should possess a reasonable minimum level of education/experience, knowledge, abilities and skills.
  4. More than 67 percent of the 34 municipalities reviewed have appointed municipal clerks.
  5. The impartiality of municipal clerks in managing the election process is affected by the selection method.
  6. All recent changes in Commonwealth municipalities have been from elected to appointed municipal clerks.
  7. It is best practice for municipal clerks to serve as the public-records access officer for purposes of Massachusetts public records law compliance.
  8. It is common practice for municipal clerks to coordinate the posting of meeting agendas and minutes for all town boards and committees to ensure state public meeting law compliance.
  9. In all 10 peer communities studied, the municipal clerk recruits, trains and schedules election workers to support their town precincts for local, state and federal elections. Although not the case in Arlington for many years, this responsibility returned to the clerk’s office in April 2022.

To see the full report, which the board received at its Sept. 28 meeting, click here >>  

Oct. 1, 2022: Board welcomes new planning director, who eyes future

This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert was published Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. 

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