Fiorentini Seeks Public Input on Filling School, Council Vacancies

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini is asking for public input on his proposal for a city charter change to clearly define how to fill a vacant city council or school committee seat.

Fiorentini’s latest e-newsletter, released Wednesday afternoon, asks recipients to use an online survey to say if they agree vacancies should be filled automatically by “a viable runner up.” He points to Methuen’s city charter, which defines “a viable runner up as one who received 30 percent or more of the vote in the most recent election.” The survey comes one week after Shaun P. Toohey was appointed back to the school committee to fill the remaining two years for a seat vacated last month by City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua. WHAV first reported Fiorentini’s charter change suggestion Feb. 1.

“The city of Haverhill just went through a long and very contentious process of filling a vacant seat on the school committee. Under our charter, vacant school committee seats are filled by a joint meeting of the city council and the school committee,” Fiorentini said. “Should a viable runner up automatically get the vacant position, or should the remaining members of the city council and school committee be able to pick whoever they want?”

Toohey was appointed Feb. 2 to the vacant school committee seat in an 8 to 7 vote over former School Committeeman Raymond J. Sierpina. Lurking behind the scenes during last week’s vote, some now speculate, was whether opponents of Superintendent of Schools James F. Scully could secure enough school committee votes to oust him.

“Historically, whenever the vacant seat has been filled, it has been filled by the runner up from the most recent election, usually without any fanfare or much debate,” Fiorentini added. Toohey was runner-up in last November’s school committee race, finishing fourth for three available seats. Sierpina was next runner-up from the 2013 election when Bevilacqua was re-elected to the school committee.

11 thoughts on “Fiorentini Seeks Public Input on Filling School, Council Vacancies

  1. This is idiotic. If the next in line is some clown who had zip support, ran well behind the field, and is unqualified he should not automatically be in in line. unless it’s some dead guy and the spouse is available.

    Haverhill takes the easy way out, where our hapless pols don’t have to take a stand. Council president is automatically given to the top voter recipient rather than forcing councilors to actually have to get the support of a majority of their colleagues. Council president is a ceremonial post in Haverhill and as a result there is no leadership from the council on anything, anytime.

    When there is a vacancy, don’t automatically go for someone who the voters rejected, call for candidates and pick the best one.

    And just who is the mayor trying to fool? He’s doing this for political cover, since the next four on the list for council are former councilors; he can say he supports putting one of the good ole boys rejected by the voters back on the council if the opportunity presents itself.

    • Most people do not realize that Toohey may have been runner up this past election, BUT, Bevilaqua was elected THE ELECTION BEFORE ! and in THAT election, Serpina was the next highest vote getter. So this whole process was corrupted by inaccurate info. If the PEOPLE were screaming for the NEXT highest vote getter, then they picked the wrong person. Pay attention !

    • There is no rule. The “tradition” is what’s broken. We rejected Hart. We rejected Ryan. Why should losing an election guarantee them a seat just because somebody dies?

  2. Forgot about that one! Good point. We don’t want any elected official to have a choice with respect to two elected positions. The rule of law should be that if one is a candidate for a new position and elected to that position, he/she resigns from the old position because It is impossible to give full attention to both.

    If the voters knew Bevilacqua was going to renege on his promise to leave the school committee, I doubt that he would have been elected to the City Council.

  3. What does the charter say about a current elected official running for, and holding another elected position?
    Does it grant that person the ability to hold both seats? If so, that needs to be changed immediately. The charter needs to force someone currently holding elected office to make a definitive decision to what job they are interested in “in advance” of running for that second elected position. No one should have the ability to hold their current position as a fall back job in the event they don’t get elected to the second position….and they should NOT have the ability to hold two elected positions simultaneously…..all of this which Bevilacqua did.

    Willy Lantigua Bevilacqua totally messed up this election…all of which could have been completely avoidable had these simple rules been in place.

  4. Why have an election if the will of the voters is going to be discarded so that a “friend of those in power” can be chosen to fill the vacancy.

    Still seems to me that Mr. Mayor is asking for the blessing of the voters in order to do what he wants to do — which is to pack the council or school committee with whomever he and they want. This voter says it is a betrayal of the voting system if the council and/or school committee members just choose whomever they want. Phooey on that one. Rich’s comment is “right on.”

    • Um, no, there is no rule. The winner is the person who gets the most votes from the appointing authority. Haverhill pols don’t have the guts to do anything other than cast an an automatic ballot for the next name on the list