By Josh Resnek
There were no heated exchanges or frantic exhortations from Council President John Hanlon Monday night that he was going to be watching his watch carefully and that the “classless” public speakers, as embattled racist Councilor Anthony DiPierro called them, will not be allowed to go further than ten minutes.
The public speaker’s passion and commitment in the face of the council’s absolute silence on major issues won.
President Hanlon’s effort to do the mayor’s bidding and to stop the free discourse lost.
Former councilor and noted businessman Sal Sachetta, former councilor attorney Fred Capone, businesswoman Sandy Juliano and the unelected leader of the public speaking uprising, John Puopolo, all called for DiPierro’s resignation and for the mayor to pay back the $180,000 Capone insists DeMaria stole from the taxpayers in a fraud yet to be prosecuted by law enforcement.
All the speakers were met with ovations.
There were no ovations for the largely silent and ineffectual city council.
The entire public speaking scenario was reversed at the beginning of the city council meeting when Councilor Stephanie Smith suggested the speaking portion of the meeting be extended to at least 20 minutes, and longer, if necessary.
By a voice vote the council gave the extension measure an OK – a measure that was called an “experiment” by Smith and which will likely be voted on at the next session.
Councilor Stephanie Martins tried to hijack the Smith extension as though it was her own.
It didn’t matter.
A long list of public speakers got to express themselves without the fear of being thrown out of the chamber by Hanlon, or limited in their time to register their disgust and disappointment with the council, and with DiPierro, and DeMaria.
DeMaria was nowhere to be seen Monday night even though he had been asked to appear by Councilor Mike Marchese to explain the $40,000 a year longevity payments he received which were not listed in recent city budget reports.
Monday night’s speakers list was impressive. Their messaging was potent.
The longtime Ward 6 councilor, now 91, made stirring remarks.
He detailed how he and Mayor Carlo DeMaria started out with mutual respect for one another.
He said that was “short lived.”
“He came to my home and asked me for a raise in his salary. When he came a second time he told me he’d help me raise money and get me votes if I voted for another raise.
“If you don’t support me,” Sachetta said the mayor threatened him, “I will aid your opponent” with the object of defeating him.
“I lost that election by 200 votes,” Sachetta recalled to a packed city council chamber.
“The mayor was self-serving,” he added.
Sachetta reminded the council and the audience that on the night the mayor won the recent election he made a threat(at his victory party) as reported in the Leader Herald and the Boston Globe: “I raised a lot of money and I’m going after a lot of people.”
“He has taken advantage of taxpayers. He took a car allowance for $11,000 that he didn’t need. He was illegally paid $180,000 with longevity pay – which is illegal. He spent $400,000 on his recent re-election campaign. I’m wondering, where did this money come from?” Sachetta fumed with indignity.
All of the mayor’s fundraising is listed with the Office for Campaigns and Finance.
Sachetta went on.
“He was being investigated by the FBI- why? We will never know because he signed an agreement with the FBI,” Sachetta said.
DeMaria signed a proffer agreement with the FBI during the time he was being investigated by the law enforcement agency.
The FBI has been notably absent from taking any action against DeMaria – and many wonder why.
Sachetta was met with a standing ovation from the crowd.
His appearance served as a reminder to all who listened that the people’s voice will not be silenced.
Capone’s remarks – coming during his fourth appearance at a council meeting since his 210 vote defeat against DeMaria last November- were angry, and righteous at the same time.
“He reminded the council that “the people who come here to speak before you do not work for you. You work for them,” Capone said.
“There is very little on the agenda more important than what they have to say. This is not going away,” he added.
“Your continued silence undermines confidence in public officials.” Capone condemned the “theft” of $180,000 by DeMaria. He demanded its repayment.
“He took it without our knowledge or our permission. It should be returned to the people,” Capone said.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these people speaking out,” he finished.
Puopolo reiterated most of what Capone had to say.
“How many times can you be lied to? What’s wrong with our leadership? The city’s reputation is tarnished.” Puopolo said
had fleeced the taxpayers of $180,000.
“Any high school student could have understood the language of the city charter,” he added.
“It was immoral. It was wrong. It was theft,” he said of the $180,000 DeMaria took instead of the $10,000 he should have legally received.
Of DiPierro, he had this to say: “You are intent on taking down the city. You still don’t believe you did anything wrong. Do yourself a favor and resign.”
“We’re here because nothing is happening,” he said.
Junliano the realtor pleaded with DiPierro to resign.
Paula Steriti, who detailed an incredible story of waste and back room dealings about the Wellness Center and its finances, also called for DiPierro to resign.