Arrigo, Rizzo Battle Over Executive Session

By Adam Swift

It was a mayoral showdown at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Current Mayor Brian Arrigo and former mayor and City Councillor-at-Large engaged in a sometimes heated discussion over Rizzo’s ongoing efforts to garner information about police misconduct and settlements since 2017.

The council eventually entered into executive session to discuss several of the issues with Arrigo and City Solicitor Paul Capizzi, but not before Council President gaveled for order as Arrigo and Rizzo continued to debate.

Off the bat, Rizzo raised issues about the wording of the motions to enter into executive session Monday night.

“The two items on the calendar tonight being requested to go into executive session, the reality is the two items here have not really addressed  the items I have asked about,” said Rizzo.

The two motions asked the council to vote to enter executive session to  discuss the reputation, character, physical condition, or mental health of Police Chief David Callahan and to discuss the City’s litigating position in the case of Griffin v. Massachusetts Civil Service Commission et al.

“I did not ask about the chief’s reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, that is nowhere in my motion,” said Rizzo. “I specifically was looking for assessment center results that were presented but completely redacted. I also asked for the mayor to appear to discuss what he knew or didn’t know about allegations of misconduct (in the police department) and what actions or financial settlements have been made as a result of those allegations.”

Rizzo made the motions in August of last year following a public radio report on alleged misconduct within the Revere Police Department and the hiring process for police chiefs.

“Lastly, I asked for an accounting of all public funds to settle claims,” he said.

Rizzo said the City Council has a right to be made aware of the issues he raised in his motion last year.

“They are not pleasant,” he said. “This is not a political move, this is trying to get an understanding of where we are going in respect to our public safety here in the city.”

Rizzo said he was willing to go into executive session to discuss the issues, but said he would rather see them discussed in an open meeting.

“It seems very unfair to me that we would withhold this information from the people that we represent,” said Rizzo.

Councillor-at-Large Steven Morabito noted that the council has gone into executive session to discuss sensitive matters when Rizzo was mayor, as well as under the current administration.

“I think the purpose of executive session is that the information is very sensitive and there could be pending legal action, and that’s the reason we go into executive session,” said Morabito.

Rizzo countered that several of the issues with the department were not part of ongoing investigations and some were financial settlements that have already happened.

Council President Patrick Keefe said it was likely any questions raised by Rizzo could be addressed in executive session.

“I certainly agree that if it is a public record, it should be public, but some of these things, I have been informed on some of the things happening with the police department, whether it was the mayor bringing me into his office or the chief calling me,” said Keefe.

Keefe said that he was not aware of all the issues in the department, but he said there were certain items that should not be part of the public record for legal reasons.

“I was a little fuzzy about the language (of the executive session order) as well, but I think it is more of a legal language, if we are going to talk about someone it can be a character or health issue,” said Keefe. “I certainly don’t think we will talk much about that, but we might as well do this right now. We have been talking about this for quite some time.”

Arrigo, who was also on hand to discuss the high school building project with the council, said he was happy to discuss some of the questions raised by Rizzo in public.

“So, number one, the motion that was presented by the City Council asked that I appear before the City Council in executive session,” said Arrigo. “I find it interesting that now we want to talk about this publicly, but that was the motion that was presented, and I think that was the understanding we all had.”

Arrigo said the council was presented information about all the settlements that were requested.

“There are six settlements that have been made since 2017, and I do want to make sure everyone keeps in mind that at least … five of the six were in relation to incidents under Chief (Jospeh) Cafarelli,” said Arrigo

Cafarelli was appointed by Rizzo when he was mayor in 2012. In 2017, Arrigo opted against renewing Cafarelli’s contract.

Arrigo noted that the most expensive settlement, at $175,000, was due to harassment that was taking place under Cafarelli.

“I would be happy to go into details about these,” Arrigo said. “Fortunately for us, we do have insurance and our insurance compensation covered that $175,000 settlement that Lynn Romboli endured under Chief Cafarelli. That was not direct taxpayer money, but that was the largest of the six, and I’d be happy to go into further detail.”

Arrigo went on to state that one of the settlements included an incident that involved current Police Chief David Callahan while Cafarelli was still chief that Cafarelli did not inform the mayor about for 11 months.

“Obviously, we want to make sure, and I’m sure any former mayor would agree, that you want a chief that is telling you what is happening immediately,” said Arrigo. “The other thing I will say, and I think this is important to call out, was this kind of sense that things might not be going well for the men and women of the department. I am proud to say that at least we have a handshake agreement with our police officers union, and I think that is a sign of the work that we are willing to do.”

He said his administration has always been willing to work with everyone to make sure the police department does not become a political football.

Rizzo took up the opportunity to question Arrigo in public session, to the consternation of Keefe.

“So Chief Cafarelli never came to you with a complaint about the current chief?” said Rizzo.

Arrigo said he had the letter that he presented to Chief Cafarelli in 2017 and started to read from it as Keefe asked the mayor to stop.

“No, no, everyone should know, everyone should know the situation,” said Arrigo.

Arrigo stated there was an incident on May 30 of 2016 that Cafarelli did not inform him of until April of 2017 as Keefe asked for a roll call to go into executive session.

“We’re going to discuss this in executive session,” said Keefe.

“This is unbelievable,” Rizzo said, as he was the only councillor to vote no to go into executive session.

The executive session lasted for about 40 minutes and there was no further discussion when the council came back into regular session.

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