Amid an ongoing debate over the status of Fall River City Council President Cliff Ponte, who is for an acting mayor-in-waiting pending the outcome of potential court proceedings, did not run the executive session of the nine-member council Wednesday night.
The remaining eight councilors were made available to discuss with Attorney Lauren Goldberg of Boston-based K.P Law to discuss strategy regarding a lawsuit after a decision earlier this month to invoke Article 3 Section 3-8 of the city charter regarding the temporary removal of the mayor.
Councilor Steve Camara questioned the status of Ponte within the council in a back-and-forth with Vice President Pam LaLiberte-Lebeau.
"At our last meeting when we took the vote to ask the mayor to step aside temporarily making the council president acting mayor therefore, he is not able to participate or vote in a council meeting," the council vice president claimed.
"So, is he no longer a member of the council?” Camara asked.
LaLiberte-Lebeau responded. "Temporarily, according to the charter."
Camara then sought the advice of the City Clerk, Allison Bouchard.
"Isn't there a provision in the charter that if one of the members of the council vacate the council that the next council in order of finish in the most previous election would then rise to the position of councilor?"
Bouchard responded leading to this exchange between the two.
"The president has not vacated his seat at this time."
"If he hasn’t vacated his seat, why isn't he presiding?"
"This is on a temporary basis that he is not participating in this meeting."
Councilor Shawn Cadime to clarify read from the portion of the charter regarding the issues under discussion.
"Obviously, this council voted at the last meeting to adopt section 3-8 which is the temporary absence of the mayor. We are essentially giving the temporary acting power to the council president. Section 3-8b specifically states and gives all pf the duties of the acting mayor including everything he can or cannot do.”
He continued. “In particular, it speaks to the fact that he has not vacated his seat as city council but the president or any other member serving as acting mayor pursuant to section 3-8c shall not act as member of the city council."
Cadime went on to explain the charter language regarding the status of the council president.
"Clearly, we've enacted section 3-8a and according to 3-8b, the city council president cannot act a member of the council, but he has not vacated it,” he said. “It's not an open position. He is still a member of the council. He doesn't have any voting rights until he relinquishes the acting mayor roll."
The Fall River Mayor and the City Council could be on a collision course that would be settled in a local court of law at some point this Fall over the interpretation of Article 3 Section 3-8.