North Adams Bans Council Meeting Regular From City Hall

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Robert Cardimino at a subcommittee meeting last year. The outspoken resident has been banned from City Hall.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The administration is hoping to calm City Council meetings by clamping down on one of its more disruptive elements: Robert Cardimino.

Cardimino was served on Monday by police with an order prohibiting him from entering City Hall. The no-trespass warning comes a week after he verbally attacked Councilor Marie Harpin at a City Council meeting, a confrontation that continued after the meeting was abruptly adjourned.

Mayor Richard Alcombright said the "aggressive nature and confrontational manner" of Cardimino at that meeting was tipping the point

"When push comes to shove, I'm responsible for the safety and security of anyone in the building," said Alcombright on Monday. The meeting was the councilors' purview but, he said, "I'm sure they were all as concerned as I was at what happened at open forum and later after the meeting adjourned."

Harpin was taken aback by Cardimino's calling her a "deadbeat" over a late tax bill. The councilor had missed her quarterly tax bill but paid it in full as soon as she was notified it was late — prior to last week's meeting and less than 30 days after it was due.

"I'm very concerned about my health and safety with this man," said Harpin. "I just had a heart monitor put on Monday and I got all upset because of him on Tuesday night. ... He was taunting me."

Harpin had no outstanding taxes or fees as of last week, according to City Hall records, but her name had shown up on a list of delinquencies that Cardimino had requested previously. That had Harpin concerned that he would go after others on the list.

"Is he going to publicly say something about them and what they owe?" she asked. "We have a lot of ederly people who have to make choices in the winter months — do I pay my taxes or pay the oil man? How many of these elderly or working poor who can't afford to pay are on that list?"

Cardimino began attending City Council meetings shortly after Alcombright was elected nearly three years ago. He has been highly critical and outspoken about the mayor's actions and policies. He's held signs, made noises during meetings and once dumped a large rock in front of the council president. Police have been present or called to several meetings, once to have him removed from the room.

While setting himself up as the voice of the successful anti-Proposition 2 1/2 vote last year, he failed to secure a seat on the City Council in November's election.

His often obstreperous comments on council agenda items and attempts to engage the mayor in debate led the council to institute new rules of order this year limiting speech by visitors to reduce disruptions.

City Solicitor John DeRosa, who crafted the no-trespass order, said the state statute invoked clearly applies to both public and private properties. 

"We have on occasion sent letters to individuals to stay away from public buildings where in the past that person has been disruptive," said DeRosa.

"It's clearly not about the abridgement of his rights under Open Meeting law or the abridgement of the right of free speech under the Constitution.... It's about the right of the City Council to have an environment and atmosphere conducive to getting the people's business done. ... There is no right to speak at a public meeting."

Alcombright said the "explosive nature" of last week's meeting convinced him that something had to be done.

"I don't know if that's the solution either but at this point, I'm saying enough's enough," said the mayor. "This is about the only thing that I could do to bring some resolution."

Updated with comments from Councilor Marie Harpin at 9 p.m.

Tags: Cardimino,   city council,   disruption,   trespass,   

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