Defends the Wellness Center
By Josh Resnek
The mayor used strong-arm tactics and shouted dictatorial tropes at Councilor Mike McLaughlin attempting to shut off debate about the Wellness Center at a city council committee hearing at city hall Monday evening.
With the aid of the mayor’s nephew, the nodding and sometimes smiling City Councilor Anthony DiPierro, who chaired the hearing, McLaughlin was not allowed to answer the mayor’s taunts and innuendo.
“Do I hear a motion to dismiss?” DiPierro asked after the mayor unleashed about 8 minutes of vitriol at McLaughlin.
With that, the meeting was brought to a premature conclusion but not before the mayor issued a stern warning to McLaughlin.
“We will not be back at any meeting to answer any questions this person has ever again,” the mayor shouted.
He rose from his chair at the end of the hearing table and joined his administrators who were seated at the back of the nearly empty chamber.
The mayor refused to answer any of McLaughlin’s written questions, while he often stumbled somewhat breathlessly reading a prepared statement claiming McLaughlin is carrying water for the Leader Herald – calling the newspaper a newsletter trying to take him down.
Before the mayor got up and left, McLaughlin tried asking him a question – one of 40 or so he had prepared in writing for the meeting, as he had been ordered to do by City Solicitor Colleen Mejia.
“I’ve answered all your questions,” the mayor blurted out, huffing and puffing.
“We answered everything that is allowable to answer,” he added. “I’m disgusted with you,” he said to McLaughlin.
McLaughlin refused to comment after the meeting fell apart.
The mayor’s opening speech whitewashing and covering up management issues that had almost paralyzed his administration during many private discussions inside the corner office at city hall, represented to him the answers to the questions McLaughlin, and others, have raised about management issues dogging the Wellness Center on Broadway.
Sneering, seething and almost spitting out an abundance of aggressive words and thoughts of a speech he very likely did not write, the mayor refused to acknowledge that the administration of the Wellness Center is as different as night is from day regarding the running of the activities there.
The problems which have come out in public about the Wellness Center were confined to its management.
The mayor described the Leader Herald and this writer, as “trying to take down the city.”
He said that McLaughlin had hitched his wagon to the newspaper and was “doing its dirty work.”
He charged that McLaughlin was playing political games.
“I am here to defend the Wellness Center,” he said sternly at the beginning of his contentious remarks.
He spoke haltingly but decisively.
“Residents trust us with their children… these stories about the Wellness Center (sexual harassment, bullying of employees, law suits, no-show jobs and a less than transparent budget) are inflated negative stories. You (McLaughlin) are not seeking to participate in the solution. You are not directing complaints properly. You are doing a disservice to the city exaggerating issues like propaganda.”
He admitted there had been some complaints.
“Human resources issues are private matters,” he repeated several times, announcing again for all to hear the administration’s mantra about covering up issues like no-show jobs because state law requires they can’t be talked about in the open forum.
He ranted and railed against McLaughlin.
“The discussion of conjecture weakens the city. Dr. Easy does his work everyday. Steve Supino does a great job. Attorney Reddy does whatever the law allows. Besides, I am the appointing authority,” the mayor said.
He charged McLaughlin with calling out his administration when in fact, the Center is safe and prosperous, taking in $384,000 in 2018 and serving thousands of residents.
The meeting came to a sudden end when McLaughlin asked the mayor a question about Karen Avila, the former head of the Health and Wellness Center.
“Idiot,” the mayor seemed to imply about McLaughlin, “Karen Avila was not the head of the Wellness Center, She was the head of Health and Wellness at the Center.” Avila, who is alleged to have held a no-show position, resigned or was fired after it was revealed she had fraudulently asserted her college and professional credentials.
McLaughlin tried to prove Avila had sent e-mails identifying herself as the city’s head of the Health and Wellness Center.
The mayor made a move towards McLaughlin’s chair.
“Don’t come near me,” he warned after a few moments of tense and rather outrageous interaction between the mayor and a member of the city government trying to question him.