Gardner Government Watch

January 9, 2022

Headshot of Contributing Writer Scott J. Graves
 M the Media Project

About Contributing Journalist Scott J. Graves in his own words

Scott J. Graves, Esq., B.S. Biology, M.S. Pharmacology, J.D. Law – Father, Born-and-Bred Gardnerien-American, Gardner Native of Acadien Heritage, Gardner High School Class of 1982, Gardner Citizen-Voter, Gardner Homeowner/Taxpayer, 30-year Gardner Business Owner, 30-year Gardner Lawyer, former 16-year Gardner City Councillor, former Gardner City Council President, and former Gardner City Solicitor and Head of the City of Gardner Law Department.

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January 9, 2022

At the recent City Election in November, 20% of the City’s Voters came out to vote.  That is not a misprint. Eighty (80%) of the City’s voters, 8 out of 10 Voters, stayed home.  

That’s the lowest ever recorded, according to the data available on the City’s website.

On Monday, January 3, 2022, the eleven people who were elected by 20% of the Voters to the Gardner City Council were officially sworn-in.

The only candidate elected as a City Councillor at Large who was not an incumbent Councillor at Large was Councillor Elizabeth Kazinskas (who was a 2-term Ward Councillor).

The official City Ballot incorrectly designated Ward Councillor Kazinskas as an incumbent running for reelection as a Councillor at Large.

Section 15 of the City Charter provides that only people running for the same position are to be designated as running for reelection.

Kazinskas had never held the position of City Councillor at Large. As a Ward Councillor, she was not an incumbent running for reelection, she was running for a new position. 

The official Ballot also failed to correctly designate Councillor at Large Craig Cormier as a City Councillor at Large running for reelection, once again against the provisions of Section 15 of the City Charter.

Elections are under the City Council’s jurisdiction.

To date, there has been no word from the City Council about what it has done, or what it will do, about the unlawful official City Ballot.

There has been no word from the City Council about what measures it has taken, if any, to avoid these Ballot improprieties from happening again affecting the integrity of official City Elections.

There has been no explanation from the City Council as to the source of or the reasons for these election improprieties and violations. 

Also, there is no word from the Massachusetts State Ballot Law Commission (the Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office) regarding these official Ballot illegalities and improprieties, and the compromised integrity of the official City Election.

Likewise, we have not yet received any information from the City Council or from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts about how these Voting Laws illegalities and improprieties will affect the 2021 Election results, or to what extent.  

As for the Ward Councillors, four out of five Ward Councillors were elected by default (without an opponent).  They are James Walsh (Ward 1), Nate Boudreau (Ward 3), Karen Hardern (Ward 4), and Alek Dernalowicz (Ward 5).

Ward Councillor Walsh, who ran unopposed, got a remarkably strong opposition from the blanks, but pulled out the victory.  Walsh’s long-time friend, former Mayor Mark Hawke, finished second. Hawke’s name was not printed on the official Ward 1 Ballot.

Jan. 3, 2022 City Council Meeting

The City Council unanimously elected Councillor Elizabeth Kazinskas as Council President. 

For the first time in several years, there was only one candidate – Kazinskas.

President Kazinskas stated publicly that “I can’t vote for myself” because it would be against the State Conflict of Interest Law. She abstained.

This Conflict of Interest Law prohibition that Kazinskas publicly announced had been brought to light two years ago by Councillor Scott J. Graves. On Jan. 6, 2020, Graves was the incumbent Council President. He publicly stated that the State Ethics Commission had issued a ruling that it was against the law for a Councillor to vote for anyone (not just himself) for Council President if he or she was a candidate. So he abstained, and lost.

However, during that same Jan. 6, 2020 Council President Election, Councillor James Walsh voted for himself for Council President, and won. Again, Graves abstained, and lost. Councillor Kazinskas had no comment about Walsh voting for himself as President.

Three months later, on April 6, 2020, there was another Election for Council President because James Walsh quit. Graves, once again, abstained, and lost.  Councillor Kazinskas, just as Walsh had done, voted for herself, and won. Kazinskas had no comment about voting for herself as President.

But this time, Jan. 3, 2022, Kazinskas decided to abstain. Incidentally, the Law on Jan. 3, 2022 is the same exact version of the Law that existed on Jan. 6, 2020.

Jan. 3, 2022 City Council Meeting Agenda #10590: 

This was a Renewal Application by Brian’s Auto Sales, 549 West Broadway for a Class II License to sell used cars. 

The City Council’s Vote: Unanimous Vote to refer the Application to the Public Safety Committee. 

City Council Discussion: None. 

This is the usual procedure.  The “Public Safety Committee” is a City Council sub-committee (called a “Standing Committee”), made up of 3 City Councillors. These types of Licenses fall under the Safety Committee’s jurisdiction under Rule 13 of the City Council Rules.

The Safety Committee will meet at some future date to review this License application, and will decide on a recommendation to take back to the City Council for some future vote.

Jan. 3, 2022 City Council Meeting Agenda #10591: 

National Grid’s Request to erect a telephone pole on Church Street to provide power to 116 Church Street.  

The City Council’s Vote: Unanimous Vote to refer this to the Public Service Committee. 

City Council Discussion: None.

This is the usual procedure.  The Public Service Committee (which is another City Council Standing Committee made up of 3 Councillors) will review the Request at some future date, and will vote on some recommendation to take back to the full City Council for a future vote. The public hearing about the Request will also take place at that time.

Jan. 3, 2022 City Council Meeting Agenda #10592: 

Amend City Council Rule 13 in two ways: 1) to strip the Finance Committee of “Appointments,” and 2) to create a new Standing Committee, called the “Committee on Appointments.”

The City Council’s Vote: Unanimous Vote to do both.

City Council Discussion: There was no relevant discussion, and no debate at all.

There has been four (4) City Council Standing Committees for many, many decades – each with its own delineated areas of domain regarding City of Gardner legislative business.  

No Standing Committee has ever been stripped of power/authority as has been done in this case.  

There has never been an adoption of a material change or amendment to the City Council legislative procedural rules without a Committee study and report, which is the usual course of action.  For some unknown reason, no City Councillor made a motion to refer.

Also, for some unknown reason, no City Councillor made a motion to refer the matter to the City Council sitting as a Committee of the Whole.  This would have been the usual procedure regarding proposals like the ones here – especially when there was no Committee referral.

This new “Appointments Committee” will oversee one (1) area of government: Mayoral Appointments.

In contrast, the other 4 Committees have many areas under their respective domains.  The Public Service Committee oversees six (6) major areas of government, the Safety Committee oversees sixteen (16), the Welfare Committee oversees twenty (20), and the Finance Committee oversees twenty (20).

No Councillor gave any facts about why this new Appointments Committee will have just one (1) area of government under its domain, or what it would be doing, or how.

No Councillor suggested that any other Standing Committee should be stripped of authority, as was the Finance Committee, to give the Appointments Committee something to do (apart from the Appointments).

No Councillor gave the Citizens any facts about why the Finance Committee is no longer capable of performing the task of reviewing Mayoral appointments – as it has been doing without issue for decades-upon-decades.

Jan. 3, 2022 Agenda: New City Council Business

No City Councillor put forth any new City Council business.

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