[Leader Editorial Feature]
By Josh Resnek
The mayor sought to head off the council’s desire to question him about why and exactly how much he is spending for a noted criminal lawyer’s representation at a contentious and sometimes chaotic meeting of the city council Monday night.
Using a ruse to have the council addressed by his lawyer, A. John Pappalardo, the mayor avoided speaking to the council about the issue nor did he allow himself to be questioned by the council about the disbursements from his campaign account to Pappalardo’s law firm, Greenberg and Traurig.
Instead, the mayor imposed on the council and demanded it to hear from his attorney, and the council did just that – despite a meeting scheduled on March 9 for the mayor to answer questions about the legal representation and its reasons.
Pappalardo shed little light as to why the mayor has been paying his law firm $6,000 – $10,000 a month for the past two years, and large amounts to other lawyers before that, except to say, “the mayor has done nothing wrong.”
Pappalardo said the mayor hasn’t been arrested, indicted or convicted of a crime. He isn’t under criminal investigation according to his reasoned judgment.
“He’s done nothing wrong,” he said again and again. “That is absolutely unequivocal,” he added.
He spoke with a strong, stern voice. He has the persona of a seasoned prison warden when pontificating to the city councilors about his client’s purity which was akin to a lecture given to prison guards by the prison warden while at the same time ridiculing questions about the mayor’s honesty.
He described the government proffer the mayor signed with the US Attorney’s office in 2013 the cause for a medal rather than for concern. He said the mayor was one of 55 local people investigated by the FBI who agreed to sign agreements to give information to the government. “ Innocent people talk with the FBI. Those who have something to hide don’t,” Pappalardo said several times.
Pappalardo’s angry bluster and confrontational manner, caused most councilors to sink into their seats and to keep their mouths shut in the face of his withering attack – which by the way – the mayor clearly enjoyed. Pappalardo exuded a threatening, harsh and abrasive persona. Again, this suited the mayor.
The mayor, in his blue suit, was extremely animated. He jumped from one seat to another in the council chamber, presiding over all the troops who accompanied him into battle Monday night.
He whispered into his lawyer’s ear. He paid careful attention to him and to his command performance which had the power of hypnotizing the city council into a virtual state of temporary paralysis and inertia.
Only Councilor Fred Capone, also an attorney, exhibited the backbone to question Pappalardo. Pappalardo treated Capone’s questions as a steady, aggravating stream of impertinence.
Capone is believed to be a serious candidate to succeed the mayor in the upcoming go around.
Capone told Pappalardo he was confused.
“What are you representing him for?” Capone seemed to ask several times.
He might have said, as many in the audience were wondering: if he’s done nothing wrong then why are you being paid sometimes $10,000 a month? Why would he need money to defend himself if there is nothing to defend himself against?
Several times Papparlardo cited Chapter 55 of the Massachusetts General Laws as the umbrella under which the $200,000 that has been written from the mayor’s campaign finance account to Greenberg Traurig is given perfectly legal sanction.
“I’m representing the mayor,” he said to Councilor Fred Capone after they had exchanged several questions.
Why is that, Capone said in so many words to Pappalardo.
If the mayor hasn’t done anything wrong, what is he paying you for?” he asked.
“Wouldn’t a good pr firm be a more affordable option?” he asked Papparlardo.
Then the question arose about who was paying Papparlardo’s firm?
“I don’t know,” said the former US Attorney.
“The city could be paying his bills for all I know,” he added. This set off a round of discussion about how much Papparlado is paid and who exactly is paying him.
“What’s your hourly rate?” Councilor at Large Gerly Adrien asked him.
“How much an hour?” she repeated.
“$1600 an hour,” the mayor’s lawyer replied.
“And what does your assistant get?” she asked. He said he didn’t know. His assistant, Attorney Emily Bryan answered. “$550,” she said.
Several councilors found that hourly fee – $2150 between them – an extraordinary sum for someone innocent of everything to spend just for the heck of it.
It must have cost the mayor an estimated $4500 for his legal duo to appear in his behalf.
“What is this for?” Capone asked.
Papplardo recited what he wanted everyone to believe about his representation for the mayor.
“This is for matters connected to false and untrue allegations, salacious and baseless attacks, false and misleading press coverage designed to mislead the public.”
He said the mayor should not be called “Kickback Carlo” as he is sometimes referred to in the Leader Herald because of allegations lodged in Federal Court.
“That means he takes money,” Papparlardo said of the “Kickback” assignation.
“And that is absolutely untrue,” he said vehemently.
“I am representing him to enhance his political future,” he said. He said that US Attorney Andrew Lelling was no shrinking violet. He indicated Lelling would have indicted the mayor if he had the chance but didn’t, proving the mayor’s innocence of all the charges that have been leveled against him unfairly.
Pappalardo said that the mayor spending $200,000 (against nothing) wasn’t much money.
“I get $2-$3 million for some cases. So $200,000 isn’t very much,” he said.
The mayor unleashed his fury on Capone and Councilor Mike Marchese, screaming at both men and pointing as he was making his way out of the council chamber.
“You two have been out to slaughter me for 14 years,” the mayor shouted angrily at Capone and Marchese.
Whether or not the mayor’s hijacking of the city council was wise or foolish is hard to know. However, thousands of Everett residents watched cable or on the Internet the spectacle of Papparlodo spewing, rather angrily, epithets at all those the mayor paid him to ridicule.
The presentation ended with the mayor yelling and screaming at Mike Marchese and Capone.
“You two have slaughtered me for 14 years,” he cried out, pointing an angry finger at them.
Then the meeting was over.
“He started with me, and then with my family. He attacked me. I don’t mind him playing his games with me – but I will fight for my family every time. The mayor can take a hike. He’s a total liar,” said Marchese.
“His lawyer speaking for him can’t erase his lies,” he added.