Transparency, open communication essential to good governance

Transparency, open communication essential to good governance

The Lincoln Democratic Town committee notes with dismay the process behind the appointment of Police Chief Brian Sullivan as acting town administrator. In Lincoln’s council-manager form of government, the police chief reports to the town administrator.

This appointment destroys the appropriate checks and balances between the chief of police and the town administrator as they are now the same person. This scenario makes transparent oversight impossible and strikes us as bad governance. The arrangement has an inescapable built-in conflict of interest.

This appointment runs in conflict with our Town Charter. Article 17, Sections 13 & 14 says “no person shall be eligible to hold any paid office or employment or to serve on any board or commission in the town government who holds any other town office or serves on any other board or commission, or holds any civil office, legislative, executive or judicial, in either the state or federal government, except that of notary public or member of the National Guard or Military Reserve, and except as otherwise provided in this Charter or by general law” and “no employee of the town shall hold an elective office in the town government while he/she is in the employ of the town.”

Furthermore, this situation now stands as “indefinite” meaning that Chief Sullivan will hold both positions until a new election for town administrator is held. This would leave Chief Sullivan in this questionable situation for as long as six months. Chief Sullivan now holds two powerful and critical town positions when just one of these would be considered difficult.

Strangely, the Town Council also chose to not allow other nominees to be on the appointment meeting agenda despite being asked. Why were other suitable nominations not entertained? Where was the open government that the residents of Lincoln deserve and expect from elected officials? Where was the opportunity for the rightful employers of these positions, the residents of Lincoln, to voice their opinions?

No one would dispute that being chief of police is an excellent credential for a person who aspires to be Town Administrator. Both positions require management of municipal departments and working within the constraints of public budgets. We can see some logic in seeking to fill the position in an expeditious manner with someone who knows our town well. While we believe Chief Sullivan has stepped up out of knowledge and loyalty to our town, having the same person fill two roles simultaneously is undesirable.

Chief Sullivan should be required to relinquish his position as police chief while serving as town administrator and an interim chief should be appointed in accordance with the rules and laws of the town of Lincoln. If not, then this whole process does nothing more but stink of small-town back door politics.

Paula Carmichael ChairpersonWriting on behalf of the Lincoln Democratic Town Committee