New Bedford Councilor Burgo Forced Meeting’s End By Walking Out
The December 13 meeting on the New Bedford City Council's Committee on Appointments and Briefings lasted approximately three minutes after Councilor at Large Shane Burgo walked out of the meeting in protest. Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira also walked out, resulting in the meeting no longer having the required quorum of six councilors to take votes.
The the primary responsibilities of the Committee on Appointments on Briefings, chaired by Councilor at Large Naomi Carney, are to confirm or rejects appointments made by the mayor to city boards and commissions, hold hearings for demolitions, and consider residency waivers for or those who wish to deal in pawn shops and old metals in the city.
Present at the beginning of the meeting were seven councilors, the minimum needed for a quorum: Carney, Burgo, Ward 1 Councilor Brad Markey, Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta, Ward 4 Councilor Derek Baptiste, Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira, and Councilor at Large Linda Morad.
Not present at the meeting was City Council President Ian Abreu, citing illness; Councilor at Large Brian Gomes, citing prior family commitments; and Ward 5 Councilor Scott Lima, who did not provide a specific reason for absence on the record.
The Ward 3 city council seat was recently vacated when former Councilor Hugh Dunn resigned in early December. His seat will be filled at the conclusion of an ongoing special election on February 28, 2023.
When the meeting began, Burgo motioned to adjourn the meeting, saying that he didn't think there were an adequate number of councilors present. Pereira seconded the motion.
After the motion, a voice from the crowd can be heard saying "You gotta be kidding me. I knew this was going to go on, You've got enough to run the meeting."
The motion failed three votes to four, with Burgo, Pereira and Baptiste voting to end the meeting, and Giesta, Carney, Markey and Morad voting against.
After the vote failed, Burgo and Pereira walked out of the council chambers, at which point Carney was forced to end the meeting due to lack of quorum. As Burgo walked out, a voice from the crowd continued to voice their dissatisfaction.
"It was definitely a 'what the heck' moment," Carney told WBSM. "There were nine appointments and a public hearing that was on the agenda. I was definitely caught off guard."
On the agenda were 10 items which included three nominations for the New Bedford Port Authority, as well as nominations for constable, the Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech School Committee, the Veterans Advisory Board, the licensing board, the Board of Health, and a hearing on the potential demolition of a historic building.
Burgo told WBSM that he thinks the meeting was poorly scheduled, and said that due to increased personal and professional commitments during the holidays, flu season, and the council not having the full 11-person body, it was likely that there would be lower attendance.
He also suggested that timing of the meeting could be the result of foul play.
"I suspect that this committee meeting was purposely held during this time of year to affect the overall outcome of appointments," Burgo said. "For example, we could have considered these before our Ward 3 Councilor resigned and the chances of everyone being present were better."
Burgo noted a few of the nominations had been in committee since Spring of 2021. He said that the nominations, as well as the hearing on the building demolition, which would need eight votes from the council once it is out of committee, deserve a meeting that is better attended.
"It’s just not fair," Burgo said. "Not fair to our colleagues who were unable to be present and would not have had the opportunity to get their questions answered. It’s not fair to the appointments who have waited for half a year for consideration, not fair for the ones who have waited even longer. Each appointment deserves fair and timely consideration."
During his weekly appearance on WBSM's The Tim Weisberg Show, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell expressed frustration with the meeting lacking a quorum and the fact that nominations for boards and commissions continue to stall in committee.
"We've got a long track record of putting up a diverse and qualified set of people for all manner of boards and commissions and they take their work seriously, and some of the cases (on December 13), the city council had not taken up their nominations literally for months," Mitchell said.
You can view the meeting on the New Bedford Cable Network website.