RICHMOND — A 2-2 Town Council vote last week prevented attorney Karen Ellsworth’s reappointment as town solicitor under Robert’s Rules of Order, but the lack of a quorum on Wednesday has now left more questions than answers and is setting up a second vote on whether Ellsworth should be reappointed.
Town Council President Nell Carpenter and Councilor Lauren Cacciola, who had both voted against reappointing Ellsworth a week ago, were the only representatives of the five-member council present during a scheduled special meeting on Wednesday evening, preventing a vote. Without the ability to hold discussions or vote, the two were unable to move forward action items that intended to establish qualifications and review criteria, determine the advertising scope, and setting potential contractual terms for the hiring of a new town solicitor.
“I do not intend to waste everyone’s time. We do not have a quorum and, unfortunately, we cannot hold this meeting,” Carpenter said after delaying the meeting five minutes in hopes that Councilman Ronald Newman would join via video. Newman did not sign on.
Vice President Jim Palmisciano and Councilman Rich Nassaney both indicated in advance that they would not be able to attend Wednesday’s special meeting. Both were expected to return to the table during the next regular meeting on Jan. 18, at which time the council is expected to discuss the reappointment of Ellsworth, an agenda item added at Nassaney’s request.
The failure to proceed comes following a turbulent meeting to start 2022 that saw Carpenter and Cacciola decline to reappoint Ellsworth — Palmisciano and Newman voted in favor, with Nassaney absent — before again deadlocking against a motion by Newman to have it placed on the Jan. 18 agenda.
Under Robert’s Rules of Order, a vote that fails by split vote is traditionally added to a future meeting agenda for reconsideration before the full council, but it can also be addressed in other ways.
When the vote failed, Palmisciano motioned to have the town consider updating its policies to establish an annual review for the position to enhance feedback and legal services, as well as allowing for negotiation of a more thorough contract. He had created a matrix to evaluate areas including provision of legal services, general management, major work assignments and job responsibilities, council relations, community relations and town administrator relations.
“One of the goals was to create an assessment based on templates used for standard cities and towns to develop a matrix to provide constructive feedback,” he said during the Jan. 4 meeting.
Palmisciano has indicated he would still be interested in establishing an annual review as a means of improving efficiency in government, regardless of whether Ellsworth is reappointed.
Although the council was poised to move forward without Ellsworth earlier this month, Nassaney’s request to revote could lead to her eventual reappointment next week, especially if all five members are present and both Newman and Palmisciano remain in favor of the reappointment.
Ellsworth, who has served the town since 2005, is scheduled to see her term end on Jan. 31. The item for action at the Jan. 18 meeting requested by Nassaney calls for extension of Ellsworth’s term to Feb. 1, 2023.