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CCA complains about policy they had established

By Will Colette

It’s an election year, so, of course, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) is seething with anger over a host of grievances and threats that they hope voters will believe and return them to power on November 5.

Among the CCA’s grievances, the CCA is angry at the Town Council majority, all of whom won under the Charlestown Residents United (CRU) banner, for not automatically filling a recent Council vacancy with their guy, the one who finished in 6th place on the ballot.

The midterm vacancy occurred due to the sad death of Council member Grace Klinger. Grace had not planned to run for reelection, but died before she could finish her term.

The CCA insisted the seat then belonged to the CCA’s Peter Gardner, the 2022 6th place finisher who got 1,655 votes (compared to Council President Deb Carney’s 2,106 votes).

Although the CCA admits on its website that Charlestown’s Town Charter does not require vacancies to be filled by the next highest vote-getter, nonetheless they were outraged the seat didn’t go to Gardner (or the 7th place finisher, another CCAer Ann Owen).

Instead, the Council exercised its prerogative to make the appointment to pick Grace’s replacement will pick from applicants who filed an application by March 1. This is the procedure for filling vacancies on boards, committees and commissions as outlined in C-168 of the Town Charter.

That triggered CCA acolyte Mikey Chambers to offer this angry commentary:

Unless I miss my guess, and I don’t believe so, the appointment will go to the highest vote getter who did not run as an Independent (CCA), but as a CRU (Democrat?) candidate. So much for the wishes of the people! This will go the way of the wishes of the people in the town-wide survey. The preference of the people will again be ignored. If you can’t see this, you haven’t been paying attention.

Mikey, it’s not just your guess that you’re missing.

First, what makes you think it will go to the “highest vote getter who did not run as an Independent (CCA)?” If the Council follows the CCA’s precedent, they might pick someone who wasn’t a candidate at all in the 2022 election.

Second, what do you mean by labelling CCA candidates as “independent” when they must all swear allegiance to the CCA platform AND if they are elected but fail to follow CCA orders, they are severely punished? CCA politicians are about as independent as members of Vladimir Putin’s government.

Third, what makes you think a putative choice of a CRU member means appointing a Democrat? In fact, the four-member CRU majority that swept the 2022 election consisted of one Democrat and three Republicans. The 5th candidate on the CRU slate ran as unaffiliated with either party.

And fourth, Mikey, how is it that you claim a 2021 town survey, larded with push-poll questions and followed by cherry-picked CCA interpretation somehow trumps the 2022 General Election as the “wishes of the people?” Maybe you should ask someone for help in understanding how the democratic process works.

The most recent precedent for Charlestown’s current situation occurred in 2018.

After the 2016 election brought in an all-CCA Council, a vacancy opened up when Steve Williams resigned in January of 2018. The 6th place finisher was Democrat Robert Malin. In fact, Robert was the only candidate among the six running for Council who was not CCA-endorsed.

The argument was made that Robert should be chosen since he actually ran for the office.

CCA President Leo Mainelli disagreed, stating at the February 12, 2018 Council meeting that George Tremblay should be appointed even though he was not on the ballot. Those so-called independent remaining four CCA Councilors dutifully followed Leo's command.

As it turns out, had Robert been appointed to the vacancy, he would not have fulfilled his term, dying of cancer in June 2018. George Tremblay suffered a stroke one year into his appointed term but did finish it out but did not run for re-election in November of 2018.

How a municipality fills vacancies to elected office is a matter of law. Some towns, such as Richmond, say in their Town Charters that vacancies are filled by the next highest vote getter.

However, remember that the MAGA majority running Richmond decided not to follow that clear legal mandate when it selected a right-wing nut who didn’t even run to fill a Richmond vacancy on the Chariho School Committee. The state Supreme Court ruled the town had to follow its own Charter and booted the MAGA choice.

Charlestown leaves the decision on how to fill vacancies to the Council. That’s what the CCA said in 2018 when it chose Tremblay over Malin and that’s what the current CRU majority is saying now.

How you feel about that has everything to do with how you feel about who is running the Town Council.

Voters can decide this question if a Charter amendment question is put on the ballot. Maybe it’s time to settle that question, and I don’t mean by running some self-serving survey.

This article was first published on the Progressive Charlestown website and republished with permission.

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