By Seth Daniel
Councillor Roy Avellaneda made a stunning oration Monday night at the Council meeting regarding the accusations of ethics breaches that have been volleyed his way over the last few months – singling out a councillor, though not by name, and then calling for the councillor to be censured.
After the meeting, Avellaneda admitted that the councillor in question was Damali Vidot.
The shocking moment came when Council President Leo Robinson submitted an order calling for an Ethics workshop to be conducted for the Council, setting off Avellaneda on a defensive course.
Over the last few weeks, several allegations have been thrown towards Avellaneda in the course of a heated neighborhood discussion that involved his request to get eight two-hour parking spots near his coffee shop in Cary Square. Though Avellaneda recused himself from the parking issue – which was approved by the Parking Commission and then rescinded by the Council last week – and was out of the room for most of the debate and voting, many felt he had crossed a line by requesting zoning changes and parking changes as a sitting councillor for the benefit of his business.
On Monday, after Robinson’s order, Avellaneda castigated Vidot and one of her supporters, and called to the carpet Robinson as well for not preventing the allegations when he was out of the room.
Ironically, Vidot was not present at Monday’s meeting during the oration, but was out of the country on a leadership training trip.
“This is the second time that false charges of ethics violations have been made against myself,” he said, passionately. “At the last occurrence, someone associated with a certain councillor’s campaign made the allegations and then this councillor rose and made similar allegations. This is the second time a councillor has done this…This is false information being allowed adjacent one’s character. It’s the essence of the definition. I’m surprised that the person making charges is a fellow councillor at-large, some would say an adversary.
“Personal attacks in this forum are not allowed,” he continued. “These are grounds for censure. As president you had an obligation to stop it and you didn’t…Quite frankly, I don’t expect this behavior to be allowed. We shouldn’t be allowing personal political attacks in this Chamber; they shouldn’t be allowed here. That’s what put the City into receivership.”
Vidot had stood and delivered an impassioned speech two weeks ago during the first hearing on rescinding the Cary Square parking program, a meeting that was very heavily attended by neighbors and residents. She indicated at the time that the proposal by a sitting councillor for business purposes was shady and didn’t sit well with her.
Others made similar statements from the general public.
Reached on Tuesday, Vidot said she was out of the country and found it ironic that Avellaneda would complain about being attacked while he was not present to defend himself – and then would move to attack her when she was not there.
“The irony that my Council decorum in holding one accountable bothers some more than the appearance of impropriety by another is very telling of the culture that existed prior to my election,” she said. “If speaking of a colleague while they’re out of the room is grounds for censure, what does it mean to talk about them when they’re out of the country? Or is this the ‘boys only’ club rules? I have and will continue to speak truths standing on either side of the dais on behalf of the residents. In fact, it may work in one’s favor to keep me close rather than to allow me to wander to the other side where it’s all fair game.”
Robinson said his order for an ethics workshop was not targeted at Avellaneda or any other councillor, but was in general to answer questions members had about ethics and the Open Meeting Law – especially as it relates to social media.