"Don't settle any scores."
When I first started writing this column, Enterprise publisher Bill Hough gave me a few simple rules. Chief among them was, "don't settle any scores." I understood exactly what he meant.
One of my greatest regrets in my 12 years as a Selectman was an appointment in which, looking back, I was an unwitting participant in settling a score. I was newly elected, and we were still meeting in the dingy basement area of Town Hall. Falmouth Steamship Authority appointee Bob Sayers was up for re-appointment and some others in the process had some scores to settle. I went along with the vote not to keep Bob on the Board, and my relationship with a dear friend and neighbor has never been the same. That's what happens when you settle a score. Nobody wins.
I hope that the Selectmen remember that when they come to the table for their planned discussion on reviewing the policy on Constable appointments.
As a refresher, a Constable is a local official, appointed by the Board of Selectmen, with the authority to deliver court documents and other legal papers to people, and also has the responsibility to maintain order at Town Meeting. Traditionally, in a bygone era, the position was one of high esteem and prestige in the community. These days, although still important, the position of constable has been de-emphasized by a combination of factors, including the electronic delivery of documents and the emergence of courier services like FedEx.
Falmouth has always been somewhat judicious in its constable appointments. The positions have been handed out with some rarity, and, other than the one glaring example we'll get to in a minute, without incident.
So, it was with a particular interest that I saw that the Selectmen are discussing a policy on Constable appointments at their upcoming meeting. I suspect they intend to do no such thing, but are relying on a disinterested public to look the other way. Make no mistake. This is about the past. This is about taking care of what some see as lingering business. The agenda might just as well have read: "Time to Settle a Score." It's no secret that the Morse-O'-Meter has tipped its balance with the recent election of new Selectman Dave Braga. David was an unabashed supporter of former Constable George Morse during his recent scrum with the Selectmen. He now sits in potential judgment of a new application. Selectmen Mustafa and Putnam made their positions clear during the previous process, which included several circus-like meetings, lots of statements by lawyers, letters to the editor, and one very dysfunctional Board.
The Selectmen would do well to convince the public that this agenda item is a sincere attempt at setting a policy (which they rarely do) by having whatever discussion is appropriate for a Constable policy, and leaving the Morse appointment off the table.
A revisiting of that issue, simply to reverse a previous vote of the Board, would be an unfortunate but deliberate display of hubris and contempt for the public that this community does not need. The wounds of that Kulander-esque dark period are just beginning to heal; to put all of those issues and divisions back at the forefront of the Board's deliberations, simply to prove that the votes now exist to support a candidate for Constable, would be a disservice to the town.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the discussion is a sincere attempt to begin a thoughtful and deliberative process to debate and approve policies in the best interest of our community, and the Selectmen are going in alphabetical order. They couldn't think of any "A" policies or "B" policies (the beach bathroom in Falmouth Heights was alliterative and therefore not qualified), and chose to begin with policies that begin with "C."
I'd love to be wrong on this one, but be prepared to see some check marks made by Board members as they settle a score.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.