Letter: Mayor overreaches with latest Metacomet move

Posted 12/4/20

To the editor:

On December 3rd the City administration issued a Request for Legal Services, which was posted as an ad in the statewide newspaper. This request calls for applicants to provide …

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Letter: Mayor overreaches with latest Metacomet move

Posted

To the editor:

On December 3rd the City administration issued a Request for Legal Services, which was posted as an ad in the statewide newspaper. This request calls for applicants to provide “legal representation to advise and assist the City Council with legal questions, procedures and calculations related to potential eminent domain proceedings….” Any interested applicant is requested to submit resumés and supporting documentation to the Controllers Office, attention: Procurement Specialist.

The issuance of this request is in direct noncompliance with the stated preference of a majority of the Council at its meeting on November 24th. At that meeting, Councilmen Mourato and Cahoon voted in favor of the Council retaining legal counsel. Councilwoman Sousa, who was not present during the vote, subsequently stated her support and requested a reopening of the vote when she was later able to join the meeting via Zoom. 

After Councilwoman Sousa’s petition to reopen the vote was denied, Councilman Mourato requested that a vote on retaining legal counsel be placed on the docket for the December 8th Council meeting, along with further discussion and a vote on hiring an appraiser. He made clear his insistence that the request for legal services and submittals go through the City Clerk and not through the City administration. This was the obvious intent of the majority of the Council, which the Mayor has since ignored and is attempting to subvert through his actions. 

R. I. General Laws Chapter 42-64.12-7(c) unequivocally reserves the authority over eminent domain at the local level to a “city or town council,” not to a Mayor. Moreover, the Charter of the City of East Providence (Article II. - City Council, Sec. 2-9. - Powers) gives the Council the authority to “adopt ordinances… which have to do with… City planning, zoning, parks and playgrounds,... and any other municipal functions not in conflict with the constitution and laws of the state.” The Mayor is given no such powers in Sec. 3-5 of the Charter, except the obligation to “enforce or cause to be enforced the laws and ordinances of the City of East Providence.”

Granted there may be a slim chance that acquiescing to the Mayor might speed up the process by perhaps a week or two, but at what cost to the rule of law and to the outcome? If the Council members are seeking an independent counsel, wouldn’t taking control at the outset be a good start? We think so.

 

The Mayor has overstepped his authority in this matter. He is well aware of the intention of the majority of the Council. He should be familiar with State and local law that designates this responsibility to the Council. His actions are clearly in defiance both of the law and of the will of the Council.

The administrators and 2800 members of Keep Metacomet Green implore the members of the Council to push back at this unlawful attempt to usurp their authority. We urge them to stay the course, to continue to act upon their legal authority to retain legal counsel and an appraisal, regardless of the Mayor’s efforts to shut them out.

In addition, KMG renews its call of October 8, 2020, for a vote of no confidence in Mayor DaSilva. At the time, we wrote: “These past several months have given people a voice. The people feel for the first time that perhaps we can change the culture of ‘It’s East Providence, it’s the way things are always done,’ a culture of self-interest over the public interest. This is the time to send that message. If the Mayor is not rebuked by a majority of the Council, you are in effect complicit in condoning his behavior.“ 

 

We stand by these words today and urge the members of the Council to stand up for themselves and for their community.

 

Candy Seel

Administrator, Keep Metacomet Green!

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