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No surprise as Feeney chosen Hub city clerk

Council’s search sparked criticism

Councilor Feeney was interviewed by the City Council for the city clerk job at Boston City Hall last week.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Councilor Feeney was interviewed by the City Council for the city clerk job at Boston City Hall last week.

Boston City Council president Stephen J. Murphy lashed out at the media yesterday as he presided over the selection of Maureen E. Feeney as city clerk, handing the job to a close ally and former colleague who served on the council for 18 years.

The 10-1 vote for Feeney had been widely expected and came after almost no debate. One councilor, Tito Jackson, refused to vote because he objected to the swift seven-day search for candidates, saying that the council had “fallen short’’ of undertaking a full and transparent process.

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But the majority of councilors - Felix G. Arroyo, Mark Ciommo, John R. Connolly, Robert Consalvo, Salvatore LaMattina, Matt O’Malley, Ayanna Pressley, and Michael P. Ross - said nothing beyond verbalizing “Maureen Feeney,’’ when asked for their vote.

Councilor Bill Linehan, who said he proudly cast his vote for Feeney, added, “You shouldn’t be banned from being clerk if you are on the Boston City Council.’’ The remaining councilor, Charles C. Yancey, voted for another candidate, Natalie Carithers.

Yet it was Murphy who dominated the proceedings yesterday in the City Council chamber, describing Feeney as “far and above the most qualified candidate’’ for the position because she matched the job description almost to the letter. In fact, Murphy said, Feeney was the only one of the 26 people who applied for the clerk’s position who satisfied the job requirements.

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The media “resent the fact that the city charter gives us the authority’’ to choose a city clerk, Murphy told his colleagues. “They want the authority. And who elected them? Nobody.’’

Critics in the media and good-government organizations have accused the council of failing to conduct a substantive search for applicants, instead handing the job to one of its own. Murphy rejected that charge yesterday, noting repeatedly that the council has the sole authority to select the clerk. Murphy said he voluntarily opened up the process to public scrutiny, which marked a first in the city’s history.

“For 102 years, the City Council has elected the clerk,’’ Murphy said. “There was no search process, there was no screening process, there was no interview process.’’

Jackson took aim at Murphy’s contention that the council had long selected the clerk without a hint of a public process. “We live in a different day and age . . . 102 years ago some of us wouldn’t be in this chamber,’’ said Jackson, who is African-American.

Feeney will replace Rosaria Salerno, who is retiring Jan. 2 after holding the job since 1995. Three of the last four clerks, including Salerno, have served on the City Council.

The job pays roughly $102,000 a year but includes the potential to collect tens of thousands of dollars more officiating at weddings during the workday at City Hall. As a city councilor, Feeney was paid $87,500 a year.

“I’m very grateful and excited about this wonderful opportunity,’’ Feeney said yesterday in a telephone interview, adding that she watched the vote on television from home.

Feeney was first elected to the council in 1993 and represented a district that included much of Dorchester. She resigned Nov. 10 without first notifying her colleagues or the constituents she represented for nearly two decades.

State law required Feeney to be out of office for a minimum of 30 days to avoid any impression that she had an inside track on the job or used her elected office to influence the hiring process. Feeney was selected to be interviewed as a finalist for the job after she had been out of office for 28 days, but Murphy said council staff complied with the law because they waited another three days to contact her.

The city clerk oversees a staff of 14 and sells some licenses and permits, keeps official records, and acts as the parliamentarian for the City Council. At weekly council meetings, the clerk reads the docket aloud and announces roll call votes and other matters.

Murphy and Ross filed an ordinance that would curb the most controversial element of the job, barring the clerk from keeping wedding fees from ceremonies performed at City Hall. But it would still allow Feeney to collect fees for marriages solemnized during the lunch hour, after 5 p.m., or before 9 a.m.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.
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