Mayor Carlo DeMaria took aim at his detractors at the City Council meeting on Monday, February 24, for what his personal attorney referred to as “demonstrably false allegations” regarding his conduct as mayor.
The mayor demanded an audience to answer a question previously posed by Councilor Michael Marchese about why he spent more than $200,000 in legal fees from his personal campaign account. Some councilors pushed back against Mayor DeMaria’s address on Monday, as the issue was already slated for a future committee meeting in March.
“I don’t see any reason to bring it up tonight,” said Councilor Fred Capone.
Other councilors expressed feeling blindsided by the mayor’s appearance and unprepared to speak on the issue, including Councilor Marchese.
“I’m not prepared to ask the questions that I would have [in the committee meeting],” he said.
However, Mayor DeMaria insisted on being heard, seizing on an opportunity to address specific rumors. He was represented by Asst. City Solicitors Matt Lattanzi and Keith Slattery, as well as his private attorney John Pappalardo and fellow attorney Emily Bryant.
Pappalardo referred to himself as “the senior partner of a very, very large international law firm” and said that he charges Mayor DeMaria $1,650 per hour for his services. Reading from a prepared statement, he explained that he was hired by the mayor to “enhance his political future by addressing scurrilous and unfounded attacks” in the form of social media posts, news media and blogs.
Pappalardo added that according to Massachusetts General Laws, public officials are able to retain counsel in order to protect their reputations, and said that $200,000 was actually “not much money.” He couldn’t confirm where his fees were coming from, but said his client is looking into suing those who besmirch his character.
Pappalardo attempted to disprove gossip swirling around about Mayor DeMaria’s conduct. Specifically, he defended an interview the mayor gave to the U.S. government years ago, which was made public after a proffer agreement for that meeting was somehow leaked to the media.
“[He] has been portrayed as a snitch or an informant. These allegations are completely untrue,” he said. “People who have something to hide don’t talk. They invoke the Fifth Amendment.”
Pappalardo admitted that he did not know why the government interviewed Mayor DeMaria, but insisted that Council had “nothing to worry about” and urged the body to question the validity of claims posed in a one-man tabloid-type newsletter.
“Your mayor is innocent of wrongdoing,” he said. “He has never been charged with a crime.”
Mayor DeMaria mostly allowed his attorney to speak on his behalf.
“For the last six years, I’ve endured Councilman Marchese’s constant attacks on social media, in the public and in the news,” he said. “Don’t tell me that he or anyone else doesn’t have questions [prepared]. They’ve asked their questions in the Everett Leader Herald.”
The mayor also accused the Council of paying for ads in the Leader Herald in exchange for a smear campaign.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky sided with Mayor DeMaria and his counsel.
“In Everett, if they can’t beat you, they slander you,” he said.
Councilor Anthony DiPierro spoke on the mayor’s behalf at least twice.
“Let’s stop allowing this body to be dictated by a self-proclaimed newsletter and let’s move the city forward,” he said.
Councilor Capone said that as elected officials, it was their duty to investigate all claims of wrongdoing.
“This whole thing is ridiculous,” Mayor DeMaria said. “You’ve been slaughtering me for years, especially the Marchese family.”
Councilors expressed a desire to continue the discussion at the committee meeting as planned, and also requested that the mayor provide his invoices for Pappalardo’s services.
Council President Rosa DiFlorio, who struggled to maintain order during the meeting, gaveled a 10-minute recess to allow tensions to settle before resuming the usual order of business.