"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Friday, May 4, 2018

Manifest Should Be Voted on In A Public Session

Sometimes, memory does serve me well. As the BoS were discussing the summer BoS meeting schedule ( they will meet starting this month on the 1st and 3rd Thursday and a work-session on the 4th Thursday) there was a brief discussion of what to do about approving the Manifest and Signature File. A mention was made of having a brief meeting on the Thursday when there is no BoS meeting to sign the Manifest. This was a process the BoS followed a few years back when a summer schedule was implemented, after  Jon Tolman who was elected to the BoS in 2012. He questioned the legality and appropriateness of approving the payables and other items without a board vote. Last night the BoS sounded like they were leaning toward signing the manifest, etc. in the BoS office,  and then approving at a later scheduled meeting.

This was somewhat settled in 2012 per the following minutes excerpts. I don't know about the legality of this issue, but I agree with Jon Tolman's original position that the manifest/payables etc. should be voted on and approved by a quorum of the board, in a public session. Yes it may be an inconvenience and it may not be legally necessary, but it is the right thing to do.

BoS Meeting Minutes May 24 2012
Manifest: Jon opened the meeting with a discussion about the proper means of approving the payables and various documents that have been – prior to this – approved by individual Board members affixing their signatures. He believed these actions should be done in the public session which the Town Administrator (TA) confirmed. Jon moved and Russell seconded to approve of the check register of May 24, 2012 in the amount of $579,310.47. Unanimous approval. Discussion then moved to the best means of proceeding in the future and how to handle those weeks when the Board might not normally be meeting. The TA said this had been the subject of some discussion amongst his peers as of late with there being a variety of methods suggested and used. He suggested that he and Heidi review the various documents that are now signed weekly and report back within two weeks as to the best means of proceeding

BoS Meeting Minutes June 07, 2012
Review for Approval: Manifests and Signature File: Carter reported that at the last meeting he said he’d provide the Selectmen with examples of how other towns handle this. In his memo he provided seven examples, adding that the Town of Alton reported that they’ve handled it as the Selectmen have done in the past. Carter recommended following Gilford’s practice, as they did last week. Joel asked what happens on an off week when there isn’t any meeting. Carter suggested that the Selectmen ratify the signature file at their next scheduled meeting, which means that the list will be longer to include the past week’s work. Jon said that based on his understanding, that this wasn’t correct and he won’t sign anything until it is first approved by a vote, which will require a short meeting on the off week. Betsey felt that as long as the Selectmen ratify what was done, that this would meet the RSA. She added that she was in favor of the Gilford model. Russ agreed with Jon that prior to a meeting, the Selectmen can review what is in the signature file, vote to approve, and then sign the manifest/documents. Jon felt that on the off weeks, a short ten minute meeting is required to approve the signature file. Based on this, Joel asked how and when the Selectmen would want to do this. Jon Made the Motion that on off weeks, that they hold a short public meeting at 7 p.m., in the Town Hall meeting room, for the purpose to vote on the Payables Manifest & Signature File and to include this vote during the scheduled work sessions. Ed Seconded and the Motion carried Unanimously. Betsey said that she felt it necessary to state that the Selectmen can’t ratify past signatures and Carter agreed that was correct.

1 comment:

Joe Cormier said...

RSA 41:29 Duties of Elected and Appointed Town Treasurers. –
I. The town treasurer shall have custody of all moneys belonging to the town, and shall pay out the same only as follows:
(a) Upon orders of the selectmen in a public meeting or by a noncontemporaneously signed manifest signed by a majority of the
board; or,

Source. 1869, 26:2-4. GL 40:8. 1883, 111:1. PS 43:20. PL 47:24. 1931, 177:3. 1939, 170:2. RL 59:24. RSA 41:29. 1959, 197:3. 1971, 158:1. 1973, 490:1. 1977, 139:1. 1987, 318:3. 1991, 268:8; 377:6; 383:9. 1992, 64:3. 1993, 161:2. 1996, 209:10. 1997, 208:8. 1998, 40:2. 2003, 100:2. 2007, 35:6; 246:3, 4. 2008, 120:25; 174:5. 2009, 14:1. 2010, 7:3, eff. July 3, 2010. 2013, 97:3, eff. Aug. 19, 2013; 124:1, eff. Aug. 24, 2013. 2015, 272:43, eff. Oct. 1, 2015.

Definition of non-contemporaneous:
"Not occurring at the same time; not of the same date or period"

Some history:
NHMA 2013 article:
No Meeting Required to Sign Manifest

"Many boards of selectmen have struggled with the procedure for signing a manifest ordering payments by the treasurer. Because the manifest must be signed by a majority of the selectmen, the Right-to-Know Law has been interpreted to require that it occur at a public meeting. Consequently, boards often have to deal with the inefficiency of holding a formal public meeting for the sole purpose of signing the manifest.

HB 522 solves that problem by expressly allowing the selectmen to sign the manifest “noncontemporaneously” outside a public meeting. The manifest itself is still subject to disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law, and if a quorum of the board meets to sign the manifest at the same time, they would have to comply with the law."

relative to duties of town treasurers.

This bill allows town treasurers to pay out town moneys by receiving a manifest signed by a majority of the board of selectmen.