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Town clerk on leave after articles filed late

UPDATED: Stephanie Lucarelli, the elected town clerk since 2011, is on leave following the revelation in August that endorsed articles from the spring Town Meeting were sent to the state for final approval more than two months late. 

Stephanie Lucarelli Lucarelli

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine has confirmed the leave, adding in an email Sept. 4 that it is "neither disciplinary nor punitive in nature."

He wrote that assistant town clerk "is working to fulfill the duties of the office." She is Janice Weber.

"[W]e have also engaged with former Town Clerk Corinne Rainville on a temporary basis to assist with managing the day-to-day affairs of the office."

The specific reason for the leave and its length were left unstated. If the reason is medical, that is among the matters considered to be personnel and restricted from disclosure through public-information requests.

Chapdelaine declined to respond to requests for further comment, about the nature and the length of the leave.

The delay means that the state Attorney General's Office cannot give final approval for eight of 16 articles until it reviews them, a process that usually takes 90 days. Among them is an article to protect trees.

Heim said in August that the state agreed to perform a swifter review than the usual 90 days from the time it receives bylaws.

Lucarelli said in a phone conversation Aug. 15 that the articles would be submitted the next day, and Town Counsel Doug Heim confirmed that they were.

Press of work cited

The clerk said that the press of work, which included a special election in June, and the lack of help led to the delay.

Under state law, a clerk has 30 days to submit Town Meeting articles to the state after a Town Meeting ends. Arlington's annual meeting ended Wednesday, May 15, and considered 79 articles. Its Special Town Meeting, held earlier, considered six articles.

According to a form the town counsel's office, 16 total bylaws were submitted to the state -- eight general ones (articles 26, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35) and eight for zoning (14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 24).

Heim said state law includes no penalty for missing a deadline to submit articles.

Lack of established mechanism

Further, he noted, there is no established mechanism to let town officials know that articles are filed late. The state's municipal law unit encourages clerks to submit bylaws for approval online, so if the town counsel's office is copied on submissions, "then we know when they're made," he wrote.

The delay came to light when Town Meeting member Jo Anne Preston inquired about the state of the tree-protection bylaw (Article 32), which was adopted, 203-1. She was concerned about protecting trees from developers this fall. She said that after receiving no clear response from the clerk about the delay, she asked the state Attorney General's Office, and was told that the town's articles had not been filed.

In a typical year, Town Meeting articles are sent to the state in June, and the attorney general's office approves them, or says what must happen next, by sometime in September.

Heim said the state considers zoning articles to be in effect immediately after Town Meeting approves them, but other articles are not.

Meanwhile, Lucarelli's familiar smile and curly blonde hair are absent from the clerk's office. Caryn Cove Malloy, director of human resources, wrote Sept. 9 that Lucarelli began the leave Monday Aug. 26.

She began work for the town June 26, 1989, as a senior clerk stenographer in what was then called the Board of Selectmen's Office (now Select Board), Cove wrote.

Aug. 21, 2019: Spring articles filed 2 months late; state is asked for swifter review

March 11, 2017: To incumbent town clerk, her office is like family
Jan. 10, 2011: Hurd to resign seat; LaCourt won't seek reelection

This news summary was published Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, and updated, to reflect the manager's latest response and to add background.

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