Over the course of the last four years, Mayor Ken Cockayne has made several changes to the make-up of the committees on which City Council members serve. In doing so, he has made some curious and questionable decisions, especially in regard to the four major committees, Real Estate, Ordinance, Salary, and Building.
These are the four permanent committees for the Council, and it has been customary to give committee assignments out to all six of the sitting Council members, with the idea of sharing the workload equitably among them. It is a requirement that at least one member of the minority party, in this case the Democrats, must serve on each committee. Each councilperson is also a voting member of the permanent committees.
During this time, the mayor decided to take Democrats Mary Fortier and Calvin Brown off of consideration for any of these assignments, and instead placed the sole remaining Democrat, Dave Preleski, on all four of the committees. In fact, including all other committee assignments, Preleski now sits on fourteen committees altogether.
Mary Fortier has now served two terms on the City Council. She stated that both she and Councilman Brown served on two of the four Council Committees in their first year in office. In the second year, they were reduced to one assignment. And since the last election they have been eliminated from the Council Committees altogether. Fortier stated that after she and Brown voted against the reappointment of Diane Ferguson as Personnel Director in the Spring of 2017, she and Brown were removed from their final Council Committee assignment. They both continue to serve as non-voting liaisons on other committees.
The mayor’s reasons for the change were not offered at the time, but Councilman Brown is willing to offer his take on the mayor’s actions. “Mr. Cockayne is pretty infamous for taking out his anger on people he perceives to be his adversaries. In fact, the Council has unanimously censured him not just once but twice for retaliatory behavior, so that’s pretty much his modus operandi. Therefore, it is no surprise to me after being elected to a second term to find out that I had no standing Council Committee appointments. Still, I have tried to be supportive to the committees to which I was assigned.” Fortier agrees with Brown’s assessment that this is just one more example of the mayor’s treatment of political adversaries.
Questions to Consider
- Are Fortier and Brown being “punished” for their determined questioning of the mayor’s decisions and behaviors?
- Is there any other Council member who has been given the workload that Preleski now shoulders?
- Is this situation fair to anyone on the Democratic side?
- Do Cockayne’s fellow Republicans on the Council think this action was merited?
- Are the people of Bristol best served by this kind of decision making?
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