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Many board members in Woburn serving with expired terms

The large number of board and commission members continuing with expired terms is emerging as a subject of debate in Woburn.

An informal review by the Globe found that 71 — or 40 percent — of the 179 residents serving on appointed panels have expired terms. Included are all seven members of the Historic District Commission; six of the seven members of the Planning Board; and three of the five members of the Board of Appeals.

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Ward 1 Alderwoman Rosa DiTucci, who chairs the City Council’s Personnel Committee, said she is concerned about the number of city board members whose terms have expired, all but two of whom are mayoral appointees.

“Most of these are non-paying board positions or receive small stipends,” she said. “These are people giving their time and expertise to the city and they’re in limbo. I believe we owe them at least the respect of acknowledging their contributions and solidifying their positions so they can serve without the possibility of being replaced midstream.”

“I don’t think it’s good for the boards,” she added. “It impedes their ability for long-term planning if their members are unsure of their status, that they can be replaced at any time.”

Under state law, board and commission members can continue serving when their term expires. But they can be replaced any time the appointing authority — in this case, primarily the mayor — chooses a successor. Members also can be replaced during their terms if the appointing authority is able to show just cause, according to city clerk William Campbell.  

Mayor Scott D. Galvin dismissed as a “zero issue” the number of board appointees with expired terms.

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“I haven’t given it much thought,” he said. “The boards are running efficiently. There is always attendance of all these board members [at meetings]. . . . Some of these boards meet on a regular basis and their ability to effect business has not been affected.

“I don’t really see any problem with it. It’s been the same practice since I was on the City Council,” said Galvin, who served eight terms as an alderman prior to becoming mayor in 2010.  

He said in his three years as mayor, he had only had one board member whose term had expired “come to me and say his term is in limbo,” noting that that member opted to resign his seat.

“It’s not been unusual,’’ said Campbell, the city clerk, “to have a number of holdovers at any given time,” referring to board members whose terms have lapsed.

“I don’t know if there are more now than usual,” he said, noting that the numbers of expired and vacant seats have been “up and down over the years.”

In Woburn, the mayor alone makes appointments to about 27 boards, though council confirmation is required for 12 of them. The mayor shares appointing authority for four other boards, and the council alone makes appointments to two boards. (Several of the boards are regional ones on which the city has representatives).

Most board members are appointed to specific terms. A smaller number are not, instead serving at the pleasure of the mayor or other appointing authority.

Currently, board members with expired terms include three of the seven members of the Recreation Commission; three of the five members of the Agricultural Commission; and three of the seven members of the Historical Commission.

Four of the nine members of the Golf and Ski Authority; seven of the 11 members of the Human Rights Commission; and three of the five members of the Sign Review Board also have expired terms.

According to the city website, chairmen of boards and committees whose tems have expired include Edward S. Robertson, Board of Appeals (expired May, 31, 2012); Robert E. Maguire, Board of Assessors (Feb. 6, 2008); Paul A. Medeiros, president of the Cable Advisory Committee (May 19, 2011); Dr. David Fitzpatrick, Board of Health (May 30, 2008); Marie Coady, cochairwoman of the Historical Commission (April 30, 2010); Kevin Donovan, Planning Board (April 30, 2010); Oliver C. Galante, Board of Registrars of Voters (March 30, 2012); and Maureen Vallis, Sign Review Board (June 29, 2009).

In addition to the 71 regular members, there are four alternate members of boards with expired terms.

DiTucci said that having served as an appointed member of the Historical Commission and the library trustees, “I speak from personal experience regarding the amount of effort that some of these commissions require, and the dedication . . . A reappointment or reconfirmation to a position is simply an acknowledgment of the hard work that many of these people are providing.”

City Council president Paul J. Denaro said he is not concerned by the number of board members with expired terms.

“It’s not uncommon in my tenure to have mayors who have holdover appointments for multiple positions for multiple years. It’s pretty much the status quo in my experience.”

“If there were vacant situations where it was impeding serving the public, I’d definitely have a concern,” Denaro said.

The issue of the holdover oard seats has not yet come up for discussion on the council, DiTucci said, “but it should be. We plan to evaluate it on the Personnel Committee and issue a recommendation.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

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