For some time, complaints about a culture of racist behavior in Everett city government were brushed aside by the city’s old-guard power elite.
Now, they could become the subject of federal prosecution.
US Attorney Rachael Rollins notified Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria this week that she has launched an investigation of possible civil rights violations in city government. The probe comes in the wake of months of well-documented racist comments and behaviors that have roiled the insular city of 49,000. A city councilor — who is a relative of the mayor’s — and the mayor’s communications director both recently resigned, after coming under fire for racist comments.
The investigation comes as allegations of racism have placed Everett under a spotlight. Though the city — just across the Mystic River from Boston — has a majority of Black and Latino residents, its politics don’t reflect that change. An entrenched — and virtually all-white power structure runs the city with little more than lip service to notions of equity and inclusion.
In one frequently cited example, former councilor Anthony DiPierro, came under attack for using racial slurs in conversations he had described as friendly banter. He refused to step down for months, while DeMaria defended his continued presence in office.
In her letter to DeMaria announcing the inquiry, Rollins made it clear that she believes the recent resignations in DeMaria’s inner circle are indicative of deeper problems in the city.
“Although your relative on the Everett City Council (Anthony DiPierro) and your Communications Director both resigned abruptly last week, that only occurred after months of outrage and public criticism by increasingly large numbers of your constituents,” Rollins wrote. “Former City Councilor DiPierro recently posted a message on his social media appearing to urge ‘others who participated in this hurtful, insensitive banter to also do what’s right and step down from their position in city government.’ This statement indicates that more members of Everett’s municipal leadership have engaged in this unacceptable, offensive and possibly discriminatory behavior.”
DiPierro’s comments were just one illustration of the noxious culture in Everett City Hall. In March, a leaked recording of a Zoom meeting showed a number of city officials mocking the idea of including Black residents in city events.
Deanna Deveney — until recently, the mayor’s spokeswoman — was captured on that video urging DiPierro to “bring one of your dark friends” to city events, to ward off charges of being racist.
“I don’t have a lot of those, to be clear,” DiPierro replied, in what seems to pass for humor among the power brokers of Everett.
Rollins isn’t laughing. “The First Amendment protects free speech,” she wrote. “People have the right, however, to be free of racial discrimination and/or sexual harassment by those in city government, whether they are elected, appointed or employed. The employees and residents of Everett deserve no less.”
Rollins directed the city to turn over a host of documents detailing policies as well as all complaints of a discrimination, harassment, or retaliation dating back to 2018 — regardless of how the city had resolved them.
The city was also told to preserve other records that could be relevant to the investigation, whether they had been specifically requested or not, and not to alter or destroy computer records.
Through a spokeswoman, Rollins declined to elaborate on the letter.
For his part, DeMaria issued the following statement: “We are aware of the inquiry and the city will fully cooperate in this matter.”
In his time as mayor, DeMaria has ushered in a new era of development — headlined, of course, by the Encore casino.
But he has also been dogged by a persistent series of allegations — of financial impropriety, sexual harassment, and other abuses of power.
Most of those allegations have come to little, in a town run in an anachronistically iron-fisted way. The Globe’s Stephanie Ebbert recently chronicled the way he and a handful of associates seem to hold the city in their grasp — overwhelming would-be adversaries and silencing critical voices.
But DeMaria could soon be facing his worst nightmare: an investigation he can’t shut down, led by a prosecutor with a proven immunity to intimidation.
Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.