Why Won't Town Officials Comply With The Law?

Charity Benz •

To the editor: It’s not even three months into 2024, and Nantucket’s town officials have already suffered three huge legal defeats: (1) the Superior Court’s rejection of the controversial Surfside Crossing project which town officials mysteriously failed to challenge; (2) the Attorney General’s ruling that the NP&EDC violated the Open Meeting Law by discussing and approving the Deputy Director’s promotion to Planning Director in executive session; and (3) now the Land Court’s rejection of the town’s interpretation of its zoning laws to permit short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.

Nantucket deserves “better” from its town officials. What is the root of this continuing problem? Is it incompetence in the town officials we hire and elect? Is it bad legal advice? Or, is it, as the Attorney General warned against in (2) above, a desire to give “the impression of a fait accompli crafted behind closed doors…not permitted by the Open Meeting Law.”

These adverse rulings clearly show that there is something terribly wrong with our town governance; it is just not up to the standard that we residents pay for and have the right to expect. It is long past due for a sweeping change of leadership that delivers transparency and accountability to us, the public, who bear the brunt and expense of mistakes and repetitive errors of judgment.

This may take time, but it can start as early as 5:00 p.m., Monday, March 18th, with the NP&EDC doing the right thing: initiating a professional and public search to fill the Planning Director position. That is how other key town appointments are made, not by trying to subvert MA law. The selection process for such high-level town positions should be competitive, not an engineered outcome by insiders. If the NP&EDC does the right thing Monday night, the Deputy Director of Planning can continue to carry on the duties of that position and compete for the Planning Director position along with other applicants. That is how this process should have been conducted in the first place and how we, the tax-paying public, should have been better served.

Charity Benz

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