Anyone who is appealing a fine for violating a city ordinance or requesting a review of conditions attached to a city permit or license might be receiving a hearing notice soon. The City Council voted late last month to have Council President Peg Crowe appoint an Interim Municipal Hearing Officer to fill the vacancy created last fall when former Hearing Officer Eda Jane Matchak retired. Over the winter, the list of residents requesting hearings to appeal citations and enforcement decisions began to build, and the council decided the position needed to be filled as soon as possible.
“We have a lot of citizens waiting in line to get before a hearing officer, and I think we should allow the council president to make this appointment at least on an interim basis,” said Ward 6 Councillor Neil Kinnon.
Ward 3 Councillor John Matheson said the city is required by statute to hold bimonthly hearings, and someone should be appointed as soon as possible.
Councillor-at-Large Debbie DeMaria, chair of the Appointments and Personnel Committee, agreed but added that the appointment should be temporary. “I think the position should be posted and we should go through our regular parliamentary procedure,” said DeMaria.
Councillor-at-Large David D’Arcangelo, who also serves on the Personnel Committee, agreed the city should follow a consistent appointments process. And both DeMaria and D’Arcangelo said since the start of the year, their committee has seen a steady stream of exceptional candidates seeking appointments and opportunities on different boards and commissions.
The hearing officer settles disputes that emerge over citations and enforcement actions taken by the city’s two compliance officers, David Morse and James Tuxbury, who are responsible for ensuring that residents, property owners, businesses and anyone granted a license or permit by the city follows all relevant state laws and local ordinances. Issues range from parking tickets to building and health code violations.
Malden’s municipal hearing officer works under the supervision of the city solicitor and is required to participate in an administrative law training program at least once a year. Councillors seemed hopeful that former City Clerk Karen Anderson will bring back her 30-plus years of experience at City Hall and take the job at least temporarily.
“We want to give the interim person at least three or four months to get through the backlog,” said DeMaria, whose committee will also begin the process of reviewing resumes and candidates to fill the position permanently.
“We will probably do that sometime in May or June before we recess,” said DeMaria, adding that the interim hearing officer can also apply for the post.