In Massachusetts, some politicians run for Town Council, while others may run for School Committee.
In North Attleborough, there is a possibility someone could be elected for multiple offices and hold them all at once.
The Town Charter—the document outlining the organization of North Attleborough’s government—appears to contain opaque language on whether an elected official can hold multiple public offices.
This was the opinion of Town Manager Mike Borg and the Town Council, who voted 7-1 on Sept. 13 to send the language to the Charter Review Committee for further review.
Borg, who brought up the issue to the council, said there was a question about taking leaves of absence from one position to fulfill another obligation in a different office. He said it created a potential problem of a person holding multiple offices—which is not allowed in the Town Charter.
“In the federal government, if you’re a senator and you run for the office of president, you would have to vacate your seat,” Borg said as an example to the council. “In North Attleborough, you could potentially take a leave of absence as a senator and then serve as president.”
Borg applied this hypothetical situation to an individual who wins multiple offices in North Attleborough–who could go back and forth to different jobs as they would only take a leave of absence rather than vacate the seat entirely.
KP Law, a firm that works with the town on issues related to the charter, drafted two conflicting opinions. The first reads that the leave of absence wording creates the hypothetical scenario mentioned by Borg. The second opinion said this possibility could not happen as candidates would follow the spirit of the multiple office prohibition.
These differing views led to the decision to ask the Charter Committee to review the language and determine if there needs to be more detailed wording.
Town Council Vice President John Simmons said these questions are the reason the town has a Charter Committee. He said the language was vague and clarity would be needed for future elections.
“I would like to hear their opinion before we weigh in on this,” Simmons said. “A referral to the Charter Committee is certainly worth it based on this question.
Councilor Mark Gould was the sole no vote that night. He argued the language in the charter was clear enough and the scenario proposed by Borg was improbable.
“I don’t understand the impetus for this,” Gould said. “It looks like a solution in search of a problem.”