SALEM — It took city councilors less than an hour to discuss and recommend the reappointment of four board members they’ve held in committee for two months.
Councilors voted on nearly 60 board reappointments on April 11 but held four and sent them to committee: Board of Health members Martin Fair, Barbara Poremba and Gayle Sullivan and Planning Board member Randy Clarke.
Last night’s council meeting, held to discuss the four stalled reappointments, was the first time councilors have explained publicly why they chose not to approve them in April.
Councilor Paul Prevey said he sent Clarke’s reappointment to committee after seeing his demeanor during meetings over the Salem Oil and Grease redevelopment project.
Prevey said he did not take issue with Clarke’s vote, but the way he responded to residents and city councilors who made comments at Planning Board meetings about the project. Clarke came across as “very dismissive,” Prevey said, and even cut off Councilor Arthur Sargent as he made a comment.
Last night was the first time Clarke, who attended the council meeting along with the three Board of Health members, heard of Prevey’s frustrations.
“I’m not quite sure how to respond to that, specifically,” Clarke said to Prevey.
Clarke said he feels he does his best and has a good relationship with his fellow Planning Board members.
“I look at it like I’m there to make where I live better,” he said.
“Mr. Clarke has a strong personality, and that’s good,” Sargent said. “... We have our heated moments (as board members), but it’s all about making Salem a better place to live.”
Prevey ultimately supported Clarke’s reappointment but asked Clarke to take his impressions under consideration and “do some self-reflection.”
Councilors also supported the three Board of Health reappointments after a brief discussion.
Councilor Todd Siegel, who made the motion April 11 to send the three Board of Health reappointments to committee, did not speak at last night’s meeting.
Prevey said councilors wanted to clear up confusion over Board of Health member Larissa Lucas, who appeared to resign last winter but continued to sit on the board, casting votes.
Sullivan and Poremba said Lucas’ resignation took effect once a new member was appointed to take her place — Danielle Ledoux, a pediatric ophthalmologist, who was appointed this spring.
“They’re doing the job they’re appointed to do ... We’ve got bigger fish to fry than to let this drag on,” said Josh Turiel.
Poremba’s term had expired in February 2012, Fair’s expired in February 2011, Sullivan’s expired in February 2010, and Clarke’s expired in July 2011. All four have continued to serve on their boards, waiting to hear if they were going to be reappointed or replaced.
Council President Jerry Ryan apologized to Clarke at the conclusion of last night’s meeting, saying it was his “fault” it took two months to schedule the meeting to discuss the reappointments. Other matters have taken precedence in scheduling meetings, Ryan said.
Poremba, Sullivan, Fair and Clarke’s reappointments will need final approval at tonight’s meeting of the full City Council.
City Councilors Michael Sosnowksi, Robert McCarthy and Kevin Carr were absent from last night’s meeting.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.