An Election Vanishes – And an Acting Mayor Appears

GRAVITAS . . . . Fair and Brutal Opinion (Trapped by Facts)

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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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The City of Gardner Government held a “Joint Convention” of the Gardner City Council and Gardner School Committee on Feb. 22, 2022 to take James Boone’s seat on the Monty Tech School Committee away from him.

As we know, that scheme did not work because they got caught before they could steal it.

At that “Joint Convention,” the Council President, Elizabeth Kazinskas, anointed herself “Acting Mayor” under Section 32 of the City Charter.

As is its modus operandi these days, the City of Gardner Government once again made bad precedent – not just once, but twice.

Here is the bad precedent:

One, the City Hall Ruling Class can take someone’s elected seat away from him whenever they feel like it; and

Two, the City Hall Council President can be Acting Mayor whenever it is convenient for the Ruling Class to say so.

You’ll hear the same old collective of cheerleaders say, “what’s the big deal?, let’s move on.”  It’s their clarion call, their pacifier, or thumb – something to soothe their fears and anxiety.

The “big deal” is that when the City Government makes an official decision, it becomes legislative/governmental history in this City.  It is called “legal precedent,” and it will be followed again when convenient to the powers-that-be. 

You know, like when you hear this excuse as justification for stupid government acts: “well, we did it before,” or “we’ve always done it like this.”

The Mayor is in panic mode to minimize this embarrassingly transparent charade.

He went into his usual “nothing to see here” mode (also known as “damage-control” or “steering the narrative”). 

Nothing to see here. 1. the self-preservation mechanism that automatically engages within the inner cogs of a political beast when the political narrative has run off the rails, or threatens to do so. 2. damage-control. [Ambrose Bierce, RIP].

Employing this self-defense mechanism to get out from under his massive embarrassment, the Mayor is actually trying to claim that Boone was not “elected” to the MT School Committee.

The Mayor has downgraded it to an “appointment.”

Let’s get this right.  On Feb. 18, 2020, Boone was nominated at a duly-convened public meeting of the City Council, the Acting Mayor, and the School Committee.  Each member of this public body then voted for Boone in that election.  Boone won the election unanimously 16-0.

But, it wasn’t an election?  The Mayor says Boone was only “appointed”?

When it suits his needs, the Mayor will elevate form over substance.  We get it. But, come on.

The Mayor realizes that “elections” are sacrosanct in this nation, or should be.  If you mess with elections, you’re bad – and you need to go, and now.

Not even this Mayor, replete with his extraordinarily-equipped army of self-promotional resources, public relation agents, and social media cheerleaders, could escape the fact that Gardner Government completely crapped on Boone’s 2020 election.

Thus, the Mayor had no way of utilizing the usual way to get rid of these things: by sweeping it under the City Hall’s Ruling Class rug. Especially because we were watching.

So, the Mayor minimizes and belittles being elected by the entire City of Gardner Government to something as critically important as a seat on the Monty Tech School Committee Member by dismissing it as just an “appointment.” 

The Mayor’s belittling of Monty Tech School Committee Members is very unfortunate, and not fair to Monty Tech, and its students. It’s not fair to those brave souls who expose themselves to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to which being an elected official subjects you.

For the Mayor, an “appointment” is really not that big of a deal.  He makes hundreds and hundreds of “appointments.”  All you need is a rubber stamp.  He has a list of political partisans and operatives from which he casually selects “appointments” to various seats on the countless boards or commissions in city government. 

But, the Mayor doesn’t realize one other glaring difference – when the Mayor appoints one of his SuperPAC operatives, or loyal school buddy, to some board or commission, it’s his sole choice.  No one else gets a “vote.”

This situation could not be more different from that.  In this case, the Mayor has only one vote out of 18.  The winner of the MT School Committee election is far from one of the Mayor’s puppet “appointments.”  The winner was elected by the entire contingent of City of Gardner elected officials – elected by the Citizens of Gardner.

Even as far as inter-government elections so, getting elected to the MT School Committee is as major as it gets.  All 3 contingents of City Government which are comprised of members elected by the Citizens combine all together to nominate candidates and vote for them. 

Compare it to the election for the City Clerk, for example.  In the City Clerk’s election, the Mayor and the School Committee members don’t get to cast a vote.  Yet, it’s still an “election.”

How did the Mayor do this?  As usual – exploit a “loophole.” 

This time, he couldn’t find it in the City Charter, or the City Ordinances, as usual.  So, he had to settle for the Monty Tech District Agreement. 

The MT District Agreement says that the Gardner members “shall be appointed from Gardner” – not from the Joint Convention. 

There’s the word the Mayor pounced on – “appointed.” 

Hence, he turned Boone’s election into an “appointment.”  Like magic – to erase all evidence of an “election” – as if it never happened.  “Awwww, come on guys – it’s just an appointment for crikes sake.”

Unfortunately for the Mayor, we have common sense.  When the City’s elected officials meet to nominate someone, and then cast votes to elect the one who is nominated, that’s an “election.”

But, let’s ignore common sense.  The MT District Agreement requires that the MT School Committee members appointed “from” the City of Gardner be “by majority vote.” 

By majority vote” means “by majority vote at an election.”  There is no other way to get a “majority vote” in these particular circumstances, if at all, but through an “election.”

So, the Mayor can call Boone an “appointment” all he wants to sugar coat the attempted steal, but Boone was duly electedto that seat. 

