PROVINCETOWN — When it comes to making appointments to the finance committee, the town moderator is clear that she won’t appoint a nonresident taxpayer.
“I don’t have anything against nonresidents, but you know what?” said Moderator Mary-Jo Avellar. “They want the same privileges as the voters, but they cannot vote, so why appoint them?”
The majority of the finance committee agrees. The committee voted six to one on Feb. 10 to place an article on the annual town meeting warrant that would exclude nonresidents from committee membership.
Last year, town meeting voters approved several charter changes, including ones that gave nonresidents the right to serve as alternates on nonregulatory boards. The charter defines the finance committee as advisory, not regulatory.
The finance committee is now trying to alter the charter again so that the committee is listed as “regulatory,” a move that Provincetown Part-Time Resident Taxpayers Association (PPRTA) President Patricia Miller said defied the recent charter changes.
At the end of last year, Scott Van Hove, a certified public accountant with addresses in Florida and Provincetown, applied to be a finance committee alternate.
Avellar, who appoints finance committee members, passed over Van Hove. She instead appointed the former town manager, David Panagore, but the charter compliance commission ruled that Panagore could not serve, because he had been a supervisory town employee within that year, and there is a required rest period of one year before supervisors can serve on town committees. As a result, the vacancy for one alternate remains.
Avellar’s statement that nonresidents cannot vote applies to town meeting and town elections. But the charter states that nonresidents can serve as alternates on nonregulatory committees, and in Chapter 5, Section 5 of the charter, it stipulates that an alternate can vote if he or she is filling in for an absent full member.
Thus, without a charter change, nonresidents could vote on the finance committee, but not at town meeting.
And this, said Mark Hatch, chair of the finance committee, is the crux of the issue.
“We’re a standing subcommittee of town meeting,” Hatch said. That is, the committee of nine, including two alternates, is appointed by the moderator, who directs town meeting. The committee’s sole purpose, Hatch said, is to advise voters at town meeting on financial matters.
At town meeting, nonresidents must sit in a different section of the auditorium than residents do. They need special permission to even speak at town meeting. And they cannot vote.
“So, when you look at this, as you drill down, what’s the point of this?” Hatch said. “We want someone who can be fully participating. This doesn’t make any sense to us.”
Only Finance Committee Member Dorie Seavey favored having nonresident alternates on the board, by voting against the proposed charter change. She could not be reached for comment.
In an email to the Independent, the PPRTA’s Patricia Miller wrote that the moderator’s refusal to appoint a nonresident brazenly ignores the charter revision.
“Instead of bridging the gap of divisiveness between part-timers and year-rounders — as the voters were trying to do — FinCom in one swoop and with spectacular dismissiveness, anger, and vitriol, has widened the chasm,” Miller wrote. “And still, Mr. Van Hove stands ready, willing, and able to serve.”
Avellar is not backing down.
“I’m not trying to be unpleasant, and I don’t own two homes,” she said. “But if I did, I would make a choice where I wanted to vote and participate actively.”