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Special meeting's vote 'sutures wound' between mayor, City Council

Date: 8/4/2010

Aug. 4, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- "A wound has been sutured" between the city council and the corner office, according to Mayor Daniel Knapik.

The mayor called the coun-cil's unanimous vote on July 29 to reinstate approximately a quarter of a million dollars to the school department's fiscal year 2011 budget as progress in an otherwise grisley battle between the two over past weeks. However, some councilors don't concur with Knapik's sentiments.

"We look to the mayor as the leader of our community and when he was elected we thought [he was] a consensus building leader not a divisive leader," Ward Four City Councilor Mary O'Connell said. "If the mayor were to check the votes of the city council, I've supported almost 100 percent of his initiatives and I've tried to be a team player and he's made a deliberate decision to shut me out despite numerous accounts to keep an open communication.

"It's very disappointing," she continued. "I don't know what his issue is. He's made a mountain out of a molehill. I'm just trying to do my job."

O'Connell noted that several e-mail and telephone correspondences requesting meetings with the mayor have been answered stating his refusal to meet with her.

In an e-mail from Knapik to O'Connell dated July 12, the mayor wrote, "I don't see the need [to meet with you]. I'm very disturbed by your recent conduct towards me." Knapik also wrote that he believed O'Connell took "every opportunity to try [to] undermine my agenda."

Knapik maintained that his door is always open in spite of his differences of opinion with city councilors; however, he said, "The rift that I have with Councilor O'Connell is a bit deeper."

When asked about his working relationship with Knapik, Ward One City Councilor Christopher Keefe replied, "The demands on the mayor's time makes it very difficult for him to stay in touch as much as he'd like or we'd like."

City Councilor at-large Brent Bean did not share the same sentiments. "He gets answers [to my questions] and understands that he can't really breathe without us [the council]."

Ward 2 City Councilor James Brown called the relationship "good" and looked forward to working with the mayor in the future. He noted that as one of the new councilors he's "going to ask more questions" and that others "must be patient with us."

The council and mayor will continue to conduct city business when the council returns to a normal schedule after its summer hiatus.