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October 2, 2012

Methuen City Council votes on rules for acting mayor

METHUEN — City councilors last night voted to streamline the process of selecting an acting mayor if the city’s top executive cannot perform his duties.

The council voted 8-1 last night to approve a resolution filed by Councilor Jamie Atkinson to have the City Council chairman serve as the city’s acting mayor in the absence of the mayor. The resolution will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

The city charter already states that one of the city councilors is to be appointed by the council as acting mayor if the mayor cannot perform his duties for three consecutive businesses days, but the resolution voted on last night specifically states that it will be the chairman to fill in.

Atkinson proposed the resolution after a discussion at the last council meeting about Mayor Stephen Zanni being on vacation. Councilors said the mayor left the city for Florida on a Thursday and returned the following Thursday.

“The intent was the simplify the process of appointing an interim mayor if something arises,” Atkinson said.

Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo voted against the proposal.

“I can’t believe we are spending as much time discussing something that I think is frivolous, it is redundant, it is already in our charter,” she said.

The discussion sparked fireworks at the meeting over comments Pappalardo made about the proposal earlier in the morning on a cable access television show that she hosts.

Atkinson did not describe what was said on the show during the meeting, but called her comments “disrespectful and rude.”

Chairwoman Jennifer Kannan said she agreed with Atkinson’s intent and the resolution would help clarify the charter. “This is about procedure, not politics,” she said.

Council Michael Condon said the board votes to put its faith in the chairman and it makes sense to have them fill in as acting mayor if needed.

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