The Finance Committee, comprised of the entire membership of the City Council, conducted a public meeting on June 11, 2012 at 9:20 A.M. in the Sullivan Chamber.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss an appropriation of $11,917,462 from Free Cash to the General Fund Law Department Travel and Training (Judgment and Damages) account which appeared as Agenda Item Number Fifteen of April 23, 2012 and was referred to the Finance Committee (ATTACHMENT A).
Present at the meeting were Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, Chair of the Committee, Councillor Minka vanBeuzekom, Councillor David P. Maher, Councillor Leland Cheung, Vice Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Mayor Henrietta Davis, Robert W. Healy, City Manager, Richard Rossi, Deputy City Manager, Louis DePasquale, Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs, David Kale, Budget Director and Interim City Clerk Donna P. Lopez.
Also present were Jim Laupen, Heather Hoffman, 213 Hurley Street, Elie Yarden, 143 Pleasant Street, Richard Cleary, 15 Brookford Street, Bob Winters, 366 Broadway, Michael Brandon, 27 Seven Pines Avenue,
Councillor Decker opened the meeting and explained the purpose.
Councillor Decker opened public comment at 9:21 AM.
Elie Yarden, 143 Pleasant Street stated that this is difficult; he is not here to criticize the City Manager. It is the responsibility of the City Council as elected officials. He feels that this is dereliction of duty by the City Council. The City Council is charged with the responsibility to establish policy and to oversee the City Manager and to make constructive criticism of the City Manager. He stated that he has never seen any constructive criticism by the City Council.
Richard Cleary, 15 Brookford Street, recalled the events of the Monteiro case from 1998 to the present.
Councillor Decker closed public comment at 9:30 AM.
At this time Councillor Decker asked the City Manager for his comment on the topic of the meeting.
City Manager Healy commented on the financial matter. The question is for an appropriation from available free cash in the amount of $11,917,462 to the judgment and damages account which is one of the two accounts that the city can overdraft. The other account is the snow removal account. If by June 30, 2012 this account is not zeroed out the funds must come from the next year's budget. This is not in best interest for the city. He is requesting funds from free cash which will be replenished when the books are closed. This is a balancing of the books and a fiduciary responsibility. It is his hope that the Finance Committee will refer the matter to the full City Council for approval.
Councillor vanBeuzekom commented on a letter from City Solicitor Drisdell that listed the total amount in excess of $8 million for the litigation. She assumed that the balance of $3.8 million is the legal expense. She asked if it was possible to get an update to the December 19, 1998 letter with how the money was spent. Mr. Healy replied that the $11,917,462 is the total amount paid to 3 of the 5 plaintiffs of the 1998 case. The City attorneys have been paid from the Salaries and Wages Account for the Law Department for the last fourteen fiscal years. This amount covers all of the expense for the case. This is the amount paid to plaintiffs' attorneys. Councillor vanBeuzekom stated that in the letter dated December 19, 1998 from Mr. Drisdell it lists the total amount of the City's legal expense. She is asking for an update to add the amount paid. Mr. Healy stated that there is no update. The amount requested is what has been paid by the City in the litigation filed by Monteiro, Stamper and Wong. Councillor vanBuezkom commented there is no breakdown of the interest. Mr. Healy stated that is correct. He again stated that the requested appropriation is the total expense.
Councillor Cheung asked if there will be any other meetings on the $.8 million. Mr. Healy responded that this is the total amount that has been paid out. There will be no further discussions on this. Councillor Cheung stated that it is unfortunate that this has to be paid, but the public has requested that this case be closed.
Councillor Decker stated that she is in receipt a communication from Councillor Kelley who is unable to attend the meeting due to a family commitment. She read his communication into the record (ATTACHMENT B). In his communication Councillor Kelley has a list of questions and is submitted a proposed order. She commented that she would suggest to Councillor Kelley that he submit the order to the City Council separately.
Mayor Davis commented that she is satisfied that this is the most fiscally responsible way to deal with the Monteiro case and close the books on this for this fiscal year.
Vice Mayor Simmons commented that that there is a great deal of public interest in this matter? It is important that this is behind us.
Councillor Kelley in his communication had a list of seven questions. Councillor Decker requested that the answers to the questions be included in this report. The responses to the questions are attached (ATTACHMENT C).
Councillor Decker asked is there any pending litigation. Mr. Healy responded that he is unable to comment on pending litigation. Councillor Decker stated that this was a difficult case.
Councillor vanBeuzekom asked Mr. Healy what policies and procedures are in place to prevent this in the future. Mr. Healy responded that there are personnel policies in place. This is why there is insurance in place; there is no way to prevent anyone from filing an action. There are just no guarantees. Cambridge is a professional operating City with professional departmental managers. This is an aberration. Councillor vanBeuzekom asked if there are any new things in place to prevent or minimize this type of litigation. Mr. Healy responded in the negative. Councillor vanBeuzekom asked if the City Manager could respond yes or no about the question of whether there is any pending litigation. Mr. Healy responded that yes there are always pending litigation.
At 9:50 AM Councillor Decker again opened the meeting to public comment.
Heather Hoffman, 213 Hurley Street, stated that it is understandable that the only other account that can be over drafted is the snow and ice account. She stated that she was intrigued that settling a law suit is in the same category. She felt these issues should be brought before the City Council for discussion. As for prudent management these cases show the pitfalls with people making a decision on spending money when they are personally involved. This is a change that might be good change. She spoke about another law suit in the newspaper regarding police treatment of a doctor.
Lawrence Atkins stated that it is troubling that something of this nature has occurred. Our process has not moved into modern times. There needs to be a filtering system to get back to work. There should be an independent action that allows the elected official to take action in situations like this. He is hopeful to change the action and it cannot be left in the hands of an individual. This is a responsibility of the City Council and to make changes as to how the business of the City is done. In the private sector this would not occur. This fell on the residents of Cambridge.
Michael Brandon, 27 Seven Pines Avenue, stated he was glad for the hearing, but disappointed that there has been no public process to address the issues. Only discussion has been on the financial aspects. He requested that there be a televised public hearing in the evening to address the financial impact, the reputation of Cambridge, how managed and what are the values it represents. He spoke about the secrecy of settlements and executive sessions. The public had no information except what came from the court. He does not feel that there has been any change by the City Manager. The City Council has not addressed the violations of this case. The people of Cambridge have paid the penalty. There has not been any punishment of the violators of this case. He further asked the City Manager fiscal law covers the judgment and damages account. He asked if these costs could have been paid early on. He further requested all executive session minutes released unredacted. He asked under public records law that these be released. He requested that Councillor Kelley's order in his letter be discussed now to get an apology or to censor the City Manager.
At this time Councillor Maher made a motion to forward favorably to the City Council the appropriation of $11,917,462 from free cash to the General Fund Law Department Travel and Training (Judgment and Damages) account.
The motion -
Carried on a voice vote.
Councillor Decker thanked all attendees.
The meeting adjourned at 10:10 AM.
For the Committee,
Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, Chair