Volunteer Resource Guide, Town of Southwest Harbor
The SW Harbor Board of Selectmen have prepared this introductory packet to assist volunteers for the Town's boards and committees in the execution of their duties and responsibilities. The packet includes information on:
1) Criteria of Service
2) Relationship to the Board of Selectmen
3) Right to Know Law
4) Notice Requirements
5) Queries to MMA
6) Record Keeping
7) E-mail as a Form of Communication
8) Conflicts of Interest
9) Executive Sessions
The Board would like to thank all volunteers for their commitment and dedication to public service.
Criteria of Service
Before appointment to a board or committee, an applicant shall undergo a probationary period where full attendance shall be required for three (3) consecutive , regular meetings. The Board of Selectmen, while grateful to any citizen considering a volunteer assignment, wish to encourage applicants to consider carefully their ability to meet the work requirements and schedules of the board or committee they wish to join. Volunteers shall regularly attend the meetings of the board/committee on which they serve. When a member fails to attend four (4) regular meetings without prior notification to the chair of the board/committee or fails to attend at least 75% of all meetings during the proceeding 12 month period, the Board of Selectmen shall remove the volunteer from service. Board/Committee chairs are responsible for overseeing attendance requirements and notifying the Board of Selectmen in writing when a member has not met them. As a courtesy to their fellow members, Chairs will notify the volunteer if he/she is about to fail an attendance requirement. In addition to attendance, the volunteer may be expected to do preparatory work outside the regularly scheduled meetings and perform other duties that may be assigned by the chair. Volunteers should familiarize themselves with and uphold any existing by-laws of the board/committee on which they serve. By-laws should be regularly updated and submitted to the Board of Selectmen for review. Copies of the by-laws are available at the Town Offices or on line or from the board/committee chair. Volunteers may from time to time, be required to attend certain service training/workshops provided by organizations such as the Maine Municipal Association (MMA), Hancock County Planning Commission (HCPC), the State, etc. The Town shall reimburse/pay for any associated fees and certain traveling, accommodations and meal expenses that may be incurred.
Relationship to the Board of Selectmen
Volunteers serve at the pleasure and appointment of the Board of Selectmen and may be removed from their appointments by this Board for cause such as a failure to comply with the relevant by-laws or a breach of the conditions set forth herein. For each volunteer board/committee, the Board of Selectmen shall appoint from its own membership, an ex-officio officer to act as a liaison between the volunteer board/committee and the Selectmen. Ex-officio officers are not eligible to vote at meetings and are not considered members of the volunteer boards/committees. The existence of most of the Town's staff positions is established in state law and with a Town Manager form of government Southwest Harbor's employees are overseen (including hiring, firing and disciplinary actions) by the Town Manager. The Selectmen oversee the Town Manager who functions as the Town's chief administrator. The Board of Selectmen having given up some of its administrative functions remains responsible for policy making and budget recommendations. Volunteer oversight is the responsibility of the Board of Selectmen. In most cases, the volunteer boards/committees serve to advise the Selectmen and should report to them directly and through their respective ex-officio officers. In addition they often have active cooperative relationships with town employees, but these relationships are advisory and cooperative.They do not include oversight of town employees. Questions or concerns about a town employee's performance should be direct to the Town Manager.
Right to Know Law
Elected officials and certain municipal employees are required by law to take training on the Right to Know Law also known as the Maine Freedom of Access Act. Volunteers shall not be required to comply with this requirement, but two articles from the Maine Townsman, Right to Know, November 1990 and Right to Know: Common Myths, May2007, accompanying this packet are recommended reading on this and later topics.
The Town's regular meetings schedule is posted on the Town Office and Post Office bulletin boards and on the Town's website: www.southwestharbor.homestead.com. No further posting of regular meetings is necessary, though boards/committees may chose from time to time to make additional postings on other public bulletin boards and on the Town maintained Ch 7, on the Town's website and in local newspapers. (Special posting
requirements pertain to the work of the Planning Board and Board of Appeals and are usually handled by the Planning Dept.) Cancelled meetings should be posted as soon as practicable and preferably no later than 3 pm at the Town Offices where the Town Manager or her assistant should be notified. It is also a courtesy to the general public to post a notice of cancellation at the meeting's location to eliminate confusion. Schedule
changes and extra or special meetings should be posted 7 days in advance. Please remember to record any special meetings onto the office calendar located outside the door to the code enforcement officer's office and notify the town manager's assistant in order to prevent double booking of the room. The Fire Dept.' s meeting room is also available for public meetings.
Note: Each board/committee of the Town of Southwest Harbor has a page on the Town's website for posting notices, agendas, minutes of meetings, useful links and other relevant information and use of this medium is encouraged. This is not a venue for editorializing. To make postings on the Town's website, please provide the Administrative Assistant with an electronic copy of the information, posting or link.
Queries to MMA
All inquiries to the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) should be directed through a staff person such as the Town Manager or Code Enforcement Officer. Volunteers are discouraged from contacting MMA individually. Inquiries through the staff member should be made in writing and represent the question and issue as characterized by the volunteer board/committee. The Maine Municipal Association is a useful resource for opinions on a variety of issues, but their staff is limited and they have requested that towns avoid multiple inquiries from multiple municipal officials on the same subject. This policy shall apply also to opinions requested from the Town's attorney.
A physical record of the documents pertaining to the board/committee's business should be maintained at the Town Offices. Each board/committee should assign responsibility for these records to a designated secretary. The purpose of this record is archival and copies from this record should be available to the public. ''The Secretary shall be responsible for the records of the Board. It shall not be construed that the Secretary must keep the minutes or perform other secretarial duties when a professional "recording" secretary is available to the Board. Nonetheless, the Secretary shall be responsible for drafting letters and the like, on behalf of the Board, when directed to by the Chairman." - Southwest Harbor Planning Board By-Laws.
See also Maine Townsman, Right to Know, November 1990 and Right to Know:
Common Myths, May 2007.
E-Mail as a Form of Communication
Maine's Right to Know Law prohibits the conduct of board business except at a public
board meeting of which public notice has been given. See E-MAIL AND RIGHT TO
KNOW, from Maine Townsman, Legal Notes," October 1999 (attached).
Conflicts of Interest
"All municipal officials have been sworn into public office to serve the interest of the public as a whole and in the municipal official there is vested a public trust. A betrayal of that trust occurs when any official acts in his or her own interest rather than in the public interest while performing his or her job. Maine law encompasses four 'conflict of interest' situations that can occur in municipal government:
• financial conflict of interest;
• incompatibility of office;
• prohibited appointments or employment;
"Even if no legal conflict of interest exists, a board member would be well advised to avoid even the appearance of a conflict (through disclosure and abstention) in order to maintain the public's confidence in the board's work."
- Maine Municipal Association Municipal Officers Manual, Chapter 2.
Where a conflict of interest exists, the volunteer should excuse themselves from the
discussion and leave the room.
Executive sessions are an executive function and reserved for the Board of Selectmen generally and in certain cases.where consultation with legal council is required for the Board of Appeals and Planning Board. Requests to schedule a meeting with legal council should be directed to the town manager.
If you feel there is a matter before your board/committee requiring an executive session, consult with the Town Manager.
The Board of Selectmen, your ex-officio officer, the town manager, the Town's website,
the internet, your chair, your board/committee's by-laws and relevant ordinances (copies
available electronically and at the Town Offices), your fellow volunteers.