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Town Meeting - It's the Little Things

The Annual Town Meeting can last for days. Even if the business is accomplished in one day, the long hours can lure attendees into a state of soporific complacency. Voters may be so eager to wrap things up that they can overlook the small but critical matters. One of those small but critical matters is voting to dissolve Town Meeting. One town recently forgot this step and had to reconvene solely to dissolve the meeting. Note that the vote should be to dissolve, not adjourn or recess, the Town Meeting. A vote to adjourn or recess connotes a temporary suspension and should include a date and time to reconvene. Dissolution ends the meeting. The distinction is important, particularly in the case of representative Town Meetings, because certain deadlines run from the dissolution of the meeting. See, e.g., G.L. c. 43A, § 10, which allows for a petition for referendum on votes taken at a representative town meeting to be filed within seven business days of dissolution. 


There are a couple of caveats to this instruction. Typically, the Town Meeting warrant includes the Town election. In that case, the vote should be to adjourn to the date of the election, thereafter to dissolve. And if your voters prefer to adjourn rather than to dissolve, the vote can be to adjourn sine die, meaning to adjourn without a day, which is deemed to be functionally the same as a vote to dissolve. Whatever your Town’s practice may be, be sure to vote so that your voters do not need to return simply to close the annual town business.  

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