BARNSTABLE – Amid increasing public pressure for more transparency and accountability, Barnstable County officials are pushing forward with planned reviews of the regional government’s functions and structure.
An internal review of county functions by a private consultant is expected to be complete within a week and a special commission called for by the League of Women Voters of the Cape Cod Area is being formed to study the county’s structure.
During the regular meeting Wednesday of the three-member board of county commissioners, league president Judith Thomas reiterated concerns over the special commission’s charge, when it will begin its work and who will be on it. “Have any decisions about the quantity of members and their qualification been made?” she asked.
Assembly of Delegates speaker Ronald Bergstrom questioned whether the special commission could be truly independent if members are appointed by county commissioners and report back to the executive board. The assembly is the legislative branch of county government.
“They’re going to be the ones who set the agenda,” County Commissioner Sheila Lyons said.
The special commission could be up and running by July, she said.
Recent concerns raised by opponents of wind energy projects on the Cape about oversight of the Cape Light Compact and the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative – two agencies created to address the region’s energy needs – should be considered in the special commission’s assessment, County Commissioner Mary Pat Flynn said.
Opponents of wind energy projects on the Cape have been asking for a spot on the county commissioners agenda to push the board to act more forcefully in requesting financial and other information from the Compact and CVEC.
“In a sense the planets are aligning here,” Flynn said of the reviews and the recent criticism. “I think we need to fold all of this into our review of where we are, how did we get here and where are we going to go in the future.”
During Wednesday’s meeting Preston Ribnick of Wellfleet and a founding member of Wind Wise~Cape Cod, an organization that has opposed wind energy projects on the Cape, presented an organizational chart, produced by the county, that seemed to contradict commissioners’ contention that they have no oversight of the Compact or CVEC.
The chart shows a direct line of authority from county commissioners over the two agencies through the county administrator and assistant administrator. Commissioners have failed to use their authority to secure documents that would show whether the transfer of more than $2 million from the Compact to CVEC was appropriate, Ribnick said.
The transfer of the money should have been disclosed publicly, he said.
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