City Solicitor Sides With President in Council Clerk Debate

City Council President Roy Avellaneda acted within his powers when establishing a council subcommittee to help select a new clerk to the council, according to City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher.

Councilor-At-Large Leo Robinson requested the legal opinion, claiming Avellaneda violated the city charter when he established the subcommittee to assist in finding a replacement for long-time council clerk Paul Casino earlier this spring.

“It is clear that the City Council has the authority to appoint their staff and the Council Clerk has traditionally been a member of the City Council staff,” Fisher wrote in the opinion, dated June 6. “Section 2-6 of the City Charter reads ‘City Council Staff – The city council shall appoint a clerk to the city council and may employ such staff and retain such assistance as is necessary to conduct the business of the city council. The city council shall establish the compensation of such staff.’”

This section of the Charter only confers approval authority on the Chelsea City Council (as a whole) and is silent as to the process that the Council undertakes such as narrowing the candidates or the qualifications of the prospective employee, Fisher explained.

“Because the charter is silent on such matters, the Council can proceed with the filling of the position so long as its actions do not violate any other section of the Charter or the Council Rules or state and federal laws,” Fisher stated.

The Charter authorizes the Council to adopt its own rules, and Rule No. 6 on committee appointments and announcements states that all special, select, and standing committees shall be appointed and announced by the President, unless otherwise provided for or specifically directed by the Council.

“This Rule to my knowledge has been used for the hiring of other City Staff and the City Manager in the past.,” Fisher stated.

Avellaneda said he will continue to uphold the oath he swore to upon taking office and act according to the laws of the Constitution, Mass General Laws and the Ordinances and Regulations of the City  and Rules of City Council.

“I will always act in the best interest of the residents of the City and not allow the hidden agendas of others deter me from that,” Avellaneda said. “I have confidence the city council as a whole will find and hire the most suitable individual for the city council clerk position, just as we did with the last three city managers and city council administrative assistant.  This position will not be given as a political favor to someone as some are intending to do.”

Robinson noted that the legal opinion has yet to be formally introduced to the City Council, and will likely come up at the June 27 meeting.

“My position is that I disagree with the opinion but I will move on,” Robinson said, adding that he had no hidden agenda in bringing the issue forward. “I wouldn’t have had a problem if we had a meeting and then said let the president set up a committee,” Robinson said. “But I do have a problem when he runs over the council and does it when it clearly says (in the charter) that the whole body should do it

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