Rules: Policies & Procedures
The Advisory Committee (the "Committee") is a deliberative body chartered by the Town of Hingham General By-law to consider all Articles in any Town Meeting Warrant and to make recommendations on each Article as it deems to be in the best interest of the Town. The Committee also reviews the budget proposed for the Town by the Board of Selectmen, and recommends the amounts which should, in its opinion, be appropriated for the ensuing fiscal year,
Committee members act as liaisons to certain Town departments as well as to elected and appointed committees and boards. Liaisons are responsible for the initial review of all Town budgets prior to budget presentations to the full Committee and are responsible for the study of specific Warrant Articles to which they are assigned. The Committee conducts its business in open public meetings, the purposes of which include, but are not limited to: (i) eliciting input and information from proponents and opponents of Warrant Articles, including municipal and school budgets; (ii) eliciting input and information from members of the general public; and (iii) providing a forum for the exchange of views by Committee members, with the goal of arriving at a recommendation to Town Meeting by majority vote.
Recognizing its unique role in the public debate of the issues before the Town and ultimately before Town Meeting, the Committee believes that members should consider issues with an open mind. In addition, Committee members should treat each other and everyone appearing before the Committee fairly and with respect. The following policies and procedures should be read in the context of the role of the Committee.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
1. Members shall abide by Massachusetts Conflict of Interest Law (M.G.L. c. 268A), as applicable.
The Committee shall consider all Articles in any Town Meeting Warrant. A public hearing will be held upon each Article, and a notice of such hearing shall be given in accordance with the Open Meeting Law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, M.G.L. c.30A, §§18-25 as then in effect. The Committee shall report to Town Meeting, in print or otherwise, such recommendations on each Article as it deems to be in the best interests of the Town. The Committee shall also consider the budget proposed for the Town by the Board of Selectmen for the ensuing fiscal year, and shall, after considering such proposed budget, recommend the amounts which should, in its opinion, be appropriated for the ensuing fiscal year. The Committee shall add to its budget recommendation such explanations and suggestions as it deems appropriate and shall report to Town Meeting as provided herein for Warrant Articles. The Committee may consider any or all municipal questions for the purpose of making reports or recommendations to the Town and may issue recommendations on referenda and other matters on any ballot, other than the choices of individuals for offices. The Committee shall make an annual report to the Town of its doings, with recommendations relative to financial matters and such other matters as it deems appropriate.
3. No person holding elective or appointive Town office, including membership on a Town board or committee, is eligible to serve simultaneously on the Committee. Any member of the Committee who is appointed or elected to Town office, including membership on a Town board or committee, other than a member appointed to the Capital Outlay Committee by the Chair of the Advisory Committee, will cease to be a member of the Committee upon the election or acceptance of appointment to such office, board, or committee. Any member who is no longer a legal resident of the Town will cease to be a member of the Committee. The Chair will report any such vacancy to the Moderator, who will fill the vacancy.
4. All members are expected to attend all regular and special meetings of the Committee and of the subcommittees and teams of which they are members. If any member is absent from five consecutive meetings of the full Committee for any cause other than illness, the position may be deemed vacant and the Chair will report such vacancy to the Moderator, who will fill the vacancy. Any person chosen to fill a vacancy on the Committee will hold office for the unexpired term of the person succeeded.
5. The Committee will annually, at its first meeting after the Annual Town Meeting, or as soon thereafter as practicable in that fiscal year, elect a Chair, a Vice-Chair, and a Secretary, each of whom will assume office at the start of the upcoming fiscal year (i.e., July 1st) and, subject to the prior termination of one’s appointment or to one’s resignation, will hold office until the following June 30th. The Chair, Vice-Chair, or Secretary, in that order, will have the duty to call and preside at the organizational meeting. In the event that none of said officers is any longer a member of the Committee, the Moderator will designate a member to call and preside at the organizational meeting. If a vacancy occurs in any office prior to the end of the fiscal year, then the Committee will promptly elect a replacement to serve for the remainder of the term.
6. As soon as practicable after the beginning of the fiscal year, the Chair will appoint all liaisons, teams, and subcommittees. Liaisons are assigned to Town departments, boards, and committees in order to facilitate coordination and the timely flow of information. As soon as practicable after liaison assignments are made, each liaison shall communicate with the department, board, or committee head concerned, in order to become familiar with the organization and the function of the department, board, or committee, its plans, and requirements. Upon receipt of any Warrant Article proposal, or request for an appropriation, transfer, or other action, the liaison will, at the earliest opportunity, review the matter with the department, board, or committee head concerned, secure such outside advice and make such independent investigation as the liaison deems reasonably necessary, and thereupon report recommendations to the full Committee with reasons therefor. In keeping with the Committee’s role as a proxy for Town Meeting, liaisons must work to maintain a position of objective neutrality in summarizing and reporting upon issues and to ensure that they are not perceived as advocates or surrogate members of their assigned entities. Regular liaison contact with Town department heads and/or attendance at board/committee meetings is expected. Liaisons may provide periodic reports to the Committee.
