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Council confusion

Adjourned meeting becomes rap session

June 27, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Town Councilor Albert Vecchia said he is having the police investigate Chairman Steven Lazo after an adjourned Town Council meeting on Friday turned into what several observers called a "grandstanding" session on camera.

The scheduled meeting was adjourned for lack of quorum. Before roll call was taken, Lazo said, "Protocol is that each councilor who can't be here has to call the chairman." He claimed all five no-shows (David Livengood, Albert Vecchia Jr., Denise Clemence, Pamela Regis and Kathy Nikolla) were "unexcused," although each of them had signed a letter marked received by the town manager's office last Tuesday stating they would not be available Thursday or Friday, and instead requesting a meeting for tonight.

After Friday's adjournment, with cameras still rolling, Lazo, who also told Town Manager Christopher Clark he could leave since there was no meeting, claimed he'd received a voicemail message from Vecchia saying he "didn't want item 54 on the agenda" and that he "shouldn't have allowed Larry McDonald to put it on the agenda."

That prompted one resident, Monique Manna — whose husband, David, is running for Town Council in Tuesday's annual election — to object from the audience.

"What you're doing is wrong. This is not a meeting. This is grandstanding," she claimed.

Lazo ordered her to be quiet, saying she'd get a chance to speak later. He then dubbed the five no-show councilors "childish" and "ridiculous" and said he had to "apologize" for them (At that point, Manna walked out.)

Item 54 is the question of rescinding a 2004 vote to reorganize the Board of Health from three to five members in the bylaws. It was recommended unanimously by the General Government subcommittee June 17, as was related item 55 — a request to the Charter Review Committee to amend the Charter to make it a five-person board.

Under council rules, McDonald said, subcommittee recommendations have to go to the next council meeting for a vote, so Lazo wouldn't be allowed to remove it. Agreeing, Clark said Lazo did indicate he'd remove it Wednesday, but restored it to the agenda for that reason.

Calling this newspaper after watching the meeting, Vecchia claimed the issue isn't about the health board at all, but about a proposal being floated to appeal the landfill permit (which is not on the agenda, but under current open meeting rules could be added if a majority of the council allows it. Those rules change in July.) To him, Lazo's comments are a "twisted" representation of a real conversation (not a voicemail) the two men had last week, one he believes Lazo recorded illegally.

"I'd bet my life on it — it was a live conversation," Vecchia said, noting he's having the police investigate that issue.

Lazo could not be reached for comment Saturday, the day after the meeting.

On Friday, several people, including Councilor Richard Logan, James Sottile and Stephanie DeMartino took advantage of the rolling cameras to opine on the permit appeal idea. Sottile claimed the no-show councilors were using a "boycott to thwart legislative purposes" and "sanctions should be issued."

Logan later added, "We have been deprived of the right to discuss that as a council. I hope Mr. [John] Pulawski is wrong and that the town doesn't have liability with the landfill."

See Monday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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