Charter changes to appear on town ballot

Apr 9, 2024

Voters in May’s town election may find an unusual item on the ballot: Changes to the town charter. 

These changes were adopted at a June 2021 Town Meeting, and now require approval from the voters of Wareham at a town election. 

What’s changed?

The changes to the charter “fall into two categories,” according to Town Administrator Derek Sullivan. The first are “formatting, grammatical and typographical changes,” while the second involve “substantive changes.”

One change made the Town Clerk an appointed position, chosen by the Town Administrator, rather than an elected one. Another made it so that four votes from the Select Board are required to remove the Town Administrator, rather than three. A third provides for regular review of the charter. 

The change that allowed the Town Administrator to appoint a Town Clerk saw the most debate during the June 2021 Town Meeting, though the change did pass. 

Why is the charter on the ballot now?

The Massachusetts State Legislature voted to approve the changes to the Wareham Town Charter, and Governor Charlie Baker signed them into law on Jan. 5, 2023. 

However, language included in a subsection of the charter calls for it to be approved by the voters, according to 3rd Bristol and Plymouth Senator Marc Pacheco. 

Select Board candidate Brenda Eckstrom noticed the language in 2023 and brought it to the town’s attention, she said. 

The town initially said the charter was legitimate, as it was voted on by the legislature. The Select Board later decided to put the question to the voters. 

What happens next?

According to Pacheco, the vote is all that’s needed to make the charter law. 

“If the voters pass it, then it has been implemented and the provisions become law,” Pacheco said.

See the attached file, provided by the Town of Wareham, for more information.