PITTSFIELD -- As far as the makeup of the City Council is concerned, not much is likely to change before November as a result of drug-related charges being filed against Ward 3 Councilor Paul Capitanio.
Asked about possible legal or electoral ramifications when a sitting councilor faces criminal charges, City Clerk Linda Tyer said Wednesday that, because of the short time left until the Nov. 5 city election, only a few scenarios are possible.
If Capitanio were to resign, that would change the council makeup, she said, but there is no provision under the current city charter that would allow the council to simply appoint a new member prior to the election. If there were a council vacancy more than six months from the next election, a special election could be scheduled under the current charter.
The revamped city charter that is expected to go before voters in November does include a provision allowing the council to fill a vacancy between elections.
Capitanio, who was arraigned Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to possess oxycodone and accessory after the fact, is free on bail. He hasn't said publicly whether he will continue in the position. Tyer said she has received no indication from any party that the councilor plans to step down prior to the end of his term in January.
If a councilor were to be the subject of a recall petition from voters, that would take months before coming to a citywide vote, Tyer said, so it is not realistically possible. She added that she has heard of no such effort.
If the councilor took time off from attending meetings, she said, "there is really nothing in the charter that sets a standard for meeting attendance."
There is a provision in state law, Tyer said, that calls for an office to be vacated if the office-holder is convicted of a felony offense and is imprisoned. However, it is possible this case won't be decided prior to the election.
Capitanio, through his attorney Timothy J. Shugrue, vigorously denied the charges at his arraignment in Central Berkshire District Court on Tuesday. The case was continued to Oct. 3, although it could be moved to Superior Court.
Prosecutors allege Capitanio tipped off a local drug dealer, from whom he was buying pain pills, about a planned drug raid in the spring.
Capitanio, 57, a councilor since 2009 whose family owns the popular East Side Cafe on Newell Street, had announced in July that he would not seek re-election. Five candidates are on the preliminary Sept. 24 election ballot seeking one of two ballot spots for the Ward 3 seat in the Nov. 5 election.
To reach Jim Therrien:
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On Twitter: @BE_therrien