Aldermen Allege Harassment by School Committee Members: School Committee Salary Vote at Heart of Disagreement

June 12, 2013
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It is never comfortable to discuss an individual rate of pay or group salary in a public setting. When that discussion includes the merits of a pay increase for an individual or small group of individuals it can be even more uncomfortable.

However, members of the Board of Aldermen alleged on Monday night that following a recent hearing about the proposed salary increase for members of the School Committee from $5,500 annually to $11,500 became far more than uncomfortable. Alderman Joseph McGonagle and Aldermanic President Sal Sachetta feel the behavior of certain School Committee members may have risen to the level of harassment or verbal battery.

McGonagle, who admitted that he had not witnessed the alleged harassment, but instead referenced a letter that Sachetta had sent to Police Chief Steven Mazzie describing the incident, said on Monday night that his purpose in bringing the incident to light was to make sure that such behavior is not repeated.

Even Sachetta, who unknowingly started the discussion by authoring the letter to Chief Mazzie, said that he had no wish to see any disciplinary action be taken, but rather wanted to make sure that no one else would be “accosted” in the manner he described.

According to Sachetta’s account in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Everett Independent, after taking part in a Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 29 at 6 p.m., Sachetta who had been a vocal opponent of the proposed School Committee salary increase, returned to his car and found several members of the School Committee waiting for him.

Sachetta said that he soon found himself being questioned and harried by some members of the group, who essentially were attempting to change his mind or determine his reasoning for opposing the increase. Though Sachetta mentioned each of the School Committee members who he says were present at the time, and singled out three he said were most vocal, The Independent is choosing not to release their names until each can be asked for their recollection of what happened.

Sachetta did say that the confrontation ended when a member of the Finance Committee who witnessed the incident told him, “take it easy Sal, before you have a heart attack,” at which point the said he walked away.

In his letter to Chief Mazzie, Sachetta said that the incident left him feeling “physically ill” and “shaken.”

“I am deeply concerned that these men would use these schoolyard bullying tactics on someone less strong and succeed,” Sachetta told the Chief. “I do not wish to embarrass this city or these people. . . I believe debate is essential to the political process, but in the Chamber, not in the parking lot.”

Following Monday night’s meeting, Sachetta again said that he did not wish to pursue the matter further, but had only hoped to make the Chief aware of the incident so that it would not be repeated.

Members of the School Committee were not available to comment on Monday night, because of a school related event that was happening at the same time as the Aldermen’s meeting.

Both Aldermen McGonagle and Sachetta stated that Alderman Sachetta had no prior knowledge that McGonagle intended to raise the issue on Monday night.

McGonagle said that he only raised the issue to make sure that such confrontations do not happen again and Sachetta said that he was honored that his colleague would raise the issue “to defend me.”

As of Monday night, it was not clear what next steps may be taken, either for the reported incident or for the proposed pay raise which has twice previously been recommended out of committee and approved by the Common Council, only to meet resistance at the Board of Aldermen.