Hey, there! Log in / Register

NAACP slams city attorney for memo it says impugned three councilors looking to run for mayor

Ricardo Arroyo

Arroyo discusses his proposal on Zoom.

The City Council tomorrow might vote tomorrow on a proposal to seek the elimination of a special mayoral election should Marty Walsh leave for Washington before March 5 - although it might also defer action to better craft the required request to the state legislature.

At a long public hearing on the matter today, local NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan blasted a memo written by one of the council's attorneys last week that indicated Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell, who announced they were running for mayor even before President Biden picked Walsh as his labor secretary, and Councilor Kim Janey, who will become acting mayor when he leaves, would face potential state conflict-of-interest charges should they discuss or vote on the measure.

Sullivan, herself a lawyer, said she was shocked by this "complete misread of the law on its face," an "unconscionable" and "deeply "troubling" error so blatant it was obviously an attempt to "oppress and subjugate" three women of color seeking higher office by casting them as somehow violating the law.

Sullivan spoke after Janey herself read from what she said was a written communication from the state Ethics Commission hat she said actually faced no such conflict because the state ethics law specifically exempts work on home-rule petitions, the formal name for the request the city would have to forward to the state to bypass the special elections otherwise called for in the city charter.

The charter calls for a special election if a mayor leaves his or her post before a certain number of weeks before the regular election - which this year would be March 5. If that happens and the charter is not amended for this year, Bostonians could wind up voting for mayor four times: Once in a special preliminary to narrow the field to two candidates for a special election, then again in the regular preliminary in September and then the regular election in November.

Sullivan amplified City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who first proposed the change - and who is not running for mayor, but who is also a lawyer, who said he got a similar opinion from the Ethics Commission on the issue as Janey.

Arroyo said the potential for four elections in roughly five months would not only be expensive at a time when the city is no longer bringing in as much tax revenue as it used to before Covid-19, but would cause unacceptable health risks to both voters and city elections workers, particularly to minority, disabled and low-income voters, whom he said are already getting hit the hardest by the virus.

He noted that Lawrence, which is losing its mayor to a job in the Baker administration, recently won legislative approval to bypass a similar provision in its charter.

Janey said she supports bypassing special elections for the same reasons. Campbell said only that she was looking forward to hear from residents at the hearing. Wu either did not attend the Zoom hearing or did not speak.

In the first two hours of testimony, most speakers backed Arroyo's proposal, as did state representatives Russell Holmes and Nika Elugardo.

Eric Esteves of Roxbury said eliminating the special election would be "more equitable, safer and fiscally responsible."

Matt McCloskey of Roslindale said forcing people to go through four elections would be particularly irresponsible because the current state adoption of voting by mail and early voting, enacted last year, expires March 31, which might force far more people to vote, if they decide to take the risk, in person.

Priscilla Flint-Banks, who said she lost her mother to Covid-19, said forcing the extra elections would be "unfair, unkind and unreasonable."

In the first two hours, only one person spoke in support of possibly going with four elections. Sean Ryan of Roxbury said that elected officials have assumed greater powers during the pandemic and that even a public-health crisis might not be enough to warrant the precedent it would set of allowing such an easy change to an established law. Keeping the charter provision in place might be "necessary to protect the rule of law," he said.




Will write a strongly worded letter condemning themselves.

Voting closed 8

Janey has a "the state Ethics Commission hat"? (4th Paragraph)

I really want one! That sounds really cool. I'd proudly wear it on the Orange Line on my way to work. My JP neighbors and friends would be truly impressed.

Do I have to do anything special to get one like be appointed the unelected chief executive of a major city and fight the need to have to face election in violation of city and Commonwealth law to get one?

I hope this isn't a typo as I suspect. Too good to be true!

Voting closed 17

This is precisely why the Home Rule Petition exists. To be responsive and adaptable to unforeseen circumstances.

In 4+ hours we heard one (1) person oppose the HRP and actually, he didn't say that he opposed it-he just alluded to it. He's also the only member of the public to remain totally faceless-hmm.

We heard from the Boston Municipal Research Committee, the Secretary of Elections, the Chinese Progressive Alliance, MassVote, NAACP, State representatives, and more. Every single body was opposed to a special election.

Ultimately, almost no one wants to do it....so I assume the state will force a skip if City Council doesn't get it together. Voting against the HRP will hurt your vote tally later on.

So far as I can tell there's this

In Favor:
Edwards (this was apparent)

Likely in Favor:
Ed Flynn (he's beholden to Chinatown and they want to skip. He alluded to skipping as a "smart choice")
Wu (if she votes, she was absent tonight. She came out in favor of this a while ago)

Undecided/ Poker Face:
George(if she votes, she was absent tonight)
Baker (disappeared after the first few minutes)

O'Malley (he's leaving council so he's not worried about public perception. He has beef with Councilor Janye and obviously feels this should be his opportunity, not hers, see here: https://www.baystatebanner.com/2019/11/27/councilors-vying-for-presidency/)

As a result, we already have 6 sure votes in favor of the petition. I'd says there's a 90% chance council votes to skip an election the question is will it make it through the state legislature in time. Ultimately it favors George to skip a special election so I think she might break that way.

I foresee an 11-2 vote in favor of councilor arroyos position

Voting closed 20

But, hey, you can always claim anything you want is illegal even when it is totally legal to legally petition to legally not do expensive and absurd extra elections just like Lawrence legally did.