But, if you want to drink the Kool-Aid, and call it an “appointment” to make yourself feel better, an attempted steal of an official government position is an attempted steal of an official government position.

We bet anything that if the City Hall Ruling Class didn’t get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and Mayor Nicholson’s cousin took Boone’s seat (as he was poised to do), the Mayor would be bragging that his cousin got duly “elected” to the MT School Committee.

In order to try to pull off this steal of Boone’s seat, whoever was behind all this had Elizabeth Kazinskas appoint herself as Acting Mayor.

The lady doth protest too much methinks.

Why turn yourself into a pretzel for no reason?

According to Kazinskas, the Mayor had some “conflict of interest” regarding the Feb. 22nd Joint Convention. According to Kazinskas – who was speaking for the Mayor – the Mayor had “recused” himself days earlier in some fashion unknown to the Citizens.

The Mayor did not show up to speak for himself.

Gravitas believes that this unexplained and unidentified “conflict of interest” has to do with the Mayor’s family relationship with the individual (his cousin) who was set to take Boone’s seat away from him two years early. But, we don’t know for sure because neither the Council President nor the Mayor has identified the actual basis of the Mayor’s “conflict of interest.”

This is like the existing “conflict of interest” of the City Solicitor.  The circular reasoning is: “the Mayor must recuse himself due to a conflict of interest because it would be a violation of the conflict of interest if he doesn’t.”  Petitio Principii. Classic. Did you ever see a dog running around in circles chasing its tail?  Funny.

It’s actually “absention” – not “recusal.”  The Mayor is not a judge or the jury. But, who cares about small things like legal conclusions?

Anyway, the Council President, citing City Charter Section 32, considered this “conflict of interest” an emergency.  

There were no facts to support the existence of an emergency.

Acting Mayor Kazinskas read part of Paragraph 4 of Section 32.  But, she didn’t read the whole thing.  She conveniently left out the part about her having to be Acting Mayor (and the presence of an emergency) in order to do what she claimed she was doing:

SECTION 32 (4th Paragraph). If the Mayor is absent or unable from any cause temporarily to perform his duties, or if his office is vacant during the first eighteen months of his term, his duties shall be performed by the president of the city council. The person upon whom such duties shall devolve shall be called “acting mayor”, and he shall possess the powers of mayor only in matters not admitting of delay, but shall have no power to make permanent appointments.

As the Gardner City Solicitor ruled, “matters not admitting of delay” as used in Section 32 means “emergency.”

So, you’re not an Acting Mayor, whether or not the Mayor is unavailable, and Section 32 does not apply (at all), unless an emergency exists.

Where was the “emergency”? There wasn’t one.

The Government twisted itself into a pretzel with all this nonsense just because they couldn’t use common sense.  Clearly, the Council President was the rightful Chairperson for that “Joint Convention.”

But, common sense does not come into play these days.

Acting Mayor Kazinskas’s legal handlers, we presume, tried to get all cute and legal on us – for no reason.  This is what they were saying: Under Section 43 of the City Charter, by application of Section 37 of the City Charter, only the Mayor can be the “Chair” of the Joint Convention, but he is “unable” to be the Mayor under Charter Section 32, which means that there is an “emergency” under Section 32 which makes the City Council President the “Acting Mayor,” and, under Section 43 of the Charter, via Section 37, the “Chair” of the “Joint Convention” is the Acting Mayor instead of the Mayor.

Got it?

The problem with that cutesy-pooh mind-bender is that Section 37 of the City Charter expressly makes the City Charter totally inapplicable to this “Joint Convention.”  Yet, the Ruling Class focused on the City Charter to give us an Acting Mayor for the Joint Convention.

Section 37 expressly applies only to City of Gardner elections of the Gardner Citizens at the voting booths.  Also, Section 37 only applies to City of Gardner School Committee members – not those of Monty Tech.  For Monty Tech, Section 37 expressly defers to the 1964 state legislation that created Monty Tech.

That should have stopped any nonsense about having an Acting Mayor to “chair” the Joint Convention.  But no.

This reference in Section 37 means that we have to use the MT District Agreement for procedure.

Even if they wanted to ignore Section 37 of the City Charter in order to use what they saw as their oasis in Section 43, Section 43 expressly applies only to the Gardner School Committee – not the Monty Tech School Committee.  Like an ouroboros, any way you look at it you get stuck in Section 37 – and it’s a no go.

Why give us the over-baked and overwrought legal shenanigans when the City Council President was clearly the obvious choice as Chairperson for this “Joint Convention”?  The MT District Agreement does not prescribe a different procedure – and the City Charter does not cover it.  Neither does our last resort, Roberts Rules of Order.

Clearly, it’s the Council President as Chairperson.  They didn’t have to turn her into the Acting Mayor in order to jump through a loophole that didn’t exist.

It’s not just ridiculous, though.  The Gardner history books will show that the Council President became the Acting Mayor on Feb. 22, 2022 during a City “emergency,” when the Mayor, who had one vote out of 18 and was actually present at City Hall, had a “conflict” that prevented him from casting his one vote. Really? 

Yet, in 2019, the Mayor of Gardner quit the job of Mayor under no uncertain terms, took another full-time job as the CEO of another municipality, packed up boxes with his personal effects, shut off the lights, shut the door, walked away for good, and started his new full-time job elsewhere – with 9 weeks left in his current term.  And this same City Hall Ruling Class did not see that as triggering Section 32.

Huh?

Like beauty, emergency is in the eye of the beholder.  Apparently.

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