Hatfield voters say town should appoint collector, treasurer

  • Hatfield Town Hall KEVIN GUTTING

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

HATFIELD — Voters decided by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday to make the town’s collector and treasurer into an appointed position rather than elected by voters.

The ballot question won 411 to 203, according to preliminary results from Town Clerk Lydia Szych. It was part of an election that saw contested races for the School Committee and Select Board.

Incumbent Heather Cahill held onto her seat on the School Committee with 476 votes. The other incumbent up for re-election — Michael Paszek — received only 143 votes, and will be replaced on the School Committee by challenger Jill Robinson, who received 467 votes.

“I am really excited to join the School Committee and to get to work to continue to improve Hatfield schools,” Robinson, an associate director of operations at the Collaborative for Educational Services, said by phone on Tuesday. “I’m so appreciative of everyone’s support.”

In the race for one available seat on the Select Board, incumbent Ed Jaworski held off a challenge from Christopher Miller, winning re-election 438 votes to 186.

The ballot question that passed will now combine the town treasurer and collector jobs into one position, which will be appointed by the Select Board.

“I’m ecstatic, and I’m glad the townspeople have come to the realization of how important it is to have professional folks hired in our various financial capacities in town,” Select Board Chairman Brian Moriarty, who supported the initiative, said Tuesday evening.

Hatfield has had long-running problems that have plagued the town’s finances. A recent audit given to the Select Board in August by certified public accountants Roselli, Clark & Associates, of Woburn, cited pre-existing problems that were included in reports issued in 2013 and 2015, but also noted that “many aspects of the financial operations continue to operate at an unacceptable level.”

Among the problems were that bank reconciliations between the collector’s office and accountant’s office were not being done in a timely fashion, ledgers were being misbooked, cash books didn’t have proper entries and both offices were overwhelmed by their workloads.

Some like Moriarty have argued that appointing professionals to those positions improve the town’s processes. But voters have previously rejected efforts to make the positions appointed.

“I certainly think it’s a beginning,” Moriarty said when asked if the change would help improve the town’s financial situation.

Not everyone was so thrilled with the voters’ decision, however.

“We’ve lost the power of democratic vote and now give the selectmen more power to hire people at a high salary,” resident Lary Grossman, who opposed the initiative, said. “I’m really upset that once again we’ve lost some democratic power.”