After weeks of delays and obfuscation by officials at Everett city hall, culminating with a report Wednesday morning in The Everett Stimulus about what was happening, municipal officials now say candidate for state representative Gerly Adrien will be allowed to have a booth at the city’s Independence Day celebration on July 7th.
The decision is a remarkable about-face for city hall administrators who just Tuesday told Adrien and The Everett Stimulus that she could not have a booth because the event is designed to be free of politics and campaigning. This despite the presence of state Rep. Joseph McGonagle who was announced as a participant from day one and whom Adrien is challenging.
The city’s legal division was brought into the situation when Assistant City Solicitor Keith Slattery cited an opinion from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) as giving the city the authority to keep Adrien out. He made it clear that the city was not required to keep her out, it was choosing to exclude her, and it may choose to let her (or any other candidate) participate in other community events. In other words, they make it up as they go along.
After a disturbing encounter Adrien had with a staff member in the city hall communications department Tuesday, The Everett Stimulus contacted the state Ethics Commission. A member of the legal department pointed to two sections of the law that would seem to require that any “similarly situated person” be allowed access to any privilege the state representative has. Being a ballot-qualified candidate, Adrien is a similarly situated person.
It’s reasonable to conclude that since he is in the middle of a reelection campaign, McGonagle having a vendor table is necessarily political and in the spirit of fairness other candidates should be allowed to participate. But no. They chose to play favorites with the candidate the vast major of city hall officials support—McGonagle.
That was Tuesday.
After The Everett Stimulus column appeared Wednesday, city hall quickly reversed course, told Adrien she could have a booth and completely changed its story.
Adrien says she received a call from city communications director Tom Philbin who claimed she shouldn’t have been told she couldn’t have a booth, only that there could be no campaigning at one. It may be the case that Philbin never told her she couldn’t have a vendor table but an assistant in his office, Andrew Napolitano, did exactly that and did so in an intimidating manner (and why was legal brought in?). All of this was weeks in the making since Adrien first started her attempt to get a fair shake.
At no time was Adrien told she could have a booth as long as she refrained from campaign activity. She was told simply that she could not have a booth.
Adrien was told she could do things like pass out ice cream, patriotic material and the like at her table, just not campaign material. If that is the case for McGonagle as well, there is no problem and no need to pursue the matter with the ethics commission (although it is already aware of the entire situation).
What’s the takeaway from the whole episode? If you represent the city, you represent all its residents. Some people in power in Everett are used to doing anything they want, in any manner they want, and they don’t know what to do when they are called on it.
McGonagle has already shown himself to be a bully of worst sort—and an inaccessible bully at that. Communications assistant Napolitano never should have intervened with Adrien to tell her she couldn’t have a vendor table and that the city had the legal authority to keep her out. He isn’t even the person handling the event.
Most importantly, if the city treated everyone fairly, there wouldn’t have been a problem to begin with.