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Braintree

Often-absent councilor vows to stay

Despite calls from some of his colleagues to resign, a Braintree town councilor who has missed half of the panel’s meetings since November says he will not step down.

Councilor Ron DeNapoli has attended only 17 of 35 posted meetings, skipping five months of Town Council meetings, according to council records.

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But in an interview Wednesday morning, the 53-year-old maintained he remains involved in the town and wants to stay.

“Hopefully I’m feeling better right now, so the issue is a moot point,” he said. “God willing . . . it’s up to the man upstairs, and that’s not the mayor.”

DeNapoli has said that he has been absent mainly while dealing with health problems.

But several councilors say DeNapoli should step down from the elected position, which pays $5,000 per year.

“I think it’s a disgrace,” said Councilor Paul “Dan” Clifford about his colleague’s attendance record. “I wish he gets well, but he should do the honorable thing: step down and let the seat be filled by those who want to work for the town.”

Clifford said that he believes DeNapoli has been spending time out of state, and that he is concerned for DeNapoli’s District 5 constituents.

“As a councilman, you know you get calls regularly. I can’t tell you the number of calls we’ve all received, especially over the winter,” Clifford said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that people want to get in touch with him and have not been able to.”

Others on the nine-member council, who were all reelected in 2011 and will be up for reelection in November, agree DeNapoli has been unable to do his job.

“If Ron was truly sick, I feel bad for him, but I think the council is going to have to take a look at what their rules are and are going to have to do investigations in the future,” said Councilor John Mullaney.

Mullaney has been critical of DeNapoli’s absences since earlier in the term, when the councilor had been present only 77 percent of the time (14 out of 18 meetings). First elected in 2008, DeNapoli had the council’s worst attendance record for some time.

“I would only say that in the last election, the residents and voters were well aware that he was more absent than any other councilor, and they still elected him,” Mullaney said. “The voters knew what they were going to get and got it. Except he is worse this time than he was the last.”

Sean Powers and Leland Dingee, both councilors at large, said the larger issue is whether DeNapoli is living up to voters’ expectations.

“If I was in his shoes, a lot of people put their trust in me by voting for me and if I couldn’t, 50 percent of the time, couldn’t work for them, I’d have to give up the seat,” Dingee said.

DeNapoli declined to go into detail about his illness, only saying that it is serious and involves a heart problem.

The father of seven, who lives with his parents on Andrea Drive, admitted he had spent time out of town in the five months he had been absent from meetings, but said it was only for two weeks and under doctor’s orders “to try to de-stress.”

He said the councilors at large have been handling his constituents while he’s been away, and he’s relayed any resident concerns to the council via e-mail.

“Of course my attendance is a concern. I try my best to get to every meeting, but I have seven children, elderly parents, and especially, let’s say, teenage children,” he said. “I like being at their events, and trying to be a good dad.”

He said he plans at this point on finishing out the term, but doesn’t plan on running for another.

Should DeNapoli resign within the first 18 months of his term, or before July 1, the candidate with the next-most votes in the last election — William Sweeney — would take over.

Sweeney, who is Braintree’s former town manager, said he is prepared to run when the seat opens, and said he could do the job better.

“We need to be represented up there,” Sweeney said. “If he’s capable, he ought to do it. If not, he ought to step aside.”

Should DeNapoli resign after July 1, the seat would remain vacant for the term.

While half the councilors criticized DeNapoli for his repeated poor attendance, others gave him more leeway.

“It’s unfortunate. We’d like to have every member here at every meeting, but once again if someone has a medical issue, I think their privacy is above all the most important,” said council president Chuck Kokoros.

Both Councilor Henry Joyce and Councilor Tom Bowes said they sympathized with DeNapoli. Bowes had the second-worst attendance — making 28 of 35 meetings — and said a new job required him to travel.

Councilor Charles Ryan said that, if anything, DeNapoli will have to answer to his constituents.

“I think the ultimate oversight is whether people get elected or reelected to the council, and we’re ultimately accountable to the residents of Braintree,” Ryan said.

The mayor’s office declined to comment.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com.
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