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Injunction to seat Winters on council denied

Date: 3/8/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — At a hearing on Feb. 27, the Hampden Superior Court rejected a request for an emergency injunction to seat Brian Winters in the Ward 2 City Council seat.

The Ward 2 seat of the City Council has remained vacant since August 2012 when Jim Brown resigned from the position. Resident Brian Winters received one write-in vote in the most recent election, making him the next highest vote getter since Brown ran unopposed.

A source of debate among the City Council was whether a single vote solidified Winters' candidacy, since ballot listings require 50 signatures as a stipulation. The City Councilors voted in October 2012 to have the mayor fill the seat.

Attorney Mark Tanner of the Bacon Wilson law firm in Northampton sent a letter on behalf of Ward 2 residents to the city on Feb. 1, notifying the city of his intent to move forward with a civil action suit if Winters was not seated by the end of the City Council meeting on Feb. 7.

On Feb. 7, Mayor Daniel Knapik filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment with the court seeking clarification of the City Charter. In response, a Motion to Intervene was filed by Tanner on Feb. 13.

Knapik said, "It's clear that the goal on both sides is to obtain clarity. It will probably be defined within the next 60 to 70 days."

Ward 1 City Councilor Christopher O'Keefe addressed the vacant seat. "The council is mindful of Ward 2," he stated, noting that there are seven At-Large councilors serving the city. "I thought the council's decision was appropriate."

Tanner could not be reached for comment in time for publication.