August 15. 2018 10:10PM

Follow the law: Residents on Portsmouth board


Follow the law, or change it.

Those are the only two legitimate options open to Portsmouth City Manager John Bohenko.

State law allows municipalities to set up a planning board, “the members of which shall be residents of the municipality.”

But Bohenko has appointed two city employees who do not live in Portsmouth to serve as voting members of the city’s planning board.

Municipal employees need not live in Portsmouth to work for the city, but all members of the planning board must be Portsmouth residents.

Portsmouth ordinances also require people to live in the city in order to serve on municipal boards. There is no exemption for city employees.

This is not a close call. The law is clear, and even if Portsmouth were to amend its charter to allow non-resident planning board members, it would still conflict with state statute.

This also ignores the wisdom of a city manager stacking a local planning board with people who answer to him, and not city residents. That would be up to Portsmouth councilors to address.

If Portsmouth officials think it important to have non-resident city employees voting on city planning decisions, they should ask the Legislature to give them that authority.
On Wednesday, Bohenko agreed to remove the two out-of-towners from the board
He was right to do so.