By WALT RICE Special to the Leader Herald
Everett is at a cross roads where residents can either change the dysfunctional framework of city government or simply get ready to experience more of the same in the years to come.
Reprehensible does not begin to describe the most recent conduct of those on the zoom meeting and how distasteful the dialogue was revealed to be. Corrupt leadership at the top allows these types of things to happen and flourish when there is a complete lack of internal controls and failure to adhere to publicly accepted standards of conduct.
But, it is worth bearing in mind that although Carlo DeMaria has maximized every possible way to enrich himself while overseeing the executive staff and appointed officials (cronies), he is still not much more than just the current puppet master, yet not the original architect of the dysfunctional system in place. He gleefully inherited it – and in reality, he learned to exploit it in an unprecedented fashion once the casino came into focus.
In time, the exploits, greed and shallow egos involved in this recent downfall drove the administration to where it sits today. Racism is just a part of the problem but not the only problem. It is a blemish among numerous others that have festered over and it spilled onto the streets in plain view of the community. And the community responded.
The one thing that had previously kept these types of things under wraps in the City of Everett for so long was that it never reached the public eye to the extent that outrage was the only feeling left to have. Nor would official complaints seem to get traction at the state house or federal level.
One has to look no further than the Whitey Bulger fiasco to realize it only took a few well placed resources (of his) to keep a lid on his criminal career status. I can only assume that a similar blockade has existed to protect Everett from scorn. The malfeasance and pay to play grew over time like layers on an onion which is why it is now far too complicated to address in an piece meal fashion. With that in mind and given the larger illumination of the problem that has revealed the depth of ignorance and abhorrent behaviors condoned and often perpetuated by the DeMaria administration; along with the subsequent involvement of US Attorney Rollins, should cause the residents to appeal in every way that the “focus’ of the investigation not be limited to just the heinous racism allegations (supported by the zoom video and obtained emails). There are other serious matters that should be included as well. Among those inclusions should a complete look at how it ever came to pass that for decades, a municipality could not only foster such a predatory history but also cover up events that included sexual assaults, sexual and non sexual harassment, coercion, intimidation and other assorted actions
The situation that currently exists in the corner office should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the histories of the players involved.
Simply put, it was obvious to me and others even prior to his first term that Carlo DeMaria had neither the character nor ability to lead a city government on an ethical, moral and prosperous path.
His reputation as they say, preceded him. But, curiously, he got elected and re-elected several times. And in doing so, was allowed to put in place people whom he could leverage within their city jobs.
Thus, it is reasonable to argue that the behaviors found in the zoom video are a symptom of a much larger and corrupt problem, hence the reason that the investigation should take into account a greater scope and understand the larger pattern at work.
In the alternative, if the investigation stays focused solely on discrimination what is likely to happen is what has happened in the past – i.e., the grand majority of equally serious behaviors and possible criminal and civil transgressions remain un-addressed and off the radar screen.
The remedy requires more than simply removing the Mayor or electing a few new councilors. Much more. There is a culture in place. Accepted practices that grew throughout the years as would in every municipal government never came under scrutiny in Everett.
Unique to Everett is it’s roots with multi-generational residents, a limited amount of city jobs and with it all situated on 3.5 square miles. These confluences fostered old league favoritism and in time have become incestuous with cross serving on various political or appointed positions, at times in conjunction with other city employment and leaves utter control at the top.
I mentioned a “framework” earlier. And this is the framework which needs to be changed. It needs to start with a detailed audit of voting in past elections. City government must end and close loopholes that allow such cross serving on boards, elected positions, committees and with or without city employment. The system has become so bastardized that there is no way to unravel other than to wholly reconstruct it.
But, in order to reconstruct we must unfortunately deconstruct. This is why I think the investigation should broaden with possible RICO attached. Again, there are just far too many victims for this to be addressed in any other way. People have been harassed, threatened, extorted and put in personal fear of safety. They have lost lively-hoods, savings, investments, homes, careers and faced any other number of unfair leverages from a corrupt city government in operation that threatened their very existence.
Yes, the discrimination complaints are at the forefront and need to be thoroughly vetted through the arm of justice; but the reach should not stop there. The only way to permanently change the culture is to expose it at its’ deepest and darkest roots. Then, and only then, can the residents rebuild a trustworthy government.
Don’t lose site of the fact that it is only a handful of people who jockeyed into positions of power which allowed them to exploit the situation for their own personal gain. The grand majority of people I worked with in Everett did their jobs admirably, with skill and honor and simply wanted to bring a paycheck home to their families and put food on the table. There still exists many people trapped in that political nightmare. Their paychecks are held hostage, their jobs always on the chopping block. They too are victims.
The ties that sustain this malevolent machinery out of city hall needs to be dismantled. The US Attorney’s Office has the chance to do that but the community must demand a full and thorough vetting of what has transpired behind the scenes which fostered the revelations of rampant racism, discrimination and other forms of offensive conduct.
Bottom Line: RX: Change the process and change the players.
Short term goal: Expose all illegal activities and replace/remove anyone who is exploiting their city duties.
Long Term: Demand election monitors and voter registration lists be independently verified and approved as legitimate; require all newly elected/appointed officials to sign a pledge of honesty, integrity and to always serve the best interest of the constituents (and when they don’t the legislative body must self police and remove offenders).
Walt Rice is former Commissioner of Veterans Service, City of Everett (2006-2008), retired (2020) US Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist, writer and lives on North Carolina.