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City Clerk Search – Council Forms Ad-Hoc Committee

Seven Member Committee Will Be Led by Councillor Gerard

21 Applications Have Been Submitted

By William Legault

 

The City Count Committee on Ordinances, Licenses, and Legal Affairs, chaired by Ward 1 Councillor Robert McCarthy met tonight in order to form an Ad-Hoc Committee to review resumes and interview candidates for the position of City Clerk. The opening was created by the retirement of Cheryl Lapointe at the end of March. Assistant City Clerk Ilene Simons was appointed as the the interim clerk upon Lapoint’s departure.

A city ordinance states that an opening for the position of city clerk shall be posted publicly for 21 days in order to allow for candidates to submit resumes and for interviews to be conducted. The Salem City Charter, written in 1914 just specifies that the City Council “shall elect” a person for the position. This discrepancy created some discussion, led by Councillor at-Large Sargent who feels that the ordinance and the charter are in direct conflict. City Solicitor Beth Rennard ruled that the there is no conflict and that the two compliment each other.

The position has been posted for the required time period and 21 resumes have been submitted.

Councillor Dominguez , Councillor Madore, and Councillor Turiel  began the discussion as to how the committee should be composed. Dominguez,  Madore, and Councillor Elaine Milo felt that 3 councillors were enough while Turiel felt that while three would be adequate, it may be better to have five councillors.

Public speakers advocated strongly for an open and transparent process using successful models from other organizations and communities. Some questioned the intent of some of the councillors due to the close 6-5 vote by the full council to form the committee. One speaker Fawaz Abusharkh, cautioned the councillors that “this process is about power” and warned that they should remain aware of and careful of that fact.

Disclosure forms were distributed to each councillor by the City Solicitor so they could acknowledge whether or not they knew any of the applicants. This was done on the advice of the State Ethics Committee due to the expected application of Assistant Clerk Ilene Simons.

A short, but lively discussion was initiated by a member of the public in regards to past voting rights violations by the clerk’s office.

After a motion by Councillor Milo to form the committee, and and an amendment by Councillor Madore it was decided to form a seven member committee comprising City Council President Beth Gerard (photo right) as Chairperson, with Councillors Domingo Dominguez, Tom Furey, Robert McCarthy, and Josh Turiel, along with a representative from Human Resources, and the Chairperson of the Board of Registrars. Councilor Milo stated that she did not want to serve on this committee. The  ad-hoc committee will be allowed to bring in outside expertise for consultation.

The plan is for the committee to interview candidates and present their finalists to the COLA by May 15. Then the full City Council will meet and make a decision.

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