BOSTON (SHNS) – A Governor’s Council meeting that featured approval of four new pardons took an unexpected turn Wednesday as one member persistently rebuked her colleagues, before councilors across the room successfully moved to establish a new Rules Committee for the elected panel.
At the outset of the session, the Governor’s Council unanimously consented to the latest pardons recommended by Gov. Maura Healey, granting forgiveness to four individuals — Joanne Booth, Kenny Jean, Murphy Smith, and Evan Willey — for convictions ranging from drunken driving to armed robbery between 1979 and 2016.
Councilor Tara Jacobs said she noticed a common thread connecting the most recent recommendations and Healey’s first round of clemency in June. They were “almost exclusively” to give a second chance to people who committed “criminal offenses occurring during teenage years, during emerging adult years,” she said during the votes.
“I think it’s so important just to highlight and reflect on the injustices that have been carried out in the distant decades past, when emerging adulthood wasn’t as well understood as it is today,” said the Western Massachusetts councilor. “With the cognitive development and the impact of teen impulse control issues — not understanding consequences — occurring, and then having an impact that has had a lifelong limitation on a full life lived.”
With the pardons in the books, Lt. Gov. Kimberley Driscoll, who generally presides over council meetings, commended the members on their “due diligence” and “ability to move through things like this in a really professional manner.”
“So, thank you. It’s appreciated, and … ,” Driscoll said, trailing off as Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney interrupted her and asked to make a statement.
Session Turns Disorderly
Devaney declaimed a pre-written speech in which she slammed five of her six colleagues for not attending a public comment session she hosted Sept. 6 about the proposed Kenny Jean pardon. She alleged that other councilors had organized a “boycott” of the hearing.
“And the boycott did not disrespect me. It disrespected the office of the Governor’s Council, the petitioner, the witnesses, and the people that attended. I have learned, lieutenant governor, it’s not always popular to do the right thing,” the Watertown Democrat said.
The wide-ranging speech also revisited old council controversies, like the temporary blackout of the council’s livestream in early 2022, and former councilors whose clerk magistrate nominations she opposed in years past.
“I know they are doing their best,” Devaney said of her colleagues, before waving her hand at someone sitting across the chamber and saying, “I don’t want smirking, please.” She added, “But this is not Kindergarten stuff.”
Driscoll cut in with a reminder to “direct your comments through the chair,” prompting Devaney to say she did not “want to debate over this.” The 24-year councilor attempted to launch back into the speech as Driscoll told her she had “had time to offer a comment.”
With a rebuttal to Devaney’s charges, Councilor Terry Kennedy, a member for 12 years, called the “boycott” allegation “completely nonsensical.”
“It’s the first I’ve heard of that. I wasn’t here because I was on trial down at the Boston Municipal Court,” said Kennedy, an attorney who makes frequent courtroom appearances.
The Lynnfield Democrat also claimed that the hearing was scheduled on less than a week’s notice, despite a “rule that [Devaney is] always trying to enforce” about scheduling hearings two weeks in advance.
As Devaney again sought the floor, Driscoll said from the chair that she did not “want us to have a back-and-forth.”
“I said I didn’t want to debate, but let me just finish,” replied an agitated Devaney. Driscoll was still talking as Devaney began speaking again about the Jean hearing.
While the Watertown councilor raised her voice and persisted with her remarks, Driscoll named her from the chair six times in 20 seconds, at one point picking up the gavel and holding it above the sounding block.
“Thank you, Councilor Devaney. We’re trying to avoid a back-and-forth. And frankly, I just reiterated what I thought was a very professional process for these particular pardons to come before this board,” the lieutenant governor said.
The pardons were “a really proud moment for this Governor’s Council” that “recertifies why this is an important part of the process,” Driscoll said.
“And I’d hate for that to be harmed by, you know, this sort of — the last piece in this meeting,” she added.
Council To Revisit Its Rules
Before adjourning, the council voted to establish a new Rules Committee on a motion of Councilor Paul DePalo, which DePalo said was “in the interest of how this council functions, and good government, and eliminating ambiguity in how we function.”
Similar proposals have surfaced through the years, most recently in 2017 after a chaotic council debate when then-Councilor Mary Hurley proposed the formation of a Rules Committee.
DePalo rose to propose the committee after Driscoll brought the chamber back to order Wednesday, but he told the News Service he had already intended to offer the motion before the meeting took its unexpected turn.
“Today’s assembly and hearing had no impact one way or another,” the Central Massachusetts councilor said.
A council member since 2021, DePalo said the committee would include himself and Jacobs, who began her first term in January. That prompted the longest-serving member, Councilor Christopher Iannella Jr., to say that “anyone who wants to be on the committee should be on the committee.”
“I try to politely tell my good colleagues, we have rules. … I will submit them, I will forward them to you. And I would be surprised if you don’t adopt 98 percent of them. We have rules,” said Iannella, who was first elected in 1984.
Iannella appeared to be referring to a rules package adopted in the 1990s. The State Library’s archives hold two sets of council rules, the most recent package adopted in January 1993. It includes guidelines such as: “No Councillor shall interrupt another while speaking,” and directs members to “avoid personalities” during debate.
Kennedy said “it would make sense to review them, update them, and formally adopt them again.”
In addition to drafting a rules package, the committee will also be tasked with reviewing the questionnaire sent to all pending nominees. DePalo’s motion scheduled debate on a forthcoming rules proposal for the first council meeting in November.