City solicitor sides with Keefe, say’s city law allows for veto power
By Barbara Taormina
The City Council last week took the unusual step of unanimously overriding Acting Mayor Patrick Keefe’s veto of their motion that he cease and desist making any permanent appointments or hires. The original motion was filed by Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto on August 28 and passed unanimously by the council, which relied on a legal opinion from the law firm Anderson & Kreiger. Keefe, who had his own opposing legal opinions, notified the council of his decision last week.
“This is concerning; it’s a rare occasion and I don’t understand why it’s being sent back as a veto,” said Ward 3 Councillor Anthony Cogliandro, who added that this is the only council motion that has come back as a veto and there was no one at the meeting to explain it. “It just doesn’t sit right with me.”
Councillor-at-Large Marc Silvestri also said he didn’t understand the reasoning behind the veto. “If we vote to overturn it, he’ll veto it again and we’ll play political volleyball back and forth,” said Silvestri. “That’s politics.”
According to Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo, an acting mayor can only hire and appoint on a temporary or emergency basis. “That wasn’t the case here and that’s what was troubling the council. You can’t abuse your position,” said Rizzo.
Massachusetts General Laws says acting mayors possess the powers of mayor only in matters not admitting of delay but shall have no power to make permanent appointments and no power of veto.
But Revere operates under a special act approved by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2004 concerning vacancies in the mayor’s office, on the city council and the school committee. The act, like the law, gives the acting mayor power to deal with matters not admitting delay but says he or she has no power to make permanent appointments. It says nothing about vetoes.
City Solicitor Paul Capizzi, who said he wholeheartedly agrees with Keefe’s right to veto the council motion, sent councillors a detailed memo on the powers and duties of an acting mayor prior to their vote to override Keefe’s veto. “In my opinion, hiring employees to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities for running a city is legally and functionally distinct from making permanent appointments as referenced in the charter,” wrote Capizzi. “In my opinion, therefore, the acting mayor may, during the time he serves, hire staff as needed, subject to appropriation of course, but may not make permanent appointments to department heads and other specific senior level positions or to serve on a multi-member policy making body.”
Councillors conceded the disagreement with Keefe was a moot point with the General Election just a few weeks away. Still, Rizzo said it was important to show their disagreement with Keefe.
Zambuto agreed and said the council’s legal opinion on the matter was from one of the best firms in the state. “We believe our opinion was the right one,” he said. “The bottom line is we made a statement. So, we’re back at square one. This was a separation of powers action. The people will decide.”
Zambuto went on to say this that type of situation shouldn’t continue. “We can’t have an acting Mayor for this length of time. It’s unheard of and it won’t happen again. That’s why I’m here.”