City council members on Tuesday evening approved a no confidence vote reprimanding council president Julio Tavarez for remarks he made in Spanish radio broadcasts during December’s controversial city clerk appointments.
Council members in a 4-3 vote approved the no confidence measure against Tavarez. The council president said the vote was orchestrated to tarnish his reputation. He cited the resolution stating that it mentions no wrong that he committed other than declaring he visited several Spanish language radio programs.
“It seems the problem here is that I spoke Spanish,“ said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. He said some people are attacking him under the assumption that because he spoke in Spanish he must have said “bad things” about their community.
The resolution did not contain the exact words Tavarez uttered during the radio broadcasts.
“Did you ever receive a transcript of what was allegedly said by council president Tavarez?” asked Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, to city’s law director Domenick Stampone, whose department prepares resolutions.
“No,” responded Stampone.
“Did you ever receive a recording and if you did was there a translation?” continued Sayegh.
Stampone replied in the negative stating all the information provided to the city’s legal department is contained within the resolution.
“There’s no specific violation [committed] by council president Tavarez in the resolution,” added Alex Mendez, councilman at-large. “I don’t see any specific details.”
“We were merely scribes when it came to this resolution,” said Stampone. He said the legal department was asked by the council to draft a resolution and it did just that.
“It accuses me of doing immoral things, but doesn’t say what I did. It says I should be punished, but doesn’t say what I did. It just says whatever I did was horrible and I must be punished for that,” said Tavarez.
Council members who voted in favor of the no confidence resolution cited poor leadership performance.
“This resolution is not about ethnicity, it’s not about race, it’s not about any individual, it’s about the sanctity of this municipal council, our protocol and our process, it is about leadership,” said William McKoy, 3rd councilman. “This is about the discord that has occurred as a result of the remarks.”
“You’re supposed to make sure we’re all together that’s the role of the council president,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. She said the council president’s role is to bring council members together and not divide them apart alluding to allegedly divisive comments the council president made in December.
Mendez said he was listening to the broadcast when it took place. “I didn’t feel that he disrespected his colleagues at all,” he said. Mendez said Tavarez called on Hispanic city residents to call their council members to lobby for a Hispanic appointment to the city clerk’s office.
Mendez said this vote further divides the community. He said the city should focus on addressing ever increasing property taxes, crime, and other issues.
“In order to do those things we need to have good leadership,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. Morris said the vote does not target Tavarez as an individual or the 5th Ward councilman, but as the president of the council.
“You have to know that you are the voice and face of the municipal council and that requires sometimes you bite your tongue. Sometimes it’s a painful bite even if you believe you’re right,” said Morris.
“As the council president your responsibility is to manage the meetings, set the agenda, make sure the appointments are done on time – he has dispensed his duties,” said Sayegh.
1st Ward councilman James Staton focused on the timely appointment clause. Staton pointed out that former city clerk Jane Williams-Warren had informed the council president she would retire at the end of the year yet the selection process was postponed until the last moment.
Staton, McKoy, Morris, and Cotton voted in favor of the no confidence vote while Sayegh, Mendez, and Tavarez voted against.
Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, abstained from voting.
“I believed in him,” said Davila, hearkening back to July 1st, 2014, when she cast her vote in favor of making Tavarez president. “I’m not happy with council president today.”
Davila said she doesn’t believe him to be a bad person adding, “It’s the way he comes across.” Davila said she is unhappy at the councilman’s unwillingness to return her phone calls and his attendance.
The vote brought out a number of Tavarez’s supporters including his sister Rhina Tavarez and close friend Joel Ramirez.
Roughly 60-percent of city residents speak Spanish, said Tavarez’s sister. She said her brother’s intent behind having a Hispanic deputy clerk was to assist those individuals. “So when they come here they have somebody that can understand them,” said the sister.
“In December, I was here in this chamber, and quite frankly, I did not believe what was going on,” said Ramirez. “I witnessed hate, I witnessed oppression at its best, all aimed against someone I consider an honorable, good public servant trying to do his job.”
What Ramirez witnessed was council members appointing a deputy clerk and a city clerk. Council members opted to appoint two longtime city clerk’s office employees to the posts; however, Tavarez wished to appoint a Hispanic city clerk’s office employee, Audrey Cartright, to fill the post of deputy clerk. Cartright possessed four years of experience in the city compared to 15 years possessed by Joan Campbell-Douglas, the clerk who was ultimately appointed.
Ramirez called the no confidence vote “ridiculous.” He, like Mendez, said Tavarez’s remarks on the radio was devoid of any divisiveness or racism. Ramirez said much of the rumors circulated by “political agitators” were based on “hearsay” and a “bad translation.”
“I would have liked to seen a transcript,” said David Gilmore, city activist. Gilmore urged the no confidence vote since the racially tinged clerk appointments.
“There isn’t a transcript and there isn’t a recording so it would be irresponsible for me to vote no confidence in his leadership,” said Sayegh.
The no confidence vote is largely symbolic for the council to express disapproval at the council president’s leadership.
“We have been off the track,” said McKoy, who called for the vote. “This is simply saying let us get back on track.”