Published April 10, 2019

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — The Town Council made a number of committee appointments this week but their system for making appointments was called into question by one longtime Conservation Commission member who expressed disappointment with the process.

David N. Peterson of Lafayette Street had brought his background as an attorney and a chemist to the Conservation Commission for more than 15 years. He addressed the Town Council during public participation at the start of Monday night’s meeting.

“I’m extremely disappointed in this lack of a process that was not made clear to me,” he said. “I was taken aback that you would have appointed someone to the Commission without notice to the Commission prior to the two positions coming up for reappointment.”

The terms of two members of the Conservation Commission expired in 2019, one of which was Peterson’s. The other was that of another veteran commissioner, Frank Calandra.

The March 25 Town Council meeting agenda included the filling of those two ConCom positions, but the agenda indicated that only one applicant, Yue (Nini) Ren of Albion Street, had applied. Ren was appointed on March 25, leaving one position still unfilled.

The Town Council’s April 8 agenda listed Peterson and Calandra as applicants for that final position.

Peterson said that he had previously been re-appointed every three years “without submitting anything.” He told the Council that he had received a notice saying that he deeded to re-apply and that he subsequently submitted a resume and a letter of interest.

Peterson insisted that he was “not aware of anyone who hasn’t been re-appointed without doing anything.”

But several years ago, the Town Council (then Board of Selectmen) changed their previous practice of virtually automatic reappointment of committees under their purview. They adopted a policy that all positions up for appointment or re-appointment must be publicly advertised and even incumbents must formally apply for re-appointment.

Peterson told the Town Council that he was withdrawing his letter of interest, leaving his former colleague on the Commission, Calandra, as the only applicant for the remaining opening.

Peterson said he hoped that closer attention would be paid to these matters in the future and the process would be made clear to everyone involved. He also urged the Town Council to involve the appointed boards like the Conservation Commission in the process.

“They know their jobs and are better suited to determine who should be on the board,” he said.

Later in the meeting, when the agenda item for the Conservation Commission appointment came up for discussion, Town Council members took issue with Peterson’s version of how things transpired. They indicated that Peterson did not respond in time for the two appointments listed on the March 25 agenda. So the board appointed Ren, the only applicant before them at that meeting.

Councilor Ann Santos said that she was unhappy with the criticism of the process, insisting that it has been made “very clear.” She also suggested that “shaking up” committees now and then with new voices was “not a bad thing.”

Councilor Paul DiNocco agreed.

“Everyone who is in an appointed position right now is there at the will of the Council,” he said. “Everyone can’t assume that they’re going to be on a board forever.”

DiNocco took it a step further, saying that in the future he would not vote to re-appoint anyone who has been on a committee for more than 15 years. He did, however, suggest that the Town Council should be made aware of any feedback from the committee in question before making appointments.

Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin offered a different perspective.

“It seems to me that many of these people who have served for a long time had never before been informed of the process,” she said, “or the process has changed without them knowing. I think we need to have a little bit of understanding for people who never had to go through this.” She agreed that the council should ask the chairs for input on appointments to their committees.

Councilor Edward Dombroski began by thanking Peterson for his many years of service to the town. Dombroski pointed out that the process that is used for committee appointments is on the town’s web site and has been published in the Daily Item.

“We’ve been pretty public in terms of broadcasting that,” he said. He pointed to the fact that more than 90 percent of committee applicants comply with the process as an iindication that the process has been well-communicated. He also noted that any current committee member can check the expiration of his term online at any time and follow up as needed.

Calandra was unanimously re-appointed to his position on the Conservation Commission.

The Town Council also made a number of other committee appointments Monday night.

Caroline Lieber was re-appointed to the Cultural Council.

Jeanne Stinson was re-appointed to the Recreation Commission.

Six individuals were appointed to staggered terms on the Veterans Advisory Board: James Pinette, Tom Collins, Melinda Cook, Pamela Hart, Richard Pearson and Robert Ettinger.