Frustrations about Everett’s operating budget for the fiscal year of 2013 have been festering since it was presented to the Board of Aldermen, who made additional cuts to those already presented by the mayor’s financial team.
The most recent controversy is over the legality of the final vote taken by the Common Council. City Solicitor Colleen Mejia sent out a letter offering her opinion about the action that was taken on the budget. Mejia stated that she believed the vote was in favor of the additional cuts made by the Board of Aldermen. But that is not what happened.
Alderman Chuck DiPerri tried to repair the misunderstanding, but it only furthered the disagreement.
“I have seen the replay twice,” DiPerri said. “Mr. Burley (John Burley) appeared twice at that meeting. In the opening portion of your letter you cite the exact piece that appeared on the calendar. When you have a piece on the agenda that is the piece that is before the council.”
DiPerri, along with other council members attempted to understand how, with having the statement of the item, Mejia could have misinterpreted the outcome.
In order to pass the budget that was amended, there was a lot of discussion surrounding the accepted cuts recommended by the financial team and the further cuts made by the Board of Aldermen.
“We voted on the cuts that the Board of Aldermen made, but that was not what was voted on,” Burley said at the podium, rehashing the occurrence at the previous meeting.
“Did anyone on the Common Council make a motion to deal only with the cuts the Board of Aldermen made? No, they never took that as a separate item,” DiPerri said. “They had said they wanted to move reconsideration and they did. Reconsideration failed. What we have for proof is what happened at that meeting. As far as I’m concerned the budget is a dead issue.” Because the information put forth by Mejia is believed by some in government to be wrong, DiPerri believes the mishandling is cause for reconsideration.
Alderman Robert Van Campen wanted some clarity concerning the legal validity of the council’s vote.
“If we disagree with your opinion on passing the city budget, is there any recourse on that?” he asked the city solicitor. Van Campen, a lawyer, is the city solicitor in Melrose.
“What I went by is what I looked at and formulated my opinion,” said Mejia, sticking to her stated opinion.
“The reason that this is very important is that if all of us are correct and the city solicitor is wrong, the budget is a dead issue. One, the mayor can resubmit the budget at the next meeting then transfer it to the Board of Aldermen the next week. If the budget is not resubmitted and we find out it was defeated, then the budget passes by default with no cuts. I think we owe the citizens of Everett at least that part. Nothing is going to happen to help the taxpayer,” DiPerri emphasized.
A motion was made to refer the item to the Attorney General’s office to determine the legality of the vote.