This week’s Warren city council meeting began with as much subtlety as a kick to the groin.
“Mr. President, I’d like if we could separate check #58071,” Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Colegio wagged her pencil in visible irritation. “I called and asked for the invoices for that item. I filled out a [Freedom of Information Act request]. And this council voted for the administration to give us specifications for the basin project.”
She frowned deeply. “I paid $332.50 out of my own pocket for a FOIA when the administration REFUSED to answer a council request on probably the largest project the city’s gonna do.”
Like a detective who’s spotted the inconsistency in a murderer’s testimony, Colegio shrugged nonchalantly as if to say, “I’ve got you, m–f’er.”
“The original contract amount was approved 3/8/17. The date of my FOIA was May. I’m not sure why THIS,” she brandished the smoking-gun invoice, “wasn’t in my FOIA that I paid $322.50 for.”
She had now grown fully livid, slamming her papers down on the dais. “Mayor, I am disgusted by the lack of respect. When you were on council you would’ve screamed your head off about that.”
With one councilwoman having ripped into the mayor, it was only logical that two more councilmen rip into each other.
“The motion is on the floor,” President Cecil St. Pierre sharply cut off Councilman Keith Sadowski as he tried to make a motion of his own.
“But you can make several motions under Robert’s Rules,” Councilman Sadowski leaned back in his chair and protested. “I can make a motion to–what’s the problem?” he recoiled after St. Pierre shot him a dirty look.
“I’m just TELLING YOU,” St. Pierre retorted, “you can–”
“We never follow the rules up here anyway,” angrily snapped Councilman Sadowski.
“I’m trying to follow the rules!” roared President St. Pierre. “I don’t make the Robert’s Rules of Order–”
“You don’t follow them either,” Sadowski spat.
President St. Pierre reeled in disbelief. “Are we gonna argue back and forth?!”
The nine people watching in the audience remained silent.
At this point, the council president turned to the city attorney to ask why Mayor Pro Tem Colegio’s request ($332.50, remember?) got the cold shoulder.
“There’s certain documents we were not releasing because the nature of the FOIA request–we didn’t have to,” pinstripe suit-clad attorney Nathan Vinson replied calmly and slowly. “I don’t know if she wants copies or what.”
“I was told,” the mayor pro tem rebutted, “there were other documents I couldn’t have pertaining to ‘attorney-client privilege.'”
President St. Pierre raised an eyebrow. “Mr. Vinson, do you know what she’s talking about?”
“No,” Vinson said curtly.
“Are those documents ready to be viewed tomorrow?” Council Secretary Robert Boccomino pressed. “The ones that were requested?”
“Yes, they’re still in Ms. Michaels’s office,” volunteered Vinson.
Councilman Sadowski swiveled and tried to suppress a grin as the lawyer’s words sunk in. “So wait…you said you DON’T know what documents they are. But you DO know what documents they are?”
“It’s my understanding,” Vinson defended himself and for the first time appeared flustered, “that there’s a group of documents marked ‘attorney-client privilege.’ Are you [Mayor Pro Tem Colegio] waiving attorney-client privilege?”
“She IS the client!” Councilman Scott Stevens blurted.
“No, she’s an individual who made a FOIA request!” the city attorney sputtered.
“She handed you the FOIA at this table!” yelled an incredulous Stevens.
Councilman Sadowski shook his head. “This is nonsense.”
“I’m gonna give my opinion,” interjected bespectacled Councilman Ronald Papandrea. “I don’t think it’s worth fighting over. I really don’t.”
Well, he may not have been paying attention for the past half hour, but Papandrea certainly succeeded in getting everyone to chuckle. The council voted to force-release the documents.