On May 10, the East Longmeadow town council will consider my proposal to change our health board into an elected body.
My previous attempt to reform the health board was rejected by the town’s attorney who claimed that
State law requires that members of a board of health in a city (in this context, any municipality without a town meeting) be appointed, rather than elected.
(To read the town attorney’s letter in its entirety, click here.)
Despite the town attorney’s claims, Massachusetts’ law allows cities and towns to select health boards however they deem fit–whether by appointment or by election.
Here is a summary of the pertinent laws:
Local Charter Procedures Handbook by the Secretary of the Commonwealth
[M]ost provisions concerning local government structure, officers, terms, and method of selection are automatically consistent with state law.
A charter adopted by home rule may provide: that any particular local office be elected or appointed.
The provisions of any charter or charter amendment…shall be deemed consistent with the provisions of any law relating to the…mode of selection of local offices….Such provisions may provide: (a) that any particular local office shall be either elected or appointed. Emphasis added.
Unless otherwise provided in the city charter, [health board] members shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the board of aldermen. Emphasis added.
Thus, appointment by the mayor is not a requirement. It is the default procedure for cities that have not provided a different selection method.
For example, the mayor of Chicopee does not appoint health board members. Instead, health board members are elected by the city council. See Chicopee Charter Article, III, § 16.
If you support amending our charter to allow residents to elect health board members, please email the town councilors before May 10 and let them know. If you’d like to attend the May 10th meeting, click here for the link.