East Providence City Council adopts changes to meeting procedures

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EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence City Council, by a 3-2 vote, adopted changes to its docket procedures during its meeting on Tuesday night, June 18, at City Hall.

Councilors James Briden, Helder Cunha and Thomas Rose voted in the affirmative while their counterparts Chrissy Rossi and Tracy Capobianco were in opposition.

The main amendment to Council meetings is the time they will last. The majority voted to adjourn meetings no later than 10 p.m. In expressing his support of the change, Council President Briden noted the efficient manner the Budget Commission, of which he is a part, conducts its business as an example of not needing meetings to last into the wee hours of the next morning. He also said it often “placed an unnecessary burden” on city department heads to sit through meetings that potentially have little to no specific business pertaining to them.

Saying he wasn’t attempting to stifle debate, Mr. Briden also supported a caveat to the 10 p.m. cut-off, which allows the Council the ability to vote to extend meetings in 15 minute increments. The extensions, however, shall require a super majority vote of at least 4-1. Any business before the City Council not completed by 10 p.m. will be tabled to the next available meeting.

In voicing their opposition to the docket changes, both Mrs. Rossi and Mrs. Capobianco said they believed it was their duty as Councilors to listen to residents and allow their constituents to speak on topics no matter the time of day.

The two dissenters, while voting against the time restrictions, did both support the formal return of a report by the School Committee Liaison to the Council docket. Anthony Ferreira was voted by the current Committee to serve as its conduit at Council meetings, but his inclusive has been precluded due to procedural concerns.

(Updated, June 21, 3 p.m.) It was assumed going forward, Mr. Ferreira would be formally recognized as the School Committee liaison at future Council meetings. However, in a phone interview Friday, June 21, Mr. Ferreira said he would not return to the role, choosing to be recognized as a taxpaying member of the public when speaking on related topics at Council meetings.

“I was informed two or three months ago by Solicitor (Timothy) Chapman that me speaking at Council meetings and being on the School Committee could be seen as a conflict of interest. I said at that time publicly I would not be the liaison again, and there’s no way I’m taking that back,” Mr. Ferreira added.

One last bit to note, the day and time when people must register to speak at Council meetings has been changed. Any person who submits a communication to the Council and wishes to speak on it must indicate this in writing no later than 4 p.m. the Thursday prior to the next regularly scheduled Council meeting. The former deadline was the Friday before the next Council meeting and also by 4 p.m.

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