Councilor stripped of committee posts

City Council President Christopher Keefe reorganized his committee assignments Thursday, eliminating the Ad Hoc Committee and Charter and Rules, and stripping At-large Councilor David A. Flaherty of his standing committee duties.
Keefe reorganized the committee membership following the appointment of Ann Callahan to the Ward 3 seat, replacing Peter J. Miller Jr., a four-term council veteran.
Keefe indicated that he was planning to change committee membership during discussion of a motion sponsored by Keefe and Ward 5 Councilor Richard R. Onofrey Jr., proposing that the council amend the Council Rules to incorporate disciplinary procedures and guidelines.
Onofrey said that currently there is no mechanism to discipline councilors who violate the council’s code of conduct and council rules during meetings.
Onofrey cited Flaherty’s conduct during a heated debate with At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean II about the council’s process of filling Miller’s Ward 3 seat at the May 3 council session.
Flaherty requested that the candidates for the position be selected at one meeting, then appointed at a separate meeting. The interlude between the nomination meeting and the appointment meeting would allow the councilors time to speak with those potential candidates.
Bean pointed out that the council members, under council rules, are free to make a motion from the floor at any time and that a candidate, not necessarily one added to the slate of candidates at the nomination meeting, could be put nominated at the appointment meeting.
The two councilors began to exchange comments directly to each other without recognition from the president. Keefe banged his gavel twice and called for order three times in an attempt to restore order and decorum to the session, but Flaherty continued to speak vigorously, voicing his objections to Bean’s comments. Keefe told the two arguing councilors that “it’s enough.” Bean ceased speaking, but Flaherty continued to speak over the president’s call to order.
The process to replace Miller did occur over two meetings, with a slate of nine candidates identified at a special Committee of the Whole meeting conducted on Monday, May 14, and Callahan selected from that slate at the council’s regular session held on Thursday, May 17.
Onofrey said that he watched the recording of the meeting several times and quoted Flaherty comments during that exchange that “it’s not enough, it’s never enough.”
Onofrey said that Flaherty published an advertisement (in the Westfield News) that said the council was ignoring Ward 3 residents in the appointment process.
“That was patently untrue,” Onofrey said of the advertisement content.
“The councilor (Flaherty) continued to shout across the chambers at another councilor (Bean),” Onofrey said Thursday. “We have no discipline (mechanism) under our rules, so I’m requesting we send this issue to the L&O (Legislative & Ordinance Committee) to develop rules for behavior in the chamber and outside.”
Ward 4 Councilor Mary O’Connell made a motion to amend Onofrey’s motion and also send the motion to the Ad Hoc Committee on Charter and Rules in addition to sending it to the L&O.
O’Connell’s motion to amend Onofrey’s original motion was defeated by a 5-6 vote of the council.
Keefe commented that vote was a moot issue, since he was changing the committee structure and membership. Keefe eliminated the Ad Hoc Committee on Charter and Rules, stating that function would be determined by the L&O in the future.
The council recently amended its rules, on a motion from the Charter and Rules committee to send the issue to the L&O. Under City Charter the L&O is the committee required to bring all motions, orders and resolutions onto the council floor.
Keefe also stripped Flaherty of his membership in the Finance Committee, Long Range Financial Committee and City Property Committee. Keefe appointed Bean to serve on the Finance Committee, and Callahan to the City Property Committee, Governmental Relations Committee and the L&O Committee.
Keefe appointed himself to serve as chairman of the Long Range Financial Committee. The council president does not typically serve on committees. Keefe said that he did not want to over burden councilors after stripping Flaherty of his standing committee membership.
Flaherty will continue to serve as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Business Development, which generally meets quarterly.

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