Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 19, 2011

Last Call at City Hall – Dec 19, 2011 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:18 am

Last Call at City Hall – Dec 19, 2011 Cambridge City Council Agenda

This is the last meeting of the 2010-11 City Council term. Several active matters will carry over to the new City Council, but everything else goes away to allow for a fresh start. This will also be the last meeting for Councillor Seidel who will, presumably, receive the usual parting gifts (monogrammed gavel? rocking chair with a City of Cambridge official seal?). The agenda is short, but there are a few significant items. Note also that the regular 5:30pm meeting will be preceded by a special 4:00pm Roundtable meeting with the School Committee "to discuss various aspects of the Innovation Agenda, including capital needs."

Reconsideration #1. Councillor Kelley notified the City Clerk of his intention to move reconsideration on the vote taken on Dec 12, 2011 to ordain as amended the re-filed petition to amend the zoning ordinance filed by Chestnut Hill Realty. The petition would allow creation by special permit of rental apartment units in basement units of existing multifamily residential buildings in Residence C Districts which meet the special permit criteria. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 28, 2011. Planning Board hearing held 9/6/11. Petition expires Dec 13, 2011.

This will be just a formality after which ordination will be finalized. The most problematic aspect of this zoning petition is not whether it’s OK to create a few basement apartments. As the substitute language passed last week indicates, it’s probably OK as long as certain conditions are met, though it does put the City Engineer in the unusual position of determining when a development project may go forward. The real issue is the way campaign contributions grease the wheels of legislation. It is absurd to characterize this zoning amendment as some sort of act of charity, and it’s even more absurd to characterize the campaign contributions as "supporting local government".

This is all about money – how to make more of it and how to use it to buy legislation – and it’s not just about Chestnut Hill Realty. Increasing profit is neither illegal nor immoral, and we do live in a capitalist economy, but when the money channeled from a single developer into the campaign accounts of some elected officials is of the same order of magnitude as the entire campaign budget of other elected officials, it is only natural that questions will be raised – even moreso when those who vote in favor of the zoning change exactly match those who received money from the petitioner.

City Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 11-156, regarding outside legal expenses incurred by the City for the Monteiro case and related cases.

The costs are laid out in the following communication from City Solicitor Don Drisdell. It is expected that the City Council will discuss the other settlement amounts in Executive Session.

December 19, 2011
Robert W. Healy,
City Manager
City Hall,
Cambridge, MA 02139

Re: Awaiting Report No. 11-156 re: Report Back on Council Order No. 6, dated 10/24/2011

Dear Mr. Healy:

In response to the above referenced Council Order, please be advised of our responses as follows to the Council’s specific requests:

1. The outside legal expenses incurred by the City for the Monteiro case and related cases and issues.

Total: $2,633,194.67 to date. This total includes:

(a) $611,563.63 – for discovery and other pre-trial matters from 1999 to 2003 for all five of the original cases (Hampton, LaChance, Stamper, Wong and Monteiro), including summary judgment motions, fairly split among the five cases. The summary judgment motion resulted in judgment for the City in two of the five cases, and judgment for the City on the most substantive allegations of a third case.

(b) $674,446.30 – Monteiro pre-trial and trial expenses related to the first jury trial (2005) and post-trial matters. The jury found in favor of the City by determining that there had been no discrimination against Ms. Monteiro prior to her filing of a complaint with the MCAD. The jury was hung on the allegations of retaliation after the filing of the MCAD complaint, which necessitated a second trial.

(c) $858,776.21 – expenses related to the second Monteiro jury trial (2008) and post-trial matters. Following the conclusion of the second trial through the date of entry of the final judgment, which spanned almost two years, much of the time expended was overwhelmingly related to post-trial motions and other matters pertaining to the trial court action.

(d) $488,409.53-expenses for the appeal.

2. The cost of the appeal of the Monteiro case over the original judgment, to include interest and legal fees for both the defendant and the plaintiff.

(a) $913,673.90 – interest on damages awards after the entry of final judgment.

(b) $298,349.33 – plaintiff’s attorneys fees and costs award for the appeal.

3. The amount of money related cases were settled for.

This will be discussed with the City Council in Executive Session.

4. The overall amount of money paid to Ms. Monteiro.

The City has paid Ms. Monteiro and her law firm a total of $8,067,461.78, which includes all damage awards, interest, costs and legal fees. The amount that Ms. Monteiro received and the amount that her law firm received from that total is not known to the City.

Very truly yours, Donald A. Drisdell

That’s it for this Council term. We’ll be welcoming City Councillor Minka vanBeuzekom with the new year. Hopefully the new Council will see fit to elect a mayor on the first ballot on January 2 and that they will make a good choice. – Robert Winters



  1. The grand total is $2,633,194.67 + 8,067,461.78 + internal costs?

    Under Mass law, wrongful death by a public employee on duty is capped at $200,000 or is it $125,000?


    Comment by JChase — December 20, 2011 @ 1:54 am

  2. This was Sam Seidel’s last regular City Council meeting. As evidence of what a class act Sam is, check out this clip and what Sam had to say about the City staff:

    Comment by Robert Winters — December 20, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

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