Legal quirk throws last-second wrench in Hudson charter amendment talks

291

By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer

Hudson – Town officials need a new way to get an executive assistant residency requirement out of their official charter, legal counsel told the Select Board, Feb. 22.

Indeed, instead of simply amending the document through a traditional process, Hudson now must seek a special act from the state legislature to possibly allow an out-of-town administrator to take over for current Executive Assistant Tom Moses when Moses retires later this year.

This sudden change of plans drew immediate frustration, Feb. 22.

“I think we didn’t ask the right people at the right time what needed to be done,” Select Board Member Fred Lucy said.

A powerful municipal position

The Executive Assistant is the town’s chief administrative official, handling day to day municipal operations and reporting directly to the Select Board.

Currently, the charter requires the Executive Assistant to live in town.

As Hudson now seeks a new Executive Assistant, it’s that clause, rare among Massachusetts communities, that has leaders worried.

“This is a critical issue,” Select Board Member John Parent said, Feb. 22.  “This is beyond simply being necessary. We need to make this change.”

A pressing need for charter change

Parent sits on the search committee tasked with finding Hudson’s next Executive Assistant. For months, he’s said this requirement imposes unrealistic expectations on civil servants, requiring them to uproot their families and move homes to comply even when they might have already lived within miles of downtown Hudson.

Heeding their colleague’s calls, Select Board members voted in December of last year to remote this residency requirement.

Now, though, Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano has raised concerns.

A sudden change of plans

According to a discussion he said he had with state officials, the traditional amendment process Hudson had been following called for the Town Meeting to approve an amendment. From there, the amendment would have gone to the state Attorney General for review. Only then, would it have come back to Hudson for a second vote, this time via a ballot question.

That whole process could not be completed before May 2022, Cipriano said.

Simply, Hudson cannot wait that long. With seven serious candidates still in the running for the Executive Assistant position as of Feb. 22, officials may want to make a job offer contingent on the residency requirement being waived.

After discussion, the way to make that possible, Select Board members agreed, is to seek a “yes” vote at Town Meeting in May before then working with state representatives Jamie Eldridge and Kate Hogan to fast track a bill approving the charter change through the State Legislature.

“It has to be a full court press and they have to understand the urgency of this process for us,” Select Board Chair Joe Durant said.

Hudson’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 1 at Hudson High School.