Mayor, McLaughlin Look to Settle Wellness Center Questions

City Councilors aired out some differences with the administration on the ongoing Wellness Center issue last Tuesday, April 17, with the situation taking a giant step downward in terms of intensity.

Councilor Michael McLaughlin had been invited with City Solicitor Colleen Mejia to speak about a number of items he sponsored, all having to do with the City’s Health and Wellness Center administration.

Councilor McLaughlin had previously submitted to the administration a list of 41 questions regarding the hiring, management and oversight practices of the Everett Community Health and Wellness Center, after it was discovered earlier this year that its director had fabricated her credentials and was forced to resign.

On Tuesday, April 17, the Ways & Means Committee of the Council met at City Hall. The Committee was comprised of Councilors Michael Marchese, Wayne Matewsky, John McKinnon and Stephen Simonelli.

The City had endeavored to respond to Councilor McLaughlin’s questions in writing and on Tuesday he had hoped that Mayor Carlo DeMaria and others in his administration would be present to elaborate on their written answers.

Councilor McLaughlin explained to the committee that he had personally been in touch with the mayor, who was unable to attend the committee meeting. However, Councilor McLaughlin said that the mayor had been open to continuing the conversation with him in private and was hopeful that his questions would finally be addressed sufficiently.

“[The mayor] is going to work with me to answer questions in more detail,” he said. “I’m happy we’ve been able to come to the table with the administration.”

Mejia mentioned that she had been unable to go into more depth on some of her written responses to Councilor McLaughlin’s questions due to a pending claim against the City regarding the Wellness Center that was filed a month and a half ago.

“We answered the questions as best as we could,” said Mejia. “We’re being as transparent as we can be legally.”

Councilor Wayne Matewsky, who had previously implied that Councilor McLaughlin’s questions constituted bullying, again raised his opposition to the inquiry, stating, “This has to be put to an end.”

“Forty-one questions are quite extensive. These are frivolous. You’ve covered every aspect of the Wellness Center,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect. There [are] occasions when people might not do a good job. You’re going to find something wrong with every department with this City.”

At the same time, Councilor Matewsky threw his support behind the Wellness Center.

“I have nothing but compliments on this Wellness Center. It’s a money-making venture for the community,” he said. “The people I talk to really like this place. The Wellness Center is a success.”

Mejia echoed Councilor Matewsky.

“[The Wellness Center] generates hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said, suggesting that Councilor McLaughlin’s line of inquiry was tantamount to “trying to give the City a black eye.”

Councilor McLaughlin doubled down on the legitimacy of his questions.

“They’re not frivolous,” he stated emphatically.

Councilor Marchese supported his colleague, stating that he would still like the administration to appear before the council in order to elaborate on their answers to the 41 questions.

Councilor McKinnon agreed, saying, “The mayor needs to be here to answer these questions one by one.”

Councilor Matewsky had some advice for Councilor McLaughlin.

“If you’re going to put it back on the agenda, keep it simple,” he said. “I don’t appreciate the time I have to put in. We all have lives. We can’t be doing frivolous things.”

The matter was referred back to sponsor at Councilor McLaughlin’s request, and it has been indicated that he and the mayor will work out the answers to the questions amenably.

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