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Everett Mayor DeMaria takes a big hit in the wallet as City Council slashes his controversial bonus

“Longevity bonus” to be cut more than 95 percent

Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett during the grand opening of Encore Boston Harbor in 2019.Erin Clark for The Boston Globe

The Everett City Council Monday narrowly voted to drastically reduce Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s controversial longevity pay from $40,000 a year or more to the same amount paid to other senior city department heads: $1,700.

DeMaria, who has led this city of fewer than 50,000 residents since 2007, has become the state’s highest paid mayor during his tenure, earning $236,647 in 2020. A chunk of that income came from the longevity bonus critics said DeMaria received only because allies manipulated a vaguely worded city ordinance. His longevity bonus was scheduled to increase to $50,000 this year.

DeMaria, whose paycheck nearly tripled from 2015 to 2020, will continue to receive his $191,000 base salary, cost of living raises, and other perks including the slimmed down longevity bonus.

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DeMaria, who in November narrowly beat former councilor Fred Capone to win a sixth term, said he will abide by the decision of the council, which will take a second, final vote on Feb.14.

“I fully anticipated that the Everett City Council would take action on the longevity ordinance,” he said in a statement. ”I will follow the final language the Council adopts as I have complied with the original ordinance since 2016.”

The longevity pay issue emerged in last year’s mayor’s race — Capone and others argued that DeMaria and key city officials, including the city’s chief financial officer and solicitor, had improperly allowed DeMaria to collect $40,000 a year in bonuses when, according to a vaguely worded city ordinance, he should have been getting only $10,000 every four years.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Capone, referring to Monday’s vote. He warned that Monday’s 6 to 4 vote could still change at the final vote if councilors are pressured.

He argued the council should still demand that DeMaria repay $180,000 he already collected in allegedly inappropriate longevity payments. No councilor proposed repayment at Monday’s meeting.

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On Monday, DeMaria’s defenders said he deserves $40,000 or more because of all he’s done for the city — including helping to persuade Steve Wynn to clean up the contaminated site where the Encore Boston Harbor casino was eventually built.

“No one could do it,” said Councilor Alfred Lattanzi. “He did it. Not only did he do that, but he put a $2.6 billion casino down there, which is probably the biggest private project that’s ever been done in Massachusetts.

“I don’t think that the longevity payment of $40,000 year is much at all compared to what this guy has been doing,” Lattanzi said.

The council twice last year took up the longevity issue, but efforts to cut the payment failed.

This time, recently elected Councilor Stephanie Smith came up with a new idea: treat DeMaria the same as all other city employees. In Everett, employees with 10 years of service receive an $800-a-year bonus; those with 15 years receive $1,300, and those with 20 years collect $1,700.

Smith researched longevity payments that a few other Massachusetts mayors can collect if they have enough years of service and found the amounts were small and the same as those paid to other long-term employees. The highest — $1,350 a year — is paid to Brockton employees with at least 25 years of service, she said. Brockton’s mayor hasn’t served long enough to qualify, she said.

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“I don’t believe in longevity pay for any elected officials,” Smith told The Boston Globe. “The people continuing to vote you is your longevity. But if we want to give an elected official longevity, we should align it with how other cities do it.”

Councilor Michael Marchese urged the council to eliminate the mayor’s bonus entirely, but his motion was rejected.

“In a city where probably a third of the city is in poverty and probably not even making $40,000, $50,000 a year, I don’t think it’s in good taste for someone to get a bonus of $50,000 or $40,000 a year when you’re being compensated very well by the city of Everett to the tune of $190,000,” said Marchese.

DeMaria has long been a polarizing figure in this small city north of Boston. While he played a key role in attracting the casino to Everett, he has also been dogged by controversy.

Multiple women have accused him of harassment and city clerk Sergio Cornelio accused DeMaria of pressuring him for $97,000 in a real estate deal that DeMaria had not earned.

Through it all, DeMaria has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, insisting that Cornelio owed him the money.

Capone, who attended Monday’s meeting as a spectator, said he believes that since the election, residents have become more focused on city government.

“One of the many positive impacts of our recent mayoral campaign is that people are starting to pay attention to the workings of city hall and are beginning to hold their elected officials accountable,” he said. “That’s the cornerstone of good government.”

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Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.