City Solicitor Outlines Role of Acting Mayor

By Adam Swift

City Solicitor Paul Capizzi gave some clarity recently to the role Acting Mayor Patrick Keefe will play in the city’s government.

City Councillors Anthony Congliandro and Richard Serino made a motion asking Capizzi to discuss the role and responsibilities of the acting mayor and how the city government will operate between now and when a newly elected mayor will be sworn into office on Jan. 1 of next year. As the City Council president, Keefe assumed the role of acting mayor on April 24 after Brian Arrigo resigned to take the top spot at the DCR.

“This is purely informational, I know the trolls out there are saying that this is political, that they are already trying to set up the acting mayor,” said Serino. “This is purely informational for all of us because we are in uncharted territory for all 10 of us who are serving up here. At least in my lifetime, there has never been a vacancy in the office of mayor and we have never had an acting mayor for more than a few days or a week.”

Cogliandro said he wanted everyone to be on the page so that the public is aware of the responsibilities, and so that the council can focus its motions and conduct business in the most efficient manner.

Capizzi provided the council with a five page memo from outside legal counsel KP Law highlighting the role of the acting mayor, and also appeared before the council to answer questions.

“Patrick Keefe, ward councillor, elected president of the City Council, and in his capacity of acting mayor, may perform all day-to-day functions required of the position of mayor,” said Capizzi. “Some of the examples are … soliciting and entering into contracts, addressing personnel matters, providing programs and services, signing payroll, administering regular maintenance and construction operations, enforcing existing ordinances, (and) undertaking public health and safety efforts.”

The acting mayor is also responsible for “any and all efforts not admitting of delay,” said Capizzi.

Those items include issues such as dealing with a public health crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Capizzi noted that Kim Janey was the acting mayor of Boston during a portion of the pandemic she needed to deal with that situation on a daily basis.

“What he cannot do, he cannot decide to propose new public works projects, for example, or take land by eminent domain and build some new building,” said Capizzi. “Things of that nature would have to wait for the next mayor to be sworn in.”

Keefe will be in the office at City Hall and can meet with constituents and handle the day-to-day business of the office, Capizzi said.

“What happens if there is an issue in the gray area, who decides if it is a matter of delay or not?” asked Cogliandro.

Capizzi said in those instances, the acting mayor would act with his counsel and the counsel of his cabinet and department heads.

“My concern was always the gray area,” said Capizzi. “But we will do our best to make sure … I will do my best in counseling Acting Mayor Keefe to stay within his lane as to what he can act on and what he cannot act on.”

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