, Salem, MA

January 5, 2013

7 hours, 300 votes, no decision

Salem council stalemate: What's next?

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — City councilors seem unsure of what should happen to keep Thursday’s meeting — a tedious, seven-hour spectacle which ended in deadlock — from happening again when the proceedings resume Tuesday night.

However, several said yesterday they’re sure of one thing: I won’t vote for the other guy.

Despite voting 300 times, the City Council could not come to an agreement to fill a councilor-at-large vacancy Thursday night. The meeting stretched to 2:25 a.m. as the board took the same tie vote over and over: five councilors backing candidate Steve Pinto, and five backing Lucy Corchado.

The council will resume the meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at City Hall, 93 Washington St.

“I would absolutely consider changing my mind to an alternative candidate, but there is no chance whatsoever I would change to (vote for) Pinto,” said Councilor Josh Turiel yesterday afternoon. “That would be a disservice to the 300 votes I took last night.”

On the other side of the table, Councilor Todd Siegel said he’s sticking with Pinto. Siegel chose Pinto, he said, because the former councilor-at-large knows the ropes and will be able to hit the ground running.

“I think everyone has their heels dug in. I don’t know what’s next,” Siegel said. “It’s unfortunate because last night was a disgrace ... It’s unfortunate the council’s so divided.”

When reached yesterday, Councilor Joseph O’Keefe said he’s sticking with Corchado, while Kevin Carr said he’s willing to change to a compromise candidate.

A compromise, Carr said, does not mean voting for the other side, but having both sides change together to reach a solution.

Yesterday, Pinto said he’s “staying the course.”

Thursday’s stalemate has been “a long time coming,” he said. The marathon meeting only made Pinto feel more strongly about joining the council, he said.

“It is what it is, and it’s too bad it’s come to this point,” Pinto said. “... I think it’s a council divided, and for good reason — people don’t want to be dictated to.”

Corchado said she would agree to withdraw her candidacy only if Pinto would, also.

“I would be all for starting over, fresh,” Corchado said yesterday. “If Pinto would agree to bow out, I would also, and give others an opportunity to run. That’s the least we can do at this point ... I’m embarrassed for the city and for the council that this is being played out the way it is.”

Another hurdle

O’Keefe said he’s also concerned about possible stalemate at Monday night’s re-organizational meeting. Salem’s City Charter requires the council to meet on the first Monday of January to elect a new president and assign councilors to subcommittees.

With an even-numbered board, a tie vote could occur as the council votes to elect a president.

O’Keefe said he’s heard of two councilors interested in the presidency: Mike Sosnowski and Robert McCarthy. Sosnowksi voted for Pinto Thursday, while McCarthy voted for Corchado.

“The hurdle we have to get over is (electing) the new president,” O’Keefe said. “Again, I think there will be sharp division ... The biggest hurdle, in my mind, is council president.”

Six residents had submitted letters of interest to fill Lovely’s vacancy.

In addition to Pinto and Corchado, the candidate pool included William Legault, a freelance writer and personal trainer who is well-known around town; Chris Sicuranza, director of communications for the New England Police Benevolent Association; Robert Wright, a college teacher with a lengthy background in state government; and Ken Sawicki, who has run unsuccessfully for multiple offices.

Pinto served four years as a councilor-at-large before losing his bid for re-election in 2011. Corchado is an activist in the city’s Point neighborhood and Ward 1 councilor from 2004 to 2007.

Turiel, who became visibly frustrated as Thursday’s meeting wore on, said it’s up to the Pinto supporters to break the stalemate.

“The Pinto camp is really the ones that have the power to do something. They don’t have the ability to switch anyone to (vote for) Steve (Pinto). They’re not going to get their guy ... At least one of them has to agree there’s another guy they can support — it doesn’t have to be Lucy (Corchado) — and get the ball rolling.”

The Salem News left messages for all 10 city councilors yesterday; councilors Tom Furey, Arthur Sargent, McCarthy, Sosnowski, Jerry Ryan and Paul Prevey could not be reached for comment.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.