Aldermen Notes: O’Brien bypassed

by Tom Nash on December 21, 2010

The Board of Aldermen held its last meeting of 2010 on Thursday, Dec. 16, where debate ranged from where in Ireland Somerville should look for a new sister city to the bypass of firefighter candidate Sean O’Brien.

O’Brien candidacy debated

Six candidates received approval to be placed on the city’s reserve firefighter list after concerns from Aldermen-at-Large Bill White and Ward 6 Aldermen Rebekah Gewirtz over the bypass of candidate Sean O’Brien were dismissed.

Both aldermen said the board should not vote on the appointments without knowing why O’Brien, a disabled Iraq veteran who was ordered placed for a second time at the top of the state-certified eligible list of candidates after being bypassed earlier this year, was not among them.

O’Brien’s candidacy has been fraught with controversy since he filed an appeal to his first bypass earlier this year. While he received a second chance to be placed at No. 1 by the state in September, some have asked  if accusations about the hiring process made during the proceedings made O’Brien politically undesirable and others put in the spotlight unfairly.

“We don’t know the reasons that he’s been bypassed,” White said. “We’re taking this guys dream away from him, and it’s really affecting me.”

White’s move to keep the group of firefighter candidates in committee did not receive approval from the rest of the board, with only Gewirtz and Alderman-at-Large Bruce Desmond joining him in voting to take on the issue.

“What about these people and their families?” Confirmation of Appointments Chair Bob Trane asked before that vote. “This is wrong, wrong, wrong … We’re not going to punish them because someone else made some accusations.”

While White said he was satisfied he had exhausted his options and would vote for the appointments, Gewirtz ultimately voted against them even after assurances from Director of Personnel Jessie Baker and Mayor Joe Curtatone that the process had been fair.

“I am very concerned that it may be the case that politics were at play here,” Gewirtz said.

O’Brien’s father-in-law, Andrew Puglia, who has handled his case before the state Human Resources Department, said a request for the state to overturn O’Brien’s bypass has been filed.

Police leadership receives recognition

Acting Somerville Police Chief Mike Cabral and deputy chiefs Chris Femino and Paul Upton were lauded by the board for their service to the city in a time of transition from one chief to the next.

Several aldermen noted they wished Cabral had been given the position instead of incoming chief Thomas Pasquarello, who has not finished exiting the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and has not been officially appointed. Cabral, however, expressed no regrets about how the mayor’s decision.

“This department is looking forward to his leadership,” Cabral said. “As difficult as it might be for me to say, we are looking forward to it.”

Irish sister city sought

Alderman-at-Large Jack Connolly pressed the mayor on why he  has yet to choose a sister city from Ireland, prompting a lengthy exchange between board members over which city might fit the bill.

“I’m proud to have an Italian solve Ireland’s problem in Somerville,” Curtatone said of Connolly’s resolution, adding, “Let’s get it done guys. I’m waiting to go over.”

A special committee will be formed to forge an agreement on which town to pick, a process Ward 5 Alderman Sean O’Donovan joked could “take 10 years.”

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