Longtime political observers could tell by his tone at the last Council meeting that Councillor-at-Large and former Revere mayor Dan Rizzo did not particularly like the underlying theme of his two colleagues’ motion to deduct a portion of a councillor’s salary for being absent from a meeting.
And Rizzo wasted no time in responding to the salary proposal co-sponsored by Councillors Anthony Cogliandro and Marc Silvestri, proposing his own motion on the issue of councillors’ salaries at Monday’s meeting. The proposal calls for each councillor to be paid $100 for each meeting attended.
“At our last regular meeting, a motion was submitted that was asking for the City Council to draft an ordinance that will deduct a percentage of a city councillor’s salary for missing meetings,” began Rizzo.
“We don’t work for each other. We get elected by the voters, and so if the sole mission here is to compensate city councillors by the meetings they attend and not the job they do – personally I think that’s a slippery slope. In all the years that I sat on the City Council, I have not heard a councillor indirectly go after other councillors for their attendance.
“That’s insane to me, because we put ourselves before the voters, and if we’re not going to give the voters any credit to understand who’s doing their job and who isn’t then shame on us,” said Rizzo. “We’re going to sit up here and govern each other? I think that’s the crazy.”
Rizzo offered what he called “my alternative” to his colleagues’ motion. “I think $100 a meeting is pretty fair. Let’s just get paid on meetings we attend. That would solve the problem. And then if councillors don’t show up, they don’t get paid.”
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe said, “Councillor Rizzo, I totally understand where you’re coming from. You spoke well on it that the voters will ultimately choose and govern the role and the job that we do. I think it was well said and I do agree with you.
“We are going down a slippery slope when we start fining each other (deducting pay for missing a meeting) – that’s probably not the role we should be playing for each other,” said Keefe, adding that the makers of the original motion may have been frustrated by the less than stellar attendance at meetings this year.
Councillor-at-Large Marc Silvestri said his motion to deduct pay from councillors “was not aimed at any one person. This is aimed at a body of representatives who get voted on by the voter.”
“We put ourselves on a ballot. We get elected by the people, and we should show up here every chance we can,” said Silvestri. “To miss one meeting after another, as far I’m concerned, it’s unacceptable. I stand by [my original motion]. I don’t know another job in anywhere in the world that you don’t show up, you have no repercussions of doing so, and you will still be paid to do that.”
Ward 3 Councillor Anthony Cogliandro also said his motion was “not an indirect attack on anyone.”
“It is all about accountability. We’ve had 20 absences. It’s not undesirable. It’s unacceptable.”
‘$100 Per Meeting Would Make Sense’
Rizzo seemed to infer that his two colleagues were missing the intention of his remarks.
“There’s a fundamental disconnect here from the last two explanations that I’ve heard. We are not employees of the city. We’re elected officials. The voters are the ones who put us here. It’s not up to you to count absences and who’s not here. I don’t even understand what we’re talking about. I can appreciate we’ve got a couple of new councillors, and they’re aggressive and they want to go out there for the taxpayer. I think my motion has some merit. I think that $100 per meeting would make sense.”
Cogliandro countered, “I personally think [Rizzo’s motion] is retaliatory to the motion that Councillor Silvestri and I filed.”
Council President Gerry Visconti seemed to land on Rizzo’s side of the discussion.
“We have so many more important things that are going on in the city,” said Visconti. “And to some degree, I understand what your intentions were, but I also agree with my colleague, Councillor Rizzo, that we are elected by the residents of this city, and we do not police themselves. It’s not my job to call the treasurer’s office and say I’m going to deduct so and so 50 dollars because he didn’t attend a meeting.”
Visconti referred the issue to the Council’s Legislative Affairs Subcommittee for further discussion.