By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — It was a nice idea, but the office of Gov. Deval Patrick has informed Mayor Ted Bettencourt that the governor cannot give him the authority to appoint an interim state representative to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Joyce Spiliotis.
Bettencourt had sought to appoint someone who could look after the interests of the city during the period when crucial issues relating to the state budget and local aid are debated. He stressed that it would be someone who pledged not to seek the office on a permanent basis and someone who would step down following the upcoming special election on April 2.
“Neither the relevant statute nor the Massachusetts Constitution authorizes any alternative procedures for filling the vacancy,” wrote Kate Cook, the governor’s legal counsel, who pointed out that the process for a special election is ongoing. “Consequently we are unable to comply with your request.”
The ruling comes just after the governor’s decision to appoint an interim U.S. senator to fill the seat of John Kerry, who has resigned to become the nation’s secretary of state. The temporary senator, William Cowan, will serve until the person chosen in a special election can be seated.
State law, however, allows for such an appointment to the U.S. Senate; there is no such law allowing mayors to fill temporary state legislative vacancies.
Four candidates are currently vying for the state representative seat, including Republicans Greg Bunn and Leah Cole, who will face off in a March 5 primary election for the right to face Democrat Beverley Griffin-Dunne and unenrolled candidate Dave Gravel in the April 2 special election.
Meanwhile, Peabody is represented in the House of Representatives by Ted Speliotis, who is elected primarily from Danvers, but also represents West Peabody. Speliotis, a Peabody native, has pledged to give the city’s interests special attention during this period.
Former Rep. Joyce Spiliotis died in November.