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Councilors blame schedule change for missing speech

9Left to right) City Councilor Mark Ciommo of Brighton, Council President Stephen J. Murphy, and Councilor Bill Linehan of South Boston missed Mayor Menino’s State of the City speech.

Globe Staff

(Left to right) City Councilor Mark Ciommo of Brighton, Council President Stephen J. Murphy, and Councilor Bill Linehan of South Boston missed Mayor Menino’s State of the City speech.

The ranks of Boston’s City Council looked surprisingly scant Tuesday, occupying just 10 chairs in Faneuil Hall’s front row as Mayor Thomas M. Menino delivered his State of the City address.

Three city councilors skipped the speech, which was attended by the governor, a US senator, a congressman, the state Senate president, the state’s House speaker, and roughly 850 other elected officials and guests.

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The missing councilors, it turned out, had decamped for winter vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Council President Stephen J. Murphy owns a condominium. Reached yesterday by cellphone, after a day on the beach and a $9.99 meatloaf special at Bahia Cabana, Murphy discussed his absence.

“The mayor changed the date of the speech after I had made reservations,’’ said Murphy, explaining that he purchased his flight in November anticipating the speech would be delivered Jan. 10. But the New Hampshire primary fell on that date, so Menino pushed back his address to avoid a media conflict.

Murphy declined to discuss the whereabouts of his missing colleagues, but agreed to hand his cellphone to the person next to him. That turned out to be Councilor Bill Linehan of South Boston. “It’s expensive to change flights,’’ Linehan said. “It was as simple as that. We were not trying to not attend or disrespect the speech.’’

Linehan then handed the phone to the third member of the Florida caucus, Councilor Mark Ciommo of Brighton, who recounted one of the significant announcements Menino made.

“School assignment,’’ Ciommo said. “Big story.’’

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