Seven former city councilors object to proposed charter change | News

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BEVERLY — Eight former city councilors are opposing a proposed change to the city charter that they say could endanger the future of the city’s finances.

In a letter to the City Council on Tuesday, the former councilors said the makeup of a proposed audit committee could leave the city “open to financial mismanagement and ruin.”

“If you don’t think that is a possibility, we suggest you look no further back than 1992 when it was revealed that the City of Beverly had an $8.5 million deficit,” the letter said.

The Beverly Charter Review Committee has recommended the creation of a five-member audit committee to help select the firm that conducts the annual audit of the city’s finances. In its report in February, the review committee said there have been conflicting interpretations over whether the mayor or the City Council has ultimate accountability for ensuring that the audit is sufficiently independent.

The review committee has recommended that the selection of the audit firm be clearly the responsibility of the City Council, with the support of an audit committee. The committee recommended that the audit committee consist of the city finance director, city accountant, school business manager, a city councilor and the City Council’s budget analyst.

The former councilors said they object to giving the majority of the positions to people whose job responsibilities fall within the scope of the audit, meaning the finance director, accountant and school business manager. They said that runs counter to advice from the Government Finance Officers Association to keep an audit committee separate from management.

The former councilors said the current wording of the proposed charter change could “negate this and future Councils’ ability to provide an independent review of the city’s finances.” The letter pointed to oversight problems that led to the $8.5 million deficit in 1992 and drastic cuts in city services.

Former City Councilor Joyce McMahon read the letter to the City Council on Tuesday during a public hearing on the charter review committee recommendations at Beverly Middle School. The letter was also signed by former councilors Stacy Ames, Scott Dullea, Patricia Grimes, Kevin Hobin, Bruce Nardella, Wes Slate and Maureen Troubetaris. Current City Councilor Hannah Bowen, who is a member of the charter review committee along with Ames, also signed the letter.

The charter review committee met for more than a year to review the city charter, the document that lays out the framework for how city government operates. The charter was adopted in 1995 and is reviewed every 10 years.

The charter review committee has recommended several changes, including increasing the mayoral term from two to four years and adding two seats to the School Committee. Those changes would have to be voted on by voters in an election.

Rantoul Street resident Charlie Grimes told the City Council that he strongly opposes a four-year mayoral term. He said the current city charter has created a “steady flow of power” into the mayor’s office.

“A four-year term would make a mayor virtually unbeatable,” Grimes said.

High Street resident Paul Lanzikos spoke in favor of a four-year term in order to give a mayor more time to establish themselves in the role.

“No sooner have they been elected that they immediately have to start thinking of reelection,” Lanzikos said.

Current councilors did not comment on any of the proposed changes during the meeting. The public hearing on the matter was continued to May 2.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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