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Upon further legal review … Vasapolli revised legal opinion, stating that Cogliano can serve as a selectman and still be a Charter Commissioner

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By Mark E. Vogler


In late June, Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano said he disagreed with a legal opinion from Town Counsel John Vasapolli that a resident couldn’t serve as a selectman and a member of the Charter Commission simultaneously. Cogliano said he respected Vasapolli but planned to run for both offices in the November town elections despite Vasapolli’s opinion. This week, Cogliano learned he was right and that Vasapolli had revised his earlier legal opinion.

“At the beginning of this process, I said I wanted to run for both the Charter Commission and the Board of Selectmen and was given an opinion by town counsel that I couldn’t,” Cogliano told The Saugus Advocate on Wednesday.

“So, I appealed that decision to the Secretary of State’s office where it was overturned. I know how tough of a task it is to bring about change, so I’m committed to it because I know we can do better, and I intend to deliver on that promise,” he said.

Precinct 10 Town Meeting Member Peter Manoogian requested the opinion from Vasapolli back in June. He said a number of Saugus residents had approached him, wanting to know whether or not a member of an at-large Saugus elected board can serve on the Charter Commission.

Vasapolli concluded in his initial legal opinion that “no person may appear on the ballot for the office of Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and Charter Commission nor would they be able to serve in both offices.”

In his opinion, Vasapolli noted that Article 2 Section 1A of the Town Charter, titled “Candidacy Limit on Town-wide Elective Office,” states, “No person’s name may appear on the ballot for more than 1 major town-wide elective office.”

“Clearly the election of charter commission member is an at large, town wide election to a town office,” Vasapolli advised Manoogian. “It is therefore my opinion that no person may appear on the ballot for the office of Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and Charter Commission nor would they be able to serve in both offices,” Vasapolli concluded.

But after consulting with Michelle Tassineri, legal counsel for the elections division of the Secretary of State, Vasapolli revised his legal opinion. “It is her position that an individual of the town may run for and hold both positions for the following reasons,” Vasapolli wrote.

“The process for the election of a charter commission is regulated by state statute and is consistent across the Commonwealth. An elected charter commission member is not included in the definition of a Town Office defined in General Laws chapter 41, section 1 and is therefore not a ‘town office’ referred to in Article 2 section 1A of our town charter,” Vasapolli continued.

“Additionally, under the provisions of section 1 of chapter 268A of the General Laws, charter commissioners are explicitly excluded from the definition of municipal employee and therefore not treated as a second position for purposes of the conflict-of-interest laws,” he said.

“Lastly, since our charter does not specifically change the charter amendment process set forth in the state law, we must follow the statutory process for the election of charter commissioners,” he said.

“In view of the above and upon further review, it is my opinion that a member of the Board of Selectmen or School Committee may run for and hold the position of Board of Selectmen and Charter Commission or School Committee and Charter Commission.”

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