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Malden council deadlocks over treasurer pick

Neil Kinnon resigned from the Malden City Council in June before applying for the treasurer job.

Questions of politics and personality loomed over Malden’s City Council Wednesday night, when members deadlocked on whether to hire as treasurer a former city councilor known to engage in controversial public spats.

After reaching a 5-5 impasse, councilors decided to hold off on naming their pick following a second round of interviews with three finalists, which narrowed the field to former councilor Neil Kinnon and former MBTA CFO Jonathan Davis.

Unless one or more councilors change their votes, it will be whoever succeeds Kinnon as Ward 6 councilor in the Nov. 7 election — David Camell or Jerry Leone — who breaks the tie when the next deliberation is held. Kinnon resigned from the council in June before applying for the treasurer job.

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The new Ward 6 councilor will be sworn in on Nov. 8, and the City Council scheduled its next vote on who will become treasurer for Nov. 14.

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“This is probably, by far, the most difficult decision I’ve had to make on this council,” Councilor Jadeane Sica, who voted for Kinnon, said near the end of the 4½-hour meeting. “I’ve lost sleep over this.”

The city has been looking for a treasurer who could possibly be promoted to CFO since May, when former treasurer Mark Good left Malden for a job as collector/treasurer in Norwood.

The salary ranges offered by the city are $120,394 to $132,903 for CFO/treasurer, and $85,475 to $111,638 for treasurer/collector, according to Malden’s Human Resources department.

When interviewing Kinnon, the director of Financial Systems North America at the records management company Iron Mountain and chairman of the board of trustees at the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, several councilors brought up Kinnon’s penchant for controversial positions on social issues, citing conversations and letters from constituents.

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Mystic Valley – located in Malden — drew international attention in May because of the school’s policy that punished primarily African-American students for wearing hair braid extensions. The board of trustees suspended the policy after Attorney General Maura Healey said it was discriminatory.

During his interview, Kinnon said his opposition to multiculturalism has been misunderstood in Malden, a city where more than half the 60,000 residents speak a language other than English at home, according to the latest US Census estimates.

Among other concerns was the possible perception of impropriety in hiring a recent council member to the treasurer position. Councilor Neal Anderson, who voted for Davis, said he found it “troubling” that Kinnon was involved in discussions over what qualifications should be sought in treasurer candidates.

State ethics law allow former elected officials to be considered for municipal positions 30 days after leaving an elected position.

“I find it inappropriate for someone on the council to be getting off the council and getting into a position like this so close to that period of time,” Anderson told Kinnon during his interview.

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But those who favored Kinnon expressed confidence in him as a numbers guy who, as a Malden native who served a decade on the City Council, knows the job and the city.

During deliberations, Councilor Craig Spadafora, who voted for Kinnon, read an e-mail from a resident who referenced Kinnon’s work on road projects and work on parks and open space, and vouched for his character and abilities.

“While I don’t agree with his ideology all the time, I do agree with his numbers,” Spadafora said. “I am not hiring Neil to be a guidance councilor, I’m voting for him to be the city treasurer, and he — I honestly believe — would do a damn good job.”

Davis, who lives in Medford, previously worked for the MBTA in positions including deputy general manager, CFO, and acting general manager. During his interview, he described himself as a hands-on manager at the T.

Kinnon received votes from councilors Paul Condon, David D’Arcangelo, Barbara Murphy, Sica, and Spadafora. Davis was chosen by Ryan O’Malley, John Matheson, Debbie DeMaria, Peg Crowe, the council president, and Anderson.

A third finalist, mutual funds manager Daniel Grover, also was given a second interview for the position Wednesday, but was eliminated after the council’s initial round of deliberations. Another finalist, Somerville Treasurer-Collector Michael Bertino, dropped out before the final round of interviews.

Jonathan Davis is the former deputy general manager, CFO, and acting general manager at the MBTA.

Sean Teehan can be reached at spteehan@gmail.com.