2018-08-30 / Around Town

Vacancy Resolution Voted Down

By James Merolla

The City Council has voted against a resolution to change how it fills city vacancies.

The resolution was introduced on Aug. 21 by councilors Jamie Bova and Susan D. Taylor, who both opposed the selection process and vote that allowed Marco Camacho to fill the seat vacated by John Florez in January. After nearly a dozen candidates were interviewed, Camacho, a former councilor defeated by Taylor last November, was approved by a 4-2 vote.

At that time, Bova and Taylor voted for Roland Chase, while Mayor Harry Winthrop and councilors Lynn Ceglie, Kathryn Leonard and Jeanne-Marie Napolitano voted for Camacho.

Napolitano was absent from the Aug. 21 meeting, and Camacho sided with the majority in voting against the resolution.

Taylor and Bova called the motion a “non-binding resolution” to discuss the process again, which was prompted by a critical vacancy in the School Committee left by the unexpected departure of Chair David Hanos Jr. so close to the November election, although Hanos was not mentioned by name.

Winthrop was the most vocally opposed to the resolution. “It’s not telling us to do anything different. But you are changing the qualifications of someone to be appointed to the council,” he said. “I think this resolution is flawed, and I’m not going to support it. I just don’t see the need for it.”

Currently, such a change can only be done by altering the city charter.

Ceglie also expressed reservations. “I understand where this is coming from, [but] the reality for change is through an ordinance or a charter change, so I don’t see how this resolution changes anything,” she said. “I don’t see why we would be doing this. If we want to do this, let’s do this through the charter.”

Taylor said she was looking to provide a forum for discussion in the midst of a campaign season. “I recognize the charter says we shall fill a vacancy within 30 days. This resolution is an effort to have a discussion as to whether we would like to formalize the election,” she said.

Bova contended that it was not clear to the public whether the council had followed proper protocol in selecting Camacho for Florez’s vacant seat.

It was a charter change that led to the confusion nine months ago. There had been criticism and confusion over the process of filling Florez’s council seat from various arenas, and the Jan. 8 council decision was the first time a charter change was being enacted.

“Previously, such vacancies were filled by turning to the next highest vote-getter, which recognizes the engagement of the electorate,” Taylor said at the January meeting. “I propose to take an approach in which we recognize that there is no single right candidate, and that encourages all of us to consider the array of candidates.”

In other matters:

. The school committee approved:

. The tuition rates for the 2018-2019 academic year.

. Homeschooling for 3 students for the 2018-2019 academic year.

. The release of information and spokesperson for the district policy, 2nd reading.

. A “Spirit Rock” to be installed at Forest Avenue school. The rock was donated by All Island Landscape and can be rented in order to paint communal or personal messages.

. The award of a contract to DaneTech, Inc. in the amount of $6,930.94 for the installation of a separate locked vestibule equipped with cameras and an intercom at the entrance to Gaudet Middle school.

. The submission of a district application to the RIDE/ SBA fund for safety and security improvements at Middletown High school and Gaudet Middle school. If accepted, RIDE

. The release of the current enrollment numbers for the school district. The total enrollment as of August 22, 2018 is 2,146.

The committee meets next on Thursday, Sept. 20.

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