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Sudbury affirms vote to expand board

Sudbury residents voted Monday to expand the number of members on the Board of Selectmen from three to five, a move that proponents say will help increase representation and transparency in town government.

Now that residents have approved the change, a vote to fill the two additional seats on the board must be held no later than the next annual town election, which is March 2014. A special election could be called in the meantime.

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“More representation is going to open things up for Sudbury in a way that serves everybody’s interests,’’ said resident Michael Troiano, who spearheaded the expansion effort.

According to unofficial results from the town clerk’s office, the vote in Monday’s election was 1,936 in favor of expanding the board to 625 against.

The state is holding a special election on June 25 for residents to elect a new US senator to replace John Kerry, who resigned to take over as secretary of state under President Obama.

Troiano said he thinks that would be the perfect time to vote for two new selectmen.

He first submitted his proposal as a citizens petition that was approved by Special Town Meeting last September. He said he felt town government was being controlled by a handful of insiders, and that residents were feeling polarized.

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His petition came after a tumultuous year in town government, during which two selectmen came under fire for attending an after-hours gathering in a local restaurant after Town Meeting last spring, and not being forthright about what transpired that evening.

After last fall’s Town Meeting vote to expand the Board of Selectmen, the change needed Beacon Hill’s approval before becoming law. The Legislature signed off on the plan late last year, but with a provision that residents would have to confirm the proposal in a townwide election.

“This has been a long, hard process by a group of people who fought the entrenched establishment every step of the way,’’ said Selectman Robert Haarde. “This group kept moving on, and I’m glad they did.’’

Selectman John Drobinski said the board is expected to meet with the town clerk on April 9 to discuss the process for electing the new members.

“The vote was clear, and it’s time for the community to get together and do what’s best for the greater good,’’ Drobinski said. “It’s important we all work together.’’

The move to expand the board followed a late-night gathering of town officials at the Lavender Asian Cuisine & Bar on Boston Post Road after Town Meeting on May 9. Dro­binski and Selectman Larry O’Brien were among the group at the restaurant, which had closed at 10 p.m. but reopened when the group arrived.

Police said the restaurant’s liquor license allows it to serve alcohol until 1 a.m., with all customers off the premises by 1:15 a.m. But police officers who went to the scene twice that evening reported finding people, including O’Brien, at the restaurant as late as 1:45 a.m. Drobinski left at some point before 1:15 a.m.

Police issued a written warning to the restaurant for staying open past its closing time.

In the aftermath, residents clamored for more information from O’Brien and Drobinski, and Troiano and others kicked off their campaign to expand the size of the board.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.

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