7. Where appropriate, the Chair will designate two or more liaisons to be a team to share the responsibilities of the liaisons to certain Town departments, boards, committees, or for review of Warrant Articles. The Chair will designate a team leader to coordinate and organize the work of the team in gathering information on budgets, Warrant Articles, or any other assigned topics, for the Committee’s consideration and deliberation. Teams are not deliberative bodies and, as such, are not governed by the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. Team leaders may provide periodic reports to the Committee.
8. Where appropriate, the Chair may appoint subcommittees and will designate a chair for each subcommittee. The Advisory Committee Education Subcommittee (ACES) and the Water Company Acquisition Subcommittee serve as examples of appropriate subcommittees formed to address the Town’s most substantial budget and a substantial and unique acquisition of a private utility respectively. The Chair of each subcommittee will be responsible to the full Committee for the prompt and full performance of the subcommittee's duties. As soon as practicable after the annual organization of the Committee and the making of new subcommittee assignments, each subcommittee, if applicable to its responsibilities, will communicate with the department, board, or committee head concerned, to familiarize itself fully with the organization and the function of the department, board, or committee, its plans, and requirements. Upon receipt of any Warrant Article proposal, or request for an appropriation, transfer, or other action, the subcommittee will, at the earliest opportunity, review the matter with the department, board, or committee head concerned, secure such outside advice and make such independent investigation as it deems reasonably necessary, and thereupon report its recommendations to the full Committee with its reasons therefor. Subcommittees may conduct public hearings on matters assigned to the subcommittee as determined by the subcommittee chair. Subcommittees are “public bodies” under the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law and, therefore, must conform to all Open Meeting Law requirements. Subcommittees may provide periodic reports to the Committee when requested to do so by the Chair or as the Chair of the Subcommittee deems appropriate.
9. No member of the Committee shall engage in any public advocacy for or against an issue scheduled or reasonably likely to come before the Committee for deliberation, prior to a vote by the Committee. Examples of public advocacy include, but are not limited to, letters to the editor or other submissions to print or electronic media, blogs, social media, mass e-mails, as well as appearances on television, cable, or internet transmissions. A Committee member wishing to make a public comment on such an issue should seek the advice of the Chair or the Moderator for help in the interpretation of this policy, it being the intent of this policy to preserve and protect the neutrality of the Committee and the reputation of the Committee as an open-minded advisory body to the citizens of the Town. Consistent with this intent, a Committee member shall not publicly endorse, support, or oppose any candidate for any elected Town office. Signing a potential candidate’s nomination papers shall not be considered endorsing or supporting a potential candidate.
10. Meetings of the Advisory Committee will be conducted as follows:
a) Notice of each meeting must be posted in accordance with Massachusetts Open Meeting Law and with applicable Town By-Laws as from time to time in effect. Meeting dates and times are fixed as needed by the Chair or, in the case of the Chair’s absence or illness, the Vice-Chair, and are usually held at Town Hall. At the appointed time and place, assuming a quorum is present, the Chair shall call the meeting to order. Eight members shall constitute a quorum of the Committee for the transaction of business, but a fewer number may adjourn any meeting of the Committee.
b) The Chair should be fair in appearance as well as in fact. The primary role of the Chair is to ensure that all opinions are voiced, and that the meeting is conducted in an orderly manner. As a matter of custom, the Chair does not vote except to cause a tie (in which case, the motion fails) or to break a tie.
c) The Secretary or acting Secretary will maintain accurate records of the meeting, setting forth the date, time, and place, members present, and action taken at each meeting, including executive sessions. Draft minutes may be made available to Committee members for preliminary review prior to the time of the next meeting. After the Committee has had a reasonable opportunity to review the draft minutes and revise the same, if appropriate, the minutes will be accepted by vote of the majority of the Committee present and voting.
d) Meeting agendas shall be prepared by the Chair or acting Chair, as the case may be, who shall make reasonable efforts to publicize the agenda prior to the meeting in question. A motion to change the order of business is in order at the beginning of a meeting or after the completion of an item and before another item is taken up. When there is no more new business, or when the hour is late, the Chair should request a motion to adjourn, which is acted upon as any other motion.
e) The Committee may set aside a reasonable period of time at the beginning of a meeting for comments or questions from members of the public concerning matters that fall under the purview of the Committee and which are not already on the agenda. A person who wishes to speak should state such person’s name and address and direct all comments to the Chair. Comments on such matters will generally be limited to three minutes per speaker. By receiving public comments, the Committee is not adopting or endorsing such comments.
