The new year started so rife with contention for the Medford City Council they couldn't manage to elect officers. At least one councilor doesn't see things getting any better.
"I can't see how were going to go on any different than the last year," Councilor Robert Penta said Wednesday. "It's quite obvious that an agenda has been set. I can see some of the nastiniess going forward."
Penta has offered resolutions that would significantly change council rules -- one that would eliminate additional stipends for the council president and vice president, and another to require the council to rotate its officers. The president of the city council is paid an additional stipend of $3,000 and vice president is paid $1,200. Councilors earned a base pay of $27,529 last year.
Questions over the additional stipends and whether candidates for those positions should vote brought the council to a halt in the first meeting of the year. And Penta says the lack of leadership change -- Robert Maiocco and Fred Dello Russo are entering their fourth straight year as President and Vice President -- is a source of much of the discourse within the council.
"I think it brings about a better atmosphere among the councilors," Penta said. "I'm not here to beat up anybody, but I think the time has come for these changes."
Both of Penta's resolutions will be reviewed by the council's rules subcommittee.
It was Penta who invoked a council bylaw during the election process ending debate on the appointments on Jan.8, thus leaving the council unable to continue, halting city business and requiring the council to hold a special meeting last Thursday.
Both the initial meeting and the subsequent Thursday meeting were filled with arguments breaking out with Penta and councilor Michael Marks on one side and Paul Camuso and Maiocco on the other. At the time, Camuso said he wanted to re-elect Maiocco because he was skilled at running meetings, and not for any other political reason.
Councilor Rick Caraviello, elected last year, said he intentionally stayed on the sidelines.
"I made a committment in the election not to go down that road," he said. "I hope that everybody can put their bad feelings behind them and we can just go about what we were elected to do."