Thursday, July 9, 2009

Saving Plan E Government

Mimi, over at Left in Lowell has called me out on the issue of the City Council voting to cut City Manager Bernie Lynch's Assistant, Andy Sheehan.  She may not have meant to target me specifically in her blog post, "Leaders who do not Lead," but I took it as a challenge—especially considering that I have been thinking about this since the Gallagher / Donoghue OpEd in The Lowell Sun earlier this week.  That would be former Lowell Mayor Eileen Donoghue and former School Committee member Michael Gallagher.

Over at Dick Howe's blog we have a rundown on the applicable law.
Massachusetts General Laws chapter 43, section 107 prohibits a city councilor from taking part in any manner in the removal of an employee of the city from that employee’s job.  Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of up to $500.  Furthermore, immediately upon conviction of such a violation, a councilor would be removed from office and “shall never again be eligible for any office or any position, elective or otherwise, in the service of the city
Then the distinguished attorney goes on to say why the DA will walk away from this one.  At this point there are seven comments on the Blog Post.

The consensus from Dick Howe's Blog is that this has to be dealt with in November.  Unfortunately, the half-life of a political memory in the US is about 90 days and it is almost four months to the election.

But, still, I wonder.  If this violation of the principles of Plan E is allowed to stand, then what? Is this self-limiting or is it going to following the laws of life and evolve?  Of course, if we vote out the violators, we may have cauterized this thing, but maybe not.

Maybe this is something for Martha Coakley to look into. She is the Commonwealth's Attorney General. She found time to step on UMass Lowell's attempt to obtain student housing. Why can't she find time to do some intimidation of the Lowell City Council?  I postulate three reasons:
  1. She doesn't think she has a case, or
  2. This isn't about getting a step up on Marty Meehan, or
  3. Notwithstanding the claims of this being a non-partisan form of government, this is all about Democrats taking care of Democrats.
I reject Option C, which leaves only the first two and I am going with Option B.

This episode reminds me of our School Superintendent going up against a certain member of the school committee, only in reverse.

The list of who voted to eliminate the funding is not presented directly in any place I looked.  And maybe that is a good thing.  One mistake is not a reason to vote someone out—we should vote on the "whole man" basis.  But, we should be paying attention to this issue.

In the interest of helping everyone know who did what, here is the list of those who voted to "cut the funding" for the position held by Andy Sheehan:
  • Councilor Alan Kazanjian
  • Councilor Mike Lenzi
  • Councilor Rodney Elliott
  • Councilor Rita Mercier
  • Councilor Armand Mercier
  • Mayor Edward "Bud" Caulfield
But, we do need to ask about what they have done since that vote to redeem themselves.

Regards  —  Cliff

5 comments:

kad barma said...

Here's my mnemonic for November: Kanzanjian, Mercier, Lenzi, Elliot, Mercier, Caulfield--Keep Making Lowell Elections More Competitive. (i.e. vote only for anyone and everyone who AREN'T these patronage cheeseballs).

The law couldn't be more clear, and the actions couldn't be more in violation. I think you're being pretty generous to Marcia Coakley for not picking up on this, because that nonsense she pulled against Meehan isn't even in this ballpark. It's patronage payback, it stinks, and we the taxpayers are the ones paying through the nose for their malfeasance.

Muriel said...

Cliff:

I liked your thoughtful post. You were not one of the leaders who I was calling out. You have always showed your courage. I commented on LiL on this post, hoping that readers will read this.

Mimi

K-R-S said...

"Marcia" Coakley would not be the one to hold to the fire to investigate. Martha Coakley as the AG, according to the AG's website, when it comes to municipal matters, only deals with charter change, home rule issues and open mtg. laws.
SO what if this type of litigation has no precedent.
Would think that the law is pretty clear. That, in and of itself is precedent enough to proceed. In this town, poor behavior or misbehavior continues until some is told to stop or thrown in prison.

C R Krieger said...

Maybe K-R-S has a point, in that if this has never been done before it is open to the AG to act.  Frankly, I would prefer we fix it ourselves and maybe Councilor Milinazzo has a solution with his resolution.  My concern with the AG is that she will take her guidance from the back of the new penny and bring a sledge hammer to a job that is all about reupholstery.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mr. Lynne said...

The precedent that gets set here for future city councilors should be legal and not merely electoral in nature. Anything less blunts the force of law.

At some point the law needs to speak,... not just the voters.