-By Cary Shuman
First he lost his temper. Then he lost his pen, all while calling out his colleagues on the Town Council for their support of moving forward a reorganization proposal by the town manager.
But Town Councilor Nicholas DelVento has apologized for his “lack of decorum” at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Winthrop Town Council. Delvento slammed his pen to his notepad (the pen wound up on the floor in front of the table at which he was seated) after openly questioning the state of mind of his colleagues for their support of the proposal.
“I apologize to my fellow councilors for my lack of decorum,” said DelVento.
The outburst by the Precinct 3 councilor came during debate over the town manager’s proposal to reorganize the financial offices, MIS (management information systems) and building maintenance functions of the town and school departments.
“I was very frustrated that this proposal was being rushed through (the Council passed three separate consolidation measures in the reorganization plan by 6-3 margins) with no review,” said DelVento. “People are voting on things that they’ve never read in order to make a deadline.”
Interestingly, DelVento does support a consolidation of the town’s financial operations and some functions of different departments.
“I do support consolidation, but we need to do it right, not just set a deadline,” said DelVento. “[The town] of Barnstable took two years to negotiate it out. There are other cities that are looking at reorganization and they’ve hired consultants to help put the plan together properly. They’re looking at three to six months of work and we’re doing it in a couple of hours. This [Town Manager James McKenna’s] reorganization plan lacks a lot of pieces right now. We need to put a good plan in, not fix it after we vote it.”
Town Council President Jeffrey Turco said the incident at Tuesday’s meeting was “unfortunate.”
“Councilor DelVento raised some legitimate concerns but they got lost in the temper tantrum that he threw,” said Turco. “I think it was undignified and I think he realized that by then coming back and apologizing for the way he handled himself.”
The School Committee will vote on the reorganization plan at tonight’s meeting. If it passes, Turco said the town manager will be “very busy” in the next couple of weeks putting together an implementation plan for the consolidation proposals.
Town Manager James McKenna would then present a report to the Town Council at the April 26 meeting. The School Committee and the Citizens Finance Committee would also review the report.
“I’m excited about the plan,” said Turco. “I think we’re going to look back at this and consider this as big a decision as making kindergarten free for the working-class families of the town.”
Turco said there are a couple of reasons why the Council is acting expeditiously on the reorganization. One is that the School Department has been operating without a business manager following the resignation of Kevin Meagher.
“With Mr. Meagher having abruptly resigned in February, we need to provide clear guidance,” said Turco. “Are the financial operations of the schools going to remain leaderless or are they going to put under Mr. Bertino’s [Finance Director Michael Bertino] leadership? If we don’t move forward, then the School Department probably needs to hire someone on an interim basis.”
The second reason that Turco would like to see the passage of the plan is “the financial benefits of consolidation.”
Turco also feels the consolidation of town and school building maintenance functions is a good idea.
“The school buildings have serious maintenance issues that need to be addressed and this is an opportunity to hire someone whose sole job is to provide that leadership for not only the school district but the town buildings as well,” said Turco.