In a long and sometimes contentious meeting, the Board of Selectmen last week managed to resolve for now two appointments that have been the source of discussion for many weeks.
The board reappointed Donna Lambert to the post of animal control officer (with conditions), and it named Christine Quinn to serve as interim director of the town’s Council on Aging.
Complicating Ms. Lambert’s status as animal control officer has been the fact that she also serves on the town Board of Health.
Last Monday, Selectman Antone Vieira Jr. repeated that concern, noting that Ms. Lambert had been recommended to the animal control post by the BOH on which she serves and that the BOH oversees the animal control budget.
But Selectman Craig Dutra argued that the actual appointment is the job of the Board of Selectmen and that the BOH merely recommends candidates after screening them.
In recent months, Ms. Lambert has repeatedly said that she does not believe there to be any conflict in her two roles and that she has confirmed that with the state.
“I checked with the (state) Ethics Commission and they have said that there is no conflict, that I am abiding by the law,” she said recently.
The selectmen had asked for advice from the town solicitor, advice that Mr. Dutra characterized as none too helpful. They provided “three different opinions,” he said last week.
Eventually Monday, Selectmen voted unanimously to approve Ms. Lamber’s appointment provided that she resign immediately from the Board of Health and that she not begin her animal control officer work until 30 days after that resignation takes effect. She will continue to serve as ‘interim’ animal control officer until that time.
Selectmen also gave her some help, appointing Crystal Ferry and Stacey Rebello to serve as part-time animal control officers.
Since filling the vacant post of dog officer in early 2010, Ms. Lambert has lobbied to have the role of the job expanded to deal with other animals — particularly cats — whose needs she believes have been overlooked by the town. Later that year, the job title was changed to animal control officer.
Ms. Lambert said she thinks the town needs to do more about its considerable stray cat problem and to provide places where cats and other strays — pets and farm animals — can be held. She has also established a town fund to assist with the needs of stray and abused animals in Westport (contact the Town Clerk’s office for more information).
Quinn to lead COA
Also last week, the Selectmen voted 4-1 (Mr. Dutra opposed) to appoint Christine Quinn as interim director of the Westport Council on Aging.
Ms. Quinn has previously served as director of the Council on Aging in Stoughton. During her 20 years of senior care experience she has earned certifications as geriatric care manager and case manager and she is a licensed mental health councilor.
After the retirement of longtime COA director Mary Ellen Gomes, the selectmen thought they had a replacement in Toni-Ann Cormier who has worked at the Cedars in Dartmouth and as activities director for the Dartmouth Council on Aging.
She was chosen from around 17 applicants for the Westport post but then turned it down, saying the $45,000 salary is not sufficient given the work involved. Town Meeting voters may be asked this spring to approve increasing that salary to $55,000.
Mr. Dutra said he voted against the appointment because the process appeared to give Ms. Quinn preferential treatment.
Since Ms. Gomes’ appointment, the COA has been led by principal clerk Jennifer Wagner.
The search for a permanent COA director will continue.
In other appointments last week, Selectmen named Tom Shaughnessy to the Personnel Board, Karin Bergeron to the COA board, and Leone Farias to the Agricultural Open Space Preservation Trust Fund Council.