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Everett officials step down after being criticized for racist and offensive behavior

Councilor Anthony DiPierro, during an Everett City Council meeting in March.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/file

After more than two months of tumult in the city of Everett, a city councilor and the mayor’s communications director resigned on Monday, following the public disclosures of private messages and exchanges involving racist and racially offensive language.

In a belated action that Mayor Carlo DeMaria said was necessary to move the diverse city forward, his communications director Deanna Deveney and his cousin, district City Councilor Anthony DiPierro, both stepped down, effective immediately, hours before a planned rally against racism outside City Hall.

Insulted and angered by the release of several DiPierro text messages using the N-word, residents have been showing up at public meetings since March, unsuccessfully demanding DiPierro’s resignation and pleading with his fellow councilors to formally admonish him. DiPierro apologized and had a nearly identical resignation letter drafted 10 weeks ago, but instead held on and tried to ride out the public criticism.

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The controversy swelled further last week with the release of a Zoom video that showed Deveney asking DiPierro to recruit “one of your dark friends” for a political event, apparently to provide cover against claims of racism amid the racial reckoning of 2020.

“I don’t have a lot of those friends, I’m just saying,” DiPierro responded.

“No problem, we’ll find one,” Deveney responded, in an exchange recounted in a recent Globe article.

The video was apparently shot without the participants’ knowledge. A whistleblower who presented it to the city was immediately warned they could be prosecuted for violating the state’s wiretap statute. The city’s outside counsel advised that no disciplinary action could be taken because of the way the video was obtained.

The decision changed after the video was posted on Facebook, described in the Globe, and circulated among citizens who erupted in disgust.

On Monday, some 1,800 Everett High School students walked out of school for a lunchtime protest — right around the same time that the city announced the resignations. In the evening, about 100 people gathered for a rally against hate outside City Hall holding signs with messages like, “City Hall is a Cesspool,” “Silence is Complicity,” and “Do you Hear Us Now?” A diverse array of speakers denounced discrimination and asked their leaders to do better.

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“Everett’s diversity is our strength,” said Abby Medilme, 16. “We have to be held accountable for our actions and call out discrimination when we see it.”

The episode marked a turning point for the gateway city, whose population is now minority-white, but whose government is dominated by a close-knit cadre of old-school white officials.

DiPierro, a 27-year-old son of the mayor’s cousin, became council president immediately after he was elected to his first term at 22. He was seen as a protégé and possible successor to DeMaria, who has held the office for 15 years.

DiPierro’s resignation also marked the first political casualty of an internecine legal battle between the mayor and City Clerk Sergio Cornelio, who have traded accusations in Middlesex Superior Court over a private real estate deal gone wrong. Cornelio accused the mayor of extorting an unearned $97,000 from him. The mayor sued him and the Everett Leader Herald newspaper for defamation. Private text messages between various city players in the dispute have been unearthed as evidence in the case and wielded for maximum public impact.

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The mayor and other city officials had bristled at the revelations against DiPierro, quietly blaming Cornelio and dirty politics for the scandal. At an April 25 meeting that was disrupted by a hostile public numerous times, DiPierro was heard lambasting Cornelio, calling him a “scumbag.”

On Monday, DiPierro posted a message on social media taking responsibility for his actions, but also urging “others who participated in this hurtful, insensitive banter, to also do the right thing and step down from their positions in city government.”

“My actions have clearly hurt a city that I love, and am proud to call home,” he wrote.

“I am committed to being better,” DiPierro wrote. “I will diligently educate and sensitize myself to the diversity and inclusion of all people, so that I will truly learn and grow from this sad experience.”

DiPierro is expected to be replaced on the council by Darren Costa, the candidate who unsuccessfully challenged him in November. Costa has been among the residents making impassioned pleas asking the council to censure DiPierro, likening their tolerance of racist language to acceptance of white supremacy.

“To remain silent is the equivalent of aiding and abetting racist behavior,” Costa said at one recent public meeting. “How can our diverse community rely on you to have their best interests in mind? You cannot have biases against a group of people you claim to champion.”

Cathy Draine, the city’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, said the city wanted to take action but had to follow proper protocols.

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“We heard the calls and the cries for change,” Draine said, pointing to the sustained protest coming from the community.

“This a reminder of the importance of civic engagement,” she said. “The young people have spoken. They have made themselves very clear about their expectations and it’s up to us, the adults, to rise to the occasion.”

The Globe learned in early April that Deveney went on leave a few days after a whistleblower reported the video, but she returned to City Hall in the intervening weeks. The Globe subsequently reported last week that this was not the first complaint about Deveney: A Haitian-American co-worker in the press office had raised issues about racial sensitivity with the city’s human resources department in 2020, but said the only thing that changed was Deveney’s job status: The mayor made Deveney her supervisor.


Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.