The troubling fact is that the six councilors’ recent action would appear to violate the spirit and intent of the Plan E form of government — and sets some dangerous precedents going forward. Simply restoring funding for the position, then, while a necessary step, would not seem to be a fully adequate remedy.One of my least favorite things about politics is the fact that it makes a lot of very good people risk-averse. Not many people choose to wade in hot waters, because what's in it for them? That's how the thinking goes, even when the issues are front and center, imperative to government and society. Being risk-averse may help someone get elected, but it doesn't always help government run effectively. It doesn't help make what's right become what happens. It's often how good policy dies.
In this regard, Massachusetts General Law chapter 43, section 107 provides that neither the City Council nor any of its members “shall direct or request … or in any way take part in” the removal of any person in that portion of the city government for whose administration the city manager is responsible. The framers of this law thought this check and balance was so important that there are serious penalties for a violation of the statute, including fines, prison time, removal from office, and even making the elected official permanently ineligible for “any office or position, elective or otherwise, in the service of the city.”
To condone the action of the six councilors here is to set a dangerous precedent. If they can “de-fund” the manager’s assistant this year, maybe next year they will de-fund the city’s CFO or the DPD director or whoever else is not to their liking. In addition, if they can appropriate the manager’s authority with respect to personnel, what will stop them from unduly interfering with his duties and responsibilities in other respects?
Eileen Donoghue should be credited for standing up for what's right, for acting like the grown-up in a room full of kids -- and for having political fortitude aplenty. We need more Eileen Donoghues.
She's also a very talented politician, smart and competent. For those who don't remember, she was about a week or two away from winning Nicki Tsongas's seat, a seat Tsongas almost embarrassingly lost to an inept Republican, a narrowly-missed national embarrassment. I didn't know much about Donoghue back then; I'm glad I know more now.
In fact, I wish I had the chance to vote for Donoghue for something... like, say, State Treasurer. Hmm? After years of Cahill's gross incompetence, maybe we could use someone like a Donoghue -- someone who's not a Beacon Hill insider, someone with talent, intelligence, drive... and ethics. Oodles and oodles of ethics. Eileen?