Braintree Town Councilor Ronald DeNapoli has been removed from a council committee at his own request, drawing into question his absence from several council meetings this year.
Months after Braintree councilors resolved to let five people, instead of three, sit on the town’s Ordinance and Rules Committee, District Five Councilor DeNapoli asked to be removed from the committee because of his inability to attend the meetings.
In an interview, DeNapoli cited family responsibilities for his absences, but said he is fulfilling his job as a town councilor.
DeNapoli, who had been the committee chair, has attended approximately half of the committee’s 11 meetings this year, and was struggling to get there on time.
DeNapoli approached Council President Charles Kokoros about the problem, and asked if he could be taken off the committee rather than continually be absent.
“He asked to be removed because he was having a tough time making those meetings. Not all members are on committees. I’ve sat on a couple and I let whoever wants to do it do it…but it was just a request he made for personal reasons,” Kokoros said in a phone interview.
Although the request was made several months ago, DeNapoli was only recently removed from the roster.
“I put it off for awhile and should have done it sooner, but he had asked me a couple months before I actually did it,” Kokoros said. “It’s not uncommon for committees to have individuals that either don’t want to serve on them or come off them as members.”
Some have criticized the move, suggesting that committees are where the real discussions on issues occur.
“If you come to a council meeting, those votes are already in the bag by the time you get at that level … For the most part it’s the subcommittee that makes a difference,” said Councilor John Mullaney in a phone interview.
Additionally, DeNapoli’s attendance problems are larger than just committee meeting attendance, Mullaney said.
According to town records, DeNapoli has attended 14 of the council’s 18 meetings this year, or 77 percent. The number gives him the worst attendance record of all the councilors. The second lowest are Henry Joyce and Dan Clifford, who have each attended 15 of the 18 meetings.
DeNapoli also had the lowest attendance record from 2010 through 2011; out of the council’s 48 meetings, DeNapoli was present at 37.
Within that time frame, the councilor with the second-lowest attendance was Joyce, who finished the two-year time period with 42 out of 48 meetings.
According to Mullaney, the district DeNapoli represents has known about his attendance, as its been brought up again and again during elections.
Regardless, his constituents continue to select the councilor for the seat.
When questioned, DeNapoli defended his attendance record, saying that the last few years have proven difficult personally, and that he has had to cope with a lot at home.
“[I] have seven children, and I’m responsible for the kids and I just moved in with my parents and I’m their sole caretaker 88 and 86 years old, so I asked Chuck if I could go easy this year. I don’t know why he left me on [the committee] for two months, I told him I was unable to attend the meetings,” DeNapoli said.
According to DeNapoli, the committee meetings are very important, but he also has faith in the members who serve on them.
“There are times when I have to be with my children and my family comes first,” DeNapoli said. “If I miss a meeting, I miss a meeting. But I’m actively involved in everything, the president is always informed, and if there is something I need to vote on, they have postponed a meeting for me so I could make the following.”
DeNapoli went on to further say that he took no health care benefits from the town, and if there were issues with his $5,000-a-year salary for being on the council, “I would give it back to the town,” he said. “I am financially set and don’t need $5,000 for the town. I do my work out of a love for Braintree.”
Kokoros also defended the councilor, saying that meeting attendance is only a small part of what a councilor does.
“I don’t know how much time he spends in his district working with constituents, that’s a big part of the job as a district councilor. Meetings are important, but constituent services are important, too…it’s one piece and a significant part of our service as councilor,” he said.
“The voters determine whether or not someone is performing and doing the job … You have to look at the whole picture. When you look at attendance record, I can’t speak to every councilor, but I’m sure there are councilors that attend other events that are important.”
To view the entire attendance list for 2012, click here.
To view attendance records for 2010-2011, click here.