Special Pittsfield City Council meeting set to debate vice president's election


PITTSFIELD — The City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to debate whether its next vice president should be elected or appointed by the president, as has been the tradition.

The special meeting was scheduled after five councilors signed a petition calling for a reconsideration of the issue. During a Dec. 8 meeting, the council appeared headed for a vote on whether to change council rules to require a vote for the vice president, but President Melissa Mazzeo halted the discussion by calling a charter objection.

That procedure allows a single councilor to suspend action on an issue until the next meeting, which in this case would be during the inauguration of the newly elected council — with three new members — on Jan. 4.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, who proposed the change, said he wants to bring the council rules in line with requirements of a new government charter that was approved during the November 2013 election.

"The bottom line, in my opinion, is we are just trying to clean up the business of the last council," Lothrop said Friday.

He and other councilors have said the clear intent of the committee that drafted the charter was that the vice president's post should become an elected one, but that the council rules also must be amended to reflect that change prior to the next council reorganization al meeting following an election.

Mazzeo said she believes it is unclear whether the new charter requires the vice president to be elected, and she said Friday she still intends to vote against amending the council rules to allow that. She said she believes a council president should be able to appoint the vice president, with whom he or she typically works closely on council business.

In addition, she said, "This is last minute. They had two years to change this."

Such a change, she said, should have been sent to the council's Ordinance and Rules Committee for vetting, rather than "rushed through" at the end of the session.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said Friday he agrees that the issue is coming up too late in the year and there is no pressing need to act now, just prior to the holidays.

"If this was a pressing need," Morandi said, he would understand the need for a special session.

After the Dec. 8 meeting ended with Mazzeo declaring a charter objection, three councilors, Lothrop, John Krol and Barry Clairmont, submitted a written request for a special meeting before the end of the year. However, Mazzeo said she had questions about the way the petition was worded and asked City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan for an opinion.

The solicitor said the petition was improperly worded in that it didn't set a specific date for the meeting, saying instead it should be held between Dec. 21 and 30, and had other irregularities.

The three councilors then resubmitted the petition, which also was signed by Councilors Kathleen Amuso and Lisa Tully, this time complying with the solicitor's comments.

The special meeting is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The petition states in part that "The amendment would add one sentence at the end of Council Rule 1: 'immediately after election of the president, a separate election shall take place for the vice president.'"

The new council, Mayor-elect Linda M. Tyer, City Clerk-elect Jody Phillips and School Committee members will be sworn in at City Hall on Jan. 4. The council will then elect its president and, if the rule is changed, the vice president as well.

Current Vice President Christopher Connell was appointed by Mazzeo in January 2014.

Who will hold those titles next year remains unclear, as Peter Marchetti, a former councilor re-elected in November after leaving in 2011 to run unsuccessfully for mayor, was the top vote-getter on Nov. 3 and is expected to seek the council presidency.

Mazzeo said recently she is unsure whether she will seek election as president again in January.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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