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Another Voice: Boston Town Board fails the test of accountability

By Joyce A. Carr and Herbert H. Klein

When we served as Boston town clerk we took this responsibility very seriously. We attended many professional organization trainings. Most regulations that govern this office are set by New York State laws. All governments have many checks and balances, and one example is the state and the Town Board holding the town clerk accountable to the vast responsibilities of the office.

Town clerk duties include maintaining the town code book, authoring the Town Board minute book, publishing legal notices, collecting numerous fees and issuing birth, death and marriage certificates. As the only full-time elected official working at Town Hall, this position has immense responsibility to town residents.

Because of these tremendous responsibilities the town clerk is given the authority via state Town Law, Article 3, Section 30, Sub-Section 10, (a), to appoint deputies who serve at the clerk’s pleasure. It is important for people in the office to be accountable to the clerk. How would you like to be in this position and have your political opponents decide who works for you? Should you be held accountable for their performance?

We understand completely that elected officials will disagree, and this leads to decisions that are not always made in the best interest of the taxpayer. The Town Board’s recent action of choosing not to fund the town clerk deputies is not in the best interest of the taxpayers. The Town Board appointed two clerk-typists to work in the town clerk’s office.

Not funding the deputy town clerk positions jeopardizes many things. Pursuant to state Public Officer Law, Article 2, Section 9, deputies shall be appointed by their principal officer and will possess the powers and perform the duties of their principal officer during the clerk’s absence or inability to perform.

Many duties require the town clerk’s signature, and clerk typists do not have the legal authority to sign. Many documents cannot be delayed; this will adversely affect the business of the town and residents. If the town clerk cannot be at work, it effectively closes down much of the town’s interactions.

If the Town Board majority wanted a new person as clerk, it should have recruited a candidate in 2015. That did not happen, and voters re-elected the clerk.

Because the state and the Town Board by law are required to hold the town clerk accountable, the appointed town clerk’s deputies should be funded. We believe the Town Board is doing a disservice to residents. This column is written in the spirit of recognizing the vast responsibility and need for accountability for the position of town clerk, which we and our fellow elected officials respected for 20 years.

Joyce A. Carr (1984-1991) and Herbert H. Klein (1972-1984) both held the post of Boston town clerk.