By Ron Rosen
On August 19, the City Council met to decide if and how they would fill the empty District 2 seat.
It was the consensus of three Councilmembers that this should be done as soon as possible, but for some reason Diana Mahmud was is no hurry to fill the seat. At that meeting Mahmud suggested that they wait until the September 2 meeting to discuss the qualities they were looking for in a person to fill the seat. Mahmud has been on the Council about 7 years.
The other three have been on the Council 9 years or more.
And Mahmud wants them to take time to discuss the qualities they are looking for in a Councilmember? Seriously? Obviously she wanted to delay the process, but the other three Councilmembers wanted to move ahead and conduct the interview process on September 2. Even after they decided to do so, Mahmud asked them to reconsider, saying that September 2 was too short a time to get notice to the residents. She failed to convince the others to delay.
The next thing that happened is a notice went out changing the selection process from September 2 to September 9, although the Council had decided on September 2. At least one Councilmember was very unhappy when he noticed that the process had been moved.
No one seems to know who instigated the move, but one must suspect the City Manager or Mahmud. Recall that the other three had agreed on September 2 over Mahmud’s objections. After word of the change spread, the public put pressure on the Council to return the process to September 2, and that was done.
The selection process was conducted on September 2. After the interviews, it was clear that the two most qualified candidates were Lawrence Abelson and Stephen Rossi. Rossi, whose business involves analyzing financial reports, had recently discovered a possible $14 million problem with the budget and had been very outspoken about several issues in the city. He had also garnered a great deal of public support for his candidacy.
No offense to Abelson, whom I’ve worked with, like, and respect, but Rossi was clearly the person most knowledgeable about the budget and ready and willing to immediately dig into the city’s problems. But for some reason, Mahmud didn’t want Rossi. When it came time to discuss the candidates, hers was the first hand up. She focused on the short time the new person would serve (a time that she had tried to make even shorter) and the need for prior experience in city affairs.
She said that the new person would have to quickly assimilate with the Council and because of his experience on city commissions, Ablelson would be the best choice. After some discussion, it was clear that three Councilmembers favored Rossi, but Mahmud wasn’t stopping.
She again took time to reiterate that what was needed was commission experience, and that past service to the city should be rewarded. The person would have a steep learning curve, she said. The Council chose Rossi in a 3-0 vote, with Mahmud abstaining.
But it didn’t end there. After further discussion, it was decided that Rossi could be sworn in that very night instead of two weeks later. But guess who opposed that? Mahmud stated that it would “not be fair” to Rossi because he wouldn’t have time to prepare to be on the Council so soon. She asked why they couldn’t swear him in two weeks later. Against her wishes, Rossi was sworn in and was seated on the dias ready to participate in the meeting. When the first issue for discussion came up, Mahmud said “I don’t know that he’s reviewed the item.” Anything to keep Rossi from participating.
After Rossi assured the Council that he had read all the materials and was fully prepared, he began to participate in the meeting. Why did Mahmud work so hard to delay the selection process even as she lamented how short a time the new person would serve? Why was she so opposed to Rossi, the one most likely to quickly dig into the budget and other important issues? And once Rossi was selected, why did she alone question whether he was ready to participate?
One might guess that she is hiding something and she didn’t want the most likely person to dig into what she might be hiding on the Council. And she didn’t want that person to have as much time as possible to do just that.
(Note: Earlier this summer, Mahmud and Khubesrian strongly advocated that the questionable budget be accepted, and the four false emails that caused Khubesrian to resign from the Council related to the budget and had the objective of pushing the budget through, making a threat regarding budget, or disparaging someone who questioned the budget.)
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