Voting closed 15

People have asked this before, but I have yet to see an answer: instead of a special election (and possible preliminary) followed by a regularly-scheduled election (and possible preliminary), why not have just one set of elections a few months early?

Voting closed 15

In this country we'll tolerate lousy environmental policies, massive COVID deaths, and regressive taxes.

But we'll never tolerate changing election dates to cycles which make voting more convenient or would give someone +/- 9 months in office!

{end sarcasm}

Voting closed 9

Why not just have the acting mayor serve until the next regularly scheduled election automatically. If the President or the Governor leaves office prior to the end of their term, we don't have a special Presidental or Gubnetorial election to fill the post. Why should the City of Boston be any different?

Instead of a home rule petition to exempt Boston from the law, perhaps we should just change the law.

Voting closed 10

I voted in an election that included Vice President last November, and two years before that, I voted in an election that included a Lt. Governor. I have never had Kim Janey's name on my ballot (nothing against her, but it is true of 8/9th of the residents of Boston.) Say Walsh ran in the fall, got reelected, then did a DeLeo and resigned in January to take a job at his alma mater. We'd be stuck with whichever member of the City Council convinced 6 of their colleagues to elevate them.

Voting closed 11

If the US Vice President stepped down the next in line would be the Speaker of the House who would hold that position for up to 4 years without any possibility of an early or special election. That's how Ford became President without winning a national election.

Boston is too small to have a Vice Mayor. Do any municipalities in the US have such a position? Boston's order of succession is pretty standard as US politics go.

Voting closed 6

After Spiro Agnew resigned as VP, President Nixon nominated Gerald Ford as his new Vice President, and Congress confirmed him. This was the first use of Section 2 of the 25th Amendment.

Later Nixon resigned, Ford became President, and then Ford nominated (and Congress confirmed) Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President.

Voting closed 9

I wasn't born yet so my history on that was fuzzy. But the order of succession never directly involves the voters until the next regularly scheduled election.

Voting closed 9

In the case of Massachusetts Governor, the next 5 in the line of succession are all elected statewide, so were Baker, Polito, Galvin, and Healey to all get jobs in the Biden administration, we still would have voted for Goldberg in 2018 (or at least for the position.)

Voting closed 8

Tanisha Sullivan just stated as fact that the council’s attorney purposefully misstated the law in order to oppress and obstruct women of color who are running for Mayor.

That is a serious allegation. And one that requires proof.

Voting closed 32

Tanisha Sullivan never said "councilor" let alone named "Lydia Edwards". Cool your jets.

It was inaccurate information that shouldn't have been shared without first double-checking with the State Ethics Committee. You're the Chairwoman, that's on you and it shouldn't have been up to Arroyo and Janey to have to go secure clear information.

I'm frustrated that she won't say "we (Christine O'Donnel and COuncilor Edwards) made a mistake, we apologize."

Voting closed 6

The Globe and others have covered this a quick google search would have let you know the background.

A legal memo commissioned by Lydia Edwards from the City Council Attorney, and then authorized for release to the Council by Edwards made a determination that Councilors Janey, Wu, and Campbell could not participate in the discussions or vote on this issue.

The MA State Ethics Commission when asked by Councilor Arroyo and Janey, made clear no violation of conflict of interest existed and moreover the law that the City Council Attorney applied literally as written states that Home Rules are exempt.

So no this isn't slander.

Voting closed 9

The old "calling it out is a worse offense than doing it in the first place" trope.

Because actions which seek to attack or disenfranchise are never possibly as bad as BEING CALLED A RACIST!

OMG being called a racist IS WORSE THAN RACISM!

(/unearned privilege)

Voting closed 15

Sullivan destroyed the attorney's character and reputation by alleging that he/she committed legal malpractice (purposefully misstating the law) in an effort to disenfranchise certain individuals.

Perhaps it is true - if so, Sullivan should not worry. But she provided zero facts or evidence to support her claim. I don't think you appreciate the gravity of the allegation. If true, the council's attorney would risk his/her career (he/she would be suspended or disbarred).

This isn't about whether there's been an act of racism - if that is the case, I'm happy Sullivan identified it, so it can be rooted out. It's about making a serious allegation with no evidence or fact to support it. As an attorney, Sullivan should be held to a high standard.

Voting closed 8

"Doing it in the first place" implies they did it. The post you're replying to says there's no proof of that.

Knowingly false accusations ARE much worse than not doing the thing in the accusation. Because if the thing wasn't done, then nothing bad happened.

Voting closed 3

So if it's slander, I look forward to hearing about the case they're filing. I'm guessing it won't be forthcoming, since such a statement is (gasp) not actually slander.

Voting closed 9

I presume you believe some privilege exists.

Voting closed 8

Making a false statement that maligns someone’s professional reputation is, actually, the very definition of slander.

Voting closed 4

All Lydia Edwards did was ask for a legal opinion. There's nothing wrong with that. The attack on her by Tanisha Sullivan was unfair and wrong. Edwards also stated at the hearing that she agreed with the opinions provided by the State Ethics Commission that there is no conflict. I suspect that Sullivan has an issue with Edwards, and wanted to get some headlines.

Voting closed 8

Seriously. There's an Acting in the Labor department and it's the end of January right now. He's going to have to go through hearings. I can't imagine Labor is one of the high priorities compared to a lot of the security apparatus, and the senate is going into impeachment hearings.... Why can't he just commit to staying through March 6 and save everybody a lot of angst and trouble? It's like... five more weeks.

Voting closed 5