A video that was intended to lighten to mood of budget discussions has led to the suspension of Weymouth’s chief financial officer for 10 days.
The video was shown Monday during a public hearing on Mayor Susan Kay’s proposed $139.6 million budget for fiscal 2014. The budget recommends $59.3 million for the schools, while the schools had asked for $62.8 million.
The video shows five Boy Scouts at a table, explaining to “Mr. Peters” why the mayor’s numbers are better. Members of the audience believed the video was referring to Gustavo Perez, an outspoken advocate for more spending.
School Committee members were so angered by the video that they walked out of the hearing.
“It was a mockery,” said School Committee Chairman Sean Guilfoyle. “It took a swipe at all elected officials -- except the mayor. And a member of the public [Perez] who has been an advocate for the schools, and is wonderful man, was personally lambasted.”
Chief Financial Officer William McKinney, who showed the video at the beginning of his budget presentation, immediately apologized and later submitted a letter of resignation to the mayor. “I thought it was going to be funny; obviously it wasn’t,” he said at the hearing.
McKinney acknowledged that Mr. Peters was based on Perez, but it was not meant to be mocking.
The mayor released a statement Wednesday that she was suspending McKinney without pay for 10 days, but would not accept his resignation.
“This is not a man who normally jokes around,” Kay said, adding that he was suspended for using the video without first vetting it with the mayor’s office. McKinney said the video was made as part of a cinematography merit badge by his Boy Scout troop.
On Thursday, Guilfoyle said he gave McKinney “an awful lot of credit for offering his resignation – and for trying to get this thing to calm down – but you can’t un-ring a bell. It’s been done. It’s done damage to the relationship with the School Committee and the Town Council and the town administration.”
Perez said he took the video personally, but was most upset about the chilling effect it would have on others who might be critical of the mayor’s policies.
“It sent an intimidating message to members of the community who have been apprehensive about participating in the debate [over the budget],” Perez said. “It said this is what is going to happen to you if you have the temerity to get up here and challenge the decisions made by the mayor of Weymouth: you will be labeled and attacked and mocked. And that is an utter shame.”
Johanna Seltz can be reached at email@example.com.