NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Jason LaForest, president of the City Council, has resigned Monday effective immediately.
With LaForest, fully one-third of the council elected in 2019 has resigned before completing their term. He has not attended the last two council meetings or last week's public hearing.
The licensed practical nurse posted on Facebook Monday morning that his decision was made after "careful consideration of my personal and professional obligations in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."
He also wrote it was influenced by "shameful dirty back-door politics that has marked this council; and the absurd grand-standing and conspiracy theories of other councilors and candidates."
LaForest made no specific allegations against his fellow councilors but there have been obvious tensions and disagreements among them most often played out in comments and deliberations during council meetings. LaForest has often found himself on the losing end of 7-2 votes and had strongly implied his questioning of the mayor had lost him the presidency at the beginning of 2020.
LaForest was elected to vice president in January 2020 at the beginning of his second term and elevated to president on the resignation of Paul Hopkins in May. Robert Moulton Jr. resigned in 2020 after making comments about the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter on his public access television show.
LaForest was a frequent critic of the way the budget was presented, pointing out that the administration had failed repeatedly to provide a capital plan in a timely manner. He also had championed in the last year the need for a division to ensure the fire hydrants were working and to find a solution to the obsolete public safety building.
"Sadly there is no room for debate, dissent or advocacy for the people who have built our city over multiple generations," the councilor wrote in his Facebook post.
The councilor had briefly mounted a campaign for mayor after Mayor Thomas Bernard said he would not stand for re-election but that effort dissolved after allegations of inappropriate behavior arose over a Facebook posting. LaForest publicly apologized for the post.
He did not take out papers to run for mayor and did not return nomination papers for council. His post, in full above, asks voters to "vote wisely this November."
Vice President Lisa Blackmer said her recommendation to the council will be follow the same procedure used when the late Clark Billings resigned in August 2009 by immediately seating the highest non-incumbent vote-getter after the November election. In that case, it was David Bond, who had received the second-highest number of votes for City Council.
The council can decide whether to do that or follow a different path.
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