Following City Manager Bernie Lynch’s confirmation of his resignation, Lowell City Councilor Rita Mercier presents her motion to table a Library Board of Trustees appointment until the Council can address policy on non-essential appointments.
There’s a caveat in Lowell: “If you want to submarine a political adversary, create a misconception.” Then there’s the corollary: “Successfully influencing public perception is half the battle in Lowell politics.” As armchair politicos in the city continue to experiment with social media, this principal has never been more apt than now.
Councilor Rourke has an item on this week’s City Council Agenda to revisit the tabling of the City Manager’s Library Board of Trustees appointment, Salmira Mitchell. This is certainly an appropriate motion, but not for the reasons bandied about outside the Council.
Let’s revisit Councilor Rourke’s desire to restrict outgoing City Manager Bernie Lynch from making appointments:
“Councilor Rourke has confirmed to Lowell2020 that the ultimate intent of his motion to restrict certain activities of the City Manager was simply to allow the new City Manager to pick his own advisory team. Even City Manager Lynch wouldn’t argue that logic …
Councilor Rourke has also confirmed that he withdrew the motion in deference to the City Council vote to meet with City Manager Lynch in closed session about a possible contract extension. The City Manager’s resignation date of March 10 was confirmed in the session, leading the Council back to the discussion about appointments in the general session.” Source Lowell2020
With the City Manager’s resignation date confirmed, the City Council voted 8-1 last week to hold off on any further appointments. City Manager Lynch concurred that the incoming City Manager should make his or her own appointments.
So why did the City Council vote to allow the appointments of Robert Malavich and Michael Paglia? Once again, please refer to Lowell2020’s previous post on the subject:
“The appointments of Robert Malavich to the Planning Board as a permanent member, and, Michael Paglia to the Zoning Board as an alternate were confirmed by the Council based on strong recommendations by (Assistant City Manager) Adam Baacke. The City Council took his advice that a conservative strategy of acting on these appointments was insurance against costly litigations that may crop up, especially if the boards are caught short handed while the City administration is in transition.”
The Library Board of Trustees appointment is non-essential and should wait for consideration by the new City Manager. Outgoing City Manager Bernie Lynch agrees, as did 8 of 9 City Councilors last week including Councilor Rourke.
Councilor Rourke originated the discussion when he offered this motion: Item 12.4: C. Rourke – Request the City Mgr. not enter into any contracts or extend any contracts and not to make any appointments or re-appointments to any Boards or Commissions.
His actions on the matter since may have caused some confusion, as subsequently: Councilor Rourke withdrew the motion, voted for the tabling of the Library Board of Trustees appointment, tried to re-visit that motion in the same meeting, voted for the City Manager to abstain from making further appointments, then placed an item on this weeks agenda to revisit the tabled item.
Yesterday’s Lowell Sun would have you think Councilor Rourke’s standing on both sides of the fence. Did he make a mistake by voting to table the appointment of Salmira Mitchell to the Library Board of Trustees? Based on my conversation with Councilor Rourke, he didn’t make a mistake. He initiated a process that he and his colleagues followed through to the correct solution. Councilor Rourke’s only mistake is that, as a freshman City Councilor, he seems a little panicky when confronted by Lowell Sun reporters.
So far, the City Council is to be commended for its professional handling of this matter. Councilor Rourke’s request to revisit the tabled item is the appropriate manner for dispensing with it. This keeps all the ducks in a row as the City Council continues in its pursuit to hire a new City Manager.
The City Council has acted correctly with due diligence, and the matter is taking its course satisfactorily. The City Council should honor its decision to request the City Manager abstain from making non-essential appointments in deference to the new City Manager. City Manager Lynch is in agreement with the policy.
Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, MA
Therefore, if the Lowell City Council has the courage of its convictions, it WILL NOT approve ANY non-essential appointments retroactively to the Library Board of Trustees appointment until a new City Manager is hired.
However, now that Salmira Mitchell clearly understands the situation, it’s preferred that she express an understanding of the City Council’s ruling, and withdraw her application to the Library Board of Trustees until a new City Manager is hired. If Mrs. Mitchell does so, outgoing City Manager Lynch will most likely concur and officially withdraw the appointment at her request. That would be the high road approach to resolving the matter, and in the best interest of the City.
ComeToLowell.com (Lowell politics section)
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