HALLOWELL — The Charter Commission held its second public meeting to present proposed changes to city officials’ pay and terms of office Wednesday night.

Councilors Diano Circo and Phil Lindley and a few members of the public attended the meeting, which lasted about an hour. Nobody from the public attended the first public meeting in March.

“This was an enormously bigger turnout then our last meeting,” Langsdorf joked while kicking off the meeting.

The eight-person panel, which was created last year, has worked for more than 12 months on reviewing and recommending potential revisions to the charter, which hasn’t had many changes since it was created more than 60 years ago.

Commission Chairman Stephen Langsdorf said there was a lot of back-and-forth among commission members, but ultimately, all recommended changes were approved unanimously.

One of the biggest changes the commission recommends is changing the mayor’s and city councilors’ term lengths, which now are two-year positions. Langsdorf said two-year terms cause a possible turnover each year of half the members, so the commission proposes staggered three-year terms.


“Staggered terms are very much common practice in municipal government,” Langsdorf said. “(Hallowell) has staggered terms now, but it’s not a very good stagger.”

The problem, the commission reasoned, is that so much turnover each year on the council could lead to a loss of institutional memory and a big loss of continuity.

Langsdorf, of the law firm Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios LLP, has worked on municipal charters throughout his law career, and he is the attorney for Augusta and several other municipalities.

He said one of the main reasons the commission was established last year was to improve the annual appointment process, a process that has added nearly an hour to Hallowell’s inauguration each year.

“Councilors were being asked to vote on a reappointment without any knowledge of their actual employment history,” Langsdorf said. People who were appointed recently and are in the process of serving their term would not be reappointed this January; they wouldn’t need to be reappointed until their term expires.

“Instead of having a long list of yearly appointments, the appointments will be made one time for the length of the term of office for their respective position,” Langsdorf said.


The proposed amended charter also stipulates that certain positions that fall under the supervision of the city manager would be subject only to an initial approval by the council. After that, the city manager would handle all matters of employment under normal practices.

Under the current charter, theoretically, a newly elected councilor could be sworn in to the council during the inauguration and then be asked to approve the appointment of a police or fire chief with no knowledge of the person’s personnel files or work history.

“This is the way a city manager form of government is supposed to work,” Langsdorf said. “We thought this was a significant and important change.”

Another change the commission recommended places a limit of $249,999 that the council could borrow without voter approval. Currently, there is no limit.

Because of all the money and bonding being discussed in connection with the Stevens School redevelopment and the downtown district, the commission thought no limit was a “very user-unfriendly way of doing business” and thought placing a limit on the council was “appropriate.”

Longtime Hallowell resident and former city official Richard Hayes thought the commission was terrific and “did a heck of a job.”


Hayes said when he was an elected official, there was “nothing to stop us from spending money, and that was a huge thing. There were lots of times where I felt (bonding decisions) should have been” voted on by the people of Hallowell.

The commission plans to make its recommendation to the City Council next month. If approved, the amended charter would be placed on the November ballot. If voters pass it, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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