SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 4, 2014

Former chairman blasts Cahill

Mayor removed Dinkin from Planning Board on Feb. 14

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Ousted Planning Board chairman Richard Dinkin is not leaving quietly.

Dinkin last night blasted Mayor Mike Cahill for removing him from the Planning Board, saying the decision “sends a chilling message to dozens of hardworking volunteers who serve on our city’s boards and commissions.”

“Board members must now take care not to upset a sitting mayor or any of the special interests to whom he makes a commitment,” Dinkin said.

Dinkin made his remarks in front of the City Council at City Hall, taking advantage of a provision in the City Charter that allows an official who has been removed by the mayor to speak before the council.

Cahill, who took office in January, removed Dinkin from the board on Feb. 14 after Dinkin refused Cahill’s request that he resign. Dinkin, 63, served as a volunteer on the Planning Board for 30 years under three previous mayors, including the last 14 as chairman. His term was not scheduled to expire until the end of 2015.

In a written statement, Cahill called Dinkin’s removal “a necessary step in efforts to establish a tone throughout my administration and throughout our city of respect in all public discourse — respect for all individuals involved and respect for the process.”

Dinkin said last night that Cahill’s statement does not meet the standards set by the City Charter, which requires a mayor to file a statement “setting forth in precise detail the special reasons for such removal or suspension.”

Dinkin said the lack of a detailed explanation leaves the city vulnerable to a court voiding Planning Board decisions under the grounds that the board is “not properly constituted.”

“I would find it sad if future Planning Board decisions were placed in jeopardy by an avoidable technicality,” Dinkin said.

Asked later if he planned to take any legal action against the city, Dinkin said that was “not a question I am prepared to answer at this time.”

Cahill was present when Dinkin made his nearly 1,000-word statement but did not respond. City councilors also did not comment. The City Council has no authority to vote or express its views on the removal, according to the charter.

Asked after the meeting if he wanted to respond to Dinkin’s remarks, Cahill said, “We are confident that the statement that I filed is sufficient.”

Dinkin accused Cahill of removing him in order to “pander to a special-interest group,” referring to neighborhood opposition to the Brimbal Avenue rezoning.

“Interest group politics may be perfectly fine for a legislative back-bencher, but not for the leader I am sure Mr. Cahill aspires to be,” Dinkin said. Cahill served 10 years in the Legislature as Beverly’s state representative.

Dinkin criticized Cahill for what he called a “flippant” response when Dinkin asked him why he should resign. Dinkin also said Cahill has never attended “more than a handful” of Planning Board meetings over the last 20 years.

Dinkin said he was proud of the board’s accomplishments over the last three decades, citing the development of Cummings Center and the downtown and the city’s stock of affordable housing.

“Despite our differences, I want to wish Mr. Cahill well and sincerely hope that at the end of his time in office, he can be as justifiably proud of his accomplishments as I am of mine,” Dinkin said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.