Resident Anger Rising at City Council Inertia
By Josh Resnek
A succession of speakers attacked the city council and directed councilors to brake the chains the mayor has on them and to demand the mayor pay back $180,000 they say he owes the city for hidden longevity payments he accepted.
The pre-meeting public speaking period has been growing in numbers and intensity as residents come to terms with the mayor showing no intention of paying back the city, allegedly improper, and likely, illegal payments of $40,000 yearly he has been receiving.
Several councilors have publicly stated it is up to the mayor to pay the money back if he wants. Many residents cannot comprehend city councilors talking this way.
At Monday night’s meeting, the city council put off until Thursday, a final decision on the mayor’s longevity.
It is expected the council will reduce the mayor’s longevity without doing away with it, rejecting the effort by Councilor Stephanie Smith to peg the mayor’s year to year payment for years served to department heads.
This would have reduced the mayor’s yearly check to $1,700 from $40,000.
Thursday night, at a special meeting of the council, it is expected that an ordinance governing the mayor’s longevity payment will be refined to limit the payment “to somewhere be- tween $1,700 and $2,500 and no more,” according to Councilor Anthony DiPierro and Councilor Mike Marchese, who has led the effort to do away with the longevity payment to the mayor for months.
A large crowd of observers in the city council chamber Monday night cheered all the speakers who decried the payment of such a large and apparently improper amount of taxpayer money given to the mayor clandestinely.
Former councilor Attorney Fred Capone, who lost the mayoral election to Carlo DeMaria by 210 votes in November appeared at the public speaking session.
Capone was circumspect. He began his short speech saying as a councilor and a candidate he could not say what he is allowed to say as a resident.
“The longevity pay is a disgrace. Repeal does not go far enough. Fraudulently the mayor took 180,000 from the taxpayers. As your constituent I can demand that you act. This body has an obligation to hold the mayor accountable. The 180,000 must be returned to the people,” Capone said.
“Please do the right thing. Please make the mayor repay the money he should not have taken. Do the right thing. Have the mayor repay the money he’s taken,” he repeated.
His comments produced a round of hearty applause from the gallery.
Everett businessman John Puopolo said the longevity payment to the mayor of $40,000 a year was a crime. He denounced the mayor. He pleaded with the council to demand the money be paid back. He said that the city’s CFO Eric Demas must be made to come clean about hiding the payment.
He was also met with a round of applause.
Longtime resident and city employee Maria Bussle asked for reason and fairness. She pleaded for the council to do the right thing and to not be directed by forces other than themselves.
She also asked for no retribution for speaking. She, too, received a wide round of applause.