The issue of longevity pay for Mayor Carlo DeMaria came up again at the City Council meeting on Monday night in a resolution by Ward 1 Councilor Fred Capone.
At the council’s December 13 meeting, this motion, which called upon DeMaria to reimburse the City of Everett “for overpayments in longevity pay received due to an erroneous interpretation of the ordinance,” was sent to the mayor’s office for his response.
Capone, speaking on the motion Monday night, noted that a long letter had been submitted by Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas and originally referred the matter back to the sponsor.
Capone in his remarks said that it was acceptable that DeMaria said that he would not apply for the retroactive pay in January until the new council had a chance to discuss the ordinance after they are sworn-in on January 3. Capone also suggested that a line item be put into the budget that outlines all longevity amounts for all city employees.
However, Councilor Anthony DiPierro asked that the letter from Demas be read. The following is the text of the letter from Demas:
“Dear President Matewsky:
“I hereby submit to you on behalf of the Everett City Council a response to the above referenced resolution.
“I am submitting this response in my capacity as Chief Financial Officer for the City of Everett because the City Council voted at its regular meeting on December 13, 2021, to refer this matter to the Administration for a response. Because this matter relates directly to the compensation for the Office of Mayor, Mayor DeMaria is not commenting on this matter because it is an issue that directly relates to the compensation that he receives. Therefore, he is refraining from engaging in any discussion and debate on this issue in his official capacity to avoid any conflict of interest.
“During the discussion on this resolution that took place at the City Council meeting on December 13, 2021, very serious accusations were made regarding the professional conduct of this Administration. Those accusations included allegations that this Administration has ‘manipulated and abused’ the language of the current ordinance contained in Chapter 7, Article VI, Section 7-167 of the City’s Revised Ordinances. The sponsor of this resolution even went as far as to make an unsubstantiated allegation for which he publicly stated he had ‘no proof’ of an intent to defraud by this Administration. It is disappointing that a member of this Council would deliberately choose during a public debate to intentionally make defamatory comments about the character and integrity of members of this Administration while admitting that there was no proof or evidence to substantiate the slanderous statements.
“It is important for the residents of Everett to know that this Administration has never misrepresented or concealed the way in which it has calculated the longevity payment based upon its interpretation of the language that established such payment for the office of Mayor. Additionally, the FY18 budget clearly reported the prior two $30,000 payments that were paid after the ordinance was adopted during FYI 7. Further, the Councilor in question stated twice during the meeting that the mayor’s salary was $109,000 when the ordinance was passed. The Councilor further stated that because the mayor’s salary was $109,000 at the time, the Administration’s interpretation made sense. This Administration also clearly outlined for the members of this Council the Mayor’s current compensation, including the amount of the longevity payment, at the June 5, 2021 budget hearing on the FY22 budget proposal. This information has been made readily available to the Council since a longevity payment for the Office of Mayor was adopted.
“The way in which this Administration has calculated the Mayor’s longevity payment has been reviewed by the Office of the City Solicitor and by outside counsel as well. The request to have the language reviewed by outside counsel was made by this Administration well before a member of this Council unfortunately decided to call into question the professional integrity of the members of the City Solicitor’s office by suggesting that they were not able to render impartial opinions. These reviews show that longevity payments are processed by the office of the CFO and appropriated by the City Council. The payments, including the Mayor’s, have been administered in the same way for many years, and the Council has appropriated the funds without question each year. Longevity bonuses are traditionally given annually. This is true in Everett, where all longevity bonuses are annual payments. Had the Council intended this longevity payment to deviate from the general rule that such payments are made annually, it would have done so explicitly. This is underscored by the fact that the Ordinance explicitly uses the term ‘one-time payment’ in reference to a ‘look-back’ bonus for the mayor sitting at the time the Ordinance was adopted.
“The Administration also disagrees with the assertion that the legislative intent behind the language of the longevity ordinance is clear. In fact, the public discussions on this language at a committee meeting and multiple subsequent Council meetings reflect that the Council did not have any clear contrary legislative intent. During these discussions, members have admitted to making the effort currently and ‘trying to understand it,’ when referencing the ordinance. Other members have admitted to ‘trying to understand the math.’ Furthermore, statements have been made by a member of the Council present at the time the ordinance language was passed of not being ‘too sure how it came about’ when referencing longevity. Such statements clearly contradict the assertion that there was a clear legislative intent behind the ordinance and in the absence of such clarity, the Administration’s interpretation of the ordinance is reasonable for the reasons previously noted.
“What the recent discussions and debates about this ordinance do reflect clearly is that there is a consensus to re-examine the language of the ordinance. This Administration respects that the City Council declined to revisit this issue hastily in the waning days of the current session and deferred the matter to be taken up by the next City Council. In order to afford the next Council with the opportunity to review this issue and to decide what action should be taken, Mayor DeMaria will not be accepting a longevity payment in January as has been past practice and instead will wait to see how the Council wishes to proceed regarding the existing ordinance language.
“Finally, as a matter of personal privilege, I must state for the record that I have never been asked or instructed by Mayor DeMaria or any other member of this Administration to engage in or commit any act or business transaction that is in any way unlawful, unethical, deceitful, deceptive, coercive, or fraudulent. I also have never undertaken any such actions on my own initiative. The fiduciary responsibility that I have to the residents of Everett as Chief Financial Officer for this City has never been violated because to do so would violate every professional and personal ethic upon which I have built my career. Any suggestions or claims that I or other members of this Administration have willfully engaged in an effort to defraud the residents of Everett regarding longevity payments are entirely unsubstantiated and without merit or truth.
“It is my hope that this Administration and the incoming City Council will be able to work together to address matters that impact the City and the residents of Everett in meaningful and substantive ways. While we may not agree on every ordinance, resolution, policy or issue, this Administration will continue to engage with the City Council in a respectful manner and hopes for the same professional courtesy in return.”
After the public reading, Capone said that since the letter had been read that he “had to respond to the letter,” saying. “The letter was inaccurate” and that the only item worth noting in Demas’s letter was, “The Mayor will be postponing the longevity pay in January until a new council” reviews the ordinance.
The matter then was unanimously referred back to the Mayor’s office.
The City Council acknowledged the departure of four members — Ward 1 Councilor Fred Capone, Ward 5 Councilor Rosa DiFlorio, Ward 6 City Councilor Michael McLaughlin, and Councilor at Large Gerly Adrien.
Both Capone and DiFlorio were at the meeting and received their plaques as well as kind words from their colleagues. Councilor at Large John Hanlon called DiFlorio “a true friend and jewel for the city of Everett.”
Marchese said about Capone, “He did his due diligence and never spoke wrong. There will be a big void up here.”
Council President Wayne Matewsky noted that there will be “a big turnover with four new people on the Council.”
With little discussion, Councilors approved the appointment of Kevin Sheehan as Library Director for a term of one year expiring December 31, 2022.