f) A motion is made by any member saying, "I move....." The seconding by another member indicates that the motion is worthy of consideration; it does not suggest approval of the motion. After a reasonable opportunity for discussion, the Chair should ask, "Are you ready to vote?", and "All in favor say Aye", and "All opposed say Nay". If the Chair is in doubt as to the result of the voice vote or if any member requests, a vote by a show of hands should be taken.
g) The initial motion proposes an action (or no action) on a matter; it is the main motion. A proposal to change the main motion is made by a motion to amend (a primary amendment). The amendment will be voted on first, and then the main motion (as it may have been amended) will be voted on.
h) The Chair has the ultimate authority to determine who will be allowed to speak at any meeting. Generally, the member proposing a motion should be invited to speak first. The Chair next should recognize other members wishing to speak. Then Town officials and department heads present should be invited to speak (or ask questions), and finally citizens and members of the press or other media should be recognized to speak. All statements and questions should be relevant to the motion, impersonal, and reasonable in length.
i) All votes of the Committee will be by a simple majority of the members present and voting. No member may vote except in person. Any member voting on the side that does not prevail will, on request, be recorded as being opposed to the vote of the Committee. A member not present when a vote is taken may ask to be recorded in opposition to the vote of the Committee at the next meeting at which the Member is present, however the original vote tally will not be changed. Otherwise, a member may not thereafter be recorded in opposition to the vote except on a subsequent vote on the matter upon reconsideration thereof.
j) Reconsideration of a matter requires that a motion for reconsideration be made and seconded by members who voted on the side that prevailed on the last vote taken on the matter. The members present and voting must then pass the motion by a majority vote. If the last vote taken on the matter was a voice vote, a motion for reconsideration may be made and seconded by any member.
11. No member not duly recorded in opposition will publicly oppose the Committee's recommendation on any particular matter nor will the member speak in opposition thereto at Town Meeting, either as a member of the Committee or as an individual. A member duly recorded in opposition may—either personally or through another member similarly recorded—address the Town Meeting and give reasons for such opposition. A member recorded in opposition may, at any time, have such record stricken.
12. The Committee shall not act as a sponsor or proponent of any Article in the Warrant for an Annual or Special Town Meeting. No member of the Committee, unless acting as a member and on behalf of the Capital Outlay Committee, will act as a sponsor or proponent of any Article.
13. A call for a ballot vote by the Committee at Town Meeting, pursuant to Article III, Section 8, of the By-Laws of the Town, will be made only by that member of the Committee designated to make such calls by a prior vote of the Committee authorizing and directing that such calls be made, or by the Chair if no member is so designated.
14. All meetings of the full Committee will be open to the public except when the Committee, on motion duly made and seconded, votes to go into executive session. Executive sessions will be held only on those matters which, if made public, might adversely affect the public security, the financial interest of the Town, or the reputation of any person, or any other matter permitted by statute (M.G.L., c.30A §21). Any member who wishes to move for an executive session must discuss the matter with the Chair in advance. No member will disclose any information revealed in executive session, except that the Chair may provide a statement to the public after the executive session.
15. No person will address a public meeting of the Committee without permission of the Chair, and all persons will, at the request of the Chair, be silent. If, after warning from the Chair, a person persists in disorderly behavior, the Chair may order such person to withdraw from the meeting and, if that person does not withdraw, may authorize a constable or other officer to remove the disorderly person from the meeting. (M.G.L., c.30A, §20).
16. Any background information, statistics, supporting data, or other information, necessary for the Committee's consideration on Articles in the Warrant should be submitted to the Committee by the proponents at least a week before the scheduled hearing. Otherwise, discussion and subsequent vote may be delayed to a future date.
17. These policies and procedures will be reviewed and adopted each year and will not be waived, rescinded, modified, or amended except by majority vote of the Committee after a minimum of seven days' notice in writing of the proposed waiver, revision, modification, or amendment given to all Committee members. These policies and procedures should be distributed at the first meeting of the Committee each fiscal year.
18. Questions or concerns that cannot be resolved by reference to the foregoing policies and procedures shall be resolved by majority vote of the Committee.
19. If it appears that a Committee member may have violated any of the policies and procedures outlined herein, three members of the Committee or the Chair may request a vote to enter into an executive session for the purpose of discussing the alleged violation. The Committee, in executive session (if an executive session is appropriate), will hear from the member who is alleged to have violated the policies and procedures and will deliberate regarding the same. The Committee, by a two-thirds vote, may impose a sanction or sanctions on a member found to be in breach of these policies and procedures including, but not limited to, a reprimand of the member or disqualification of the member from discussion and votes on specific issues.
Voted December 8, 2009
Voted September 18, 2012
Voted October 22, 2013
Voted October 7, 2014
Voted October 6, 2015
Voted August 4, 2016
Voted October 10, 2017
Voted October 16, 2018
Voted October 15, 2019
Voted May 4, 2021