Brown replacement debated

Westfield City Councilor James E. Brown Jr., right, checks his e-mail prior to last night’s City Council meeting. Brown resigned as Ward 2 City Councilor stating increased job demands. (Photo by chief photographer Frederick Gore)

WESTFIELD – The City Council voted last night to send to the Legislative and Ordinance Committee a measure to replace Ward 2 Councilor James Brown, who resigned due to work constraints, and his committee positions.
Councilor Richard Onofrey made a motion during the special meeting to allow President Christopher Keefe the one-time authority to reassign committees.
Onofrey said he was concerned because there were two other councilor positions filled already this year and the new councilors were automatically given the previous councilor’s committee seats, including chairmanships.
Brown served as chairman of the L&O, arguably the most powerful committee on the council.
“I’m afraid our precedent will say the person who takes that seat will hold the chair of that committee,” Onofrey said.
He continued that the apparent new councilor is a write-in candidate with no experience.
“That is wrong,” Onofrey said of handing a brand new councilor the L&O chair. “Having a person who didn’t run for office and had their name written in as a lark on one of the most powerful committees is an injustice.”
Councilor David Flaherty said authorizing the authority to make reassignments was unnecessary.
“The council rules do not say the person has to fill the same seats,” he said. “It’s already (the president’s) authority in the rules.”
Councilor Mary O’Connell said Onofrey told her earlier yesterday that he would not bring forth that motion until a later date.
“This is the second councilor who has lied to me tonight,” she said.
Onofrey said he did tell O’Connell that.  However, after speaking with other councilors just before the meeting, he changed his mind and brought it forward.
O’Connell said she was against the motion for several reasons.
“We have a system in place,” she said. “We have four months left and a leader who has shown a touch of vindictiveness in the past – it makes me fearful to hand over that type of authority.”
Onofrey said his fear is that a precedent was set this year.
Keefe handed the gavel to Vice President James Adams and spoke to the council. He said Onofrey’s motion was in the back of his mind heading into the meeting and he wasn’t sure how to approach the topic. Keefe said his concern was whether to give a chairman position to a new, inexperienced councilor who had to learn on the job, or to stretch the responsibilities of another councilor even further.
Keefe said he would be in favor of sending the measure to the L&O. He then thanked the council for attending the special meeting and offered his appreciation to Brown.
“I could not have done this job without him,” said Keefe. “He was my first and only choice for the L&O . . . my task was made much easier because James Brown became the ward two councilor and the L&O chairman.”
After voting to send the measure to committee, other council members thanked Brown and wished him well and Brown said he was grateful for the experience.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I move on,” said Brown. “I’ve loved the debates and I’ve loved the fact that we can disagree and get together after and talk about it.  You all have been wonderful, especially those who served on L&O with me.”
Assistant City Solicitor Shanna Reed gave the council a legal opinion Wednesday that two write-in candidates, Brian and Erin Winter, would legally be the new candidates to choose from.
Former School Committee member Jeffrey Gosselin spoke during public participation and offered himself as a candidate, should the council choose not to accept the write-in candidate.

To Top