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I wish to submit this letter in response to the recent statements and actions of both the Reading Town Manager and Reading Board of Selectman to the Reading Board of Health members.
The Board of Selectmen voted to remove Board of Health members on September 6th. The reason given was ostensibly, for cause. Ostensibly, the Board of Health was attempting to “usurp” the hiring power given to the Town Manager under Reading’s Home Rule Charter by refusing to appoint Laura Vlasuk as health agent.
In actuality, the Board of Health by statute, Massachusetts General Laws chapter 111 section 30, are the only ones who may “appoint agents or directors of public health to act for them in cases of emergency.” This power of appointment of its agent is a statutory power given to the independent discretion of the Board of Health.
The Home Rule authority granted the Town Manager is the simple authority to hire and fire town employees. Home Rule does not and never did extend the statutory authority granted to the Reading Board of Health to appoint the health agent to the Town Manager or the Selectmen. By statute, only the Board of Health may appoint a health agent and the appointed agent “shall be directly responsible to it (i.e., Board of Health) and under its direction and control.”
The Reading Selectmen and the Reading Town Manager identified a person who had and continues to have an unsatisfactory relationship with the Board of Health. The Board of Health would not agree to appoint a health agent the Board of Health found objectionable. One can draw no other conclusion except the Town Manager must collaborate with the Board of Health if the person the Town Manager hires as a health inspector is to be appointed health agent.
Because the Board of Health would not appoint an employee found to unacceptable for the position of heath agent, the Selectmen have voted to remove members of the Board of Health in an attempt to usurp the statutory authority and independence of the Board of Health.
The notion that the Selectmen can and will force the Town Manager’s employee into the agency only the Board of Health is authorized to fill is chilling.
Nancy Docktor RN,MS,CS
Reading Board of Health member