Governor's Council Abruptly Cancels Meeting


Above, Linkedin image of Colette Santa of Natick 

In an unusual turn, a Governor's Council vote on a controversial Parole Board nominee was cancelled Wednesday, supposedly due to a lack of quorum, a rare occurrence on the eight-member body of elected officials.

Parole Board member Colette Santa, nominated by Gov. Charlie Baker to serve a second five-year term on the panel, received sharp criticisms at a hearing last week, including an allegation from a former colleague that she "has brought nothing to the agency other than chaos and destruction of morale."

It's coming up on three months since Baker nominated Santa for reappointment. Her confirmation process has dragged on with her public interview repeatedly postponed and continued, and now a delayed vote.

Wednesday's cancellation came suddenly -- after Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito's office announced less than a day in advance that the session was set to happen at 2:30 p.m.

The council can meet in formal session with a quorum of five. Polito normally presides over those assemblies, but in rare cases where the votes are tight, Gov. Charlie Baker can take the gavel and Polito can act as a tie-breaking vote. On Wednesday, a quorum was present in the State House, just not in the Council Chamber.

Four members -- Councilors Eileen Duff, Terry Kennedy, Bob Jubinville, and Paul DePalo -- took part in hearings earlier in the day with Superior Court nominee Brent Tingle and Salem District Court clerk magistrate nominee Brian Costa.

Councilor Marilyn Devaney appeared briefly at Tingle's hearing but quickly departed the chamber after questioning the nominee. She informed her colleagues she was suffering from an upset digestive system.

Councilors Mary Hurley and Joseph Ferreira participated remotely. Councilors can call in to participate in the interviews, but cannot act as voting members in formal session unless they are present in person.

A few minutes before the advertised 2:30 p.m. assembly, the Council Chamber was deserted. Polito, who listed the council meeting as her only public event for the day, did not issue an updated schedule, and multiple members of the Baker-Polito press office did not return phone calls.

Devaney was in her office on the first floor and told the News Service she wasn't yet feeling well enough to leave the area. No other councilors could be found in the vicinity, and a council aide said the assembly was cancelled for the reason of insufficient quorum.

"Well, first she said it was going to be 2:30. Now she cancelled it," Devaney said, referring to Polito. The administration dictates the date and time of council sessions.

" ... They all knew. Chris [Iannella] didn't show up today. Something's happening. I think they feared they didn't have the vote," added Devaney, who is opposed to Santa's continued service on the Parole Board.

Parole Board picks can prove thornier than other nominees that go through the council. The one Baker nominee to be rejected by the council in recent memory, Sherquita HoSang, had also been tapped for the Parole Board.

Similarly, the one council rejection during Gov. Paul Cellucci's administration was a Parole Board member, Mary Ellen Doyle, whom Cellucci in 2001 had sought to renew for another term.

In an odd moment, Councilor Eileen Duff, who has scrapped with Devaney on occasion, took to Twitter after Devaney left the Tingle hearing Wednesday and offered a somewhat grim assessment of Devaney's condition.

"Marilyn Devaney took very [ill] today - let's hope she feels better," Duff wrote at 1:47 p.m.

Duff is lending support to Mara Dolan, Devaney's challenger in next month's Democratic primary.

After posting about Devaney, Duff's next action on Twitter was to re-post a 2:59 p.m. tweet inviting followers to a Dolan campaign "lunchtime conversation" where Duff will be the special guest speaker.

A reporter checked in on Devaney after seeing Duff's report that the veteran councilor was "very ill."

Devaney said it was just digestive upset which she chalked up to a bad egg she had eaten at breakfast, and responded with distress when informed that Duff shared her plight with an online audience.

"Something I ate this morning, that was it. That's it," said the Watertown Democrat, who added that she planned to drive herself home later in the afternoon.


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