Official facing ethics rebuke

Councilor Wayne Matewsky said he has apologized to restaurant employees.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky said he has apologized to restaurant employees.Credit:

Common Councilor Wayne Matewsky, who is also Everett’s newly elected state representative, is facing a reprimand from his council colleagues for reportedly berating employees at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in a dispute over seating arrangements.

A spokesman for the restaurant said Matewsky used profanities while he complained about being seated near a special needs child celebrating her seventh birthday at the restaurant, located at the Gateway Shopping Center on Route 16.

After taking testimony at a private meeting on Tuesday, the council’s ethics committee determined that Matewsky had “committed misconduct, to wit, abuse of his official position for the purpose outside of his official duties,” according to the decision read aloud after the committee deliberated.

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Matewsky, 54, also threatened to call the Board of Health on the restaurant and left without paying his $60 bill, said Travis Doster, senior director of public relations for Texas Roadhouse, a Kentucky-based restaurant chain, in a telephone interview from Louisville.

“He and his party were seated at a table in the bar area, near the family with the special needs child,” said Doster, who received an account of the incident from the manager of the Everett restaurant. “At some point, he said, ‘I would like to be moved away from this [expletive] child.’ He raised a ruckus.”

Matewsky, a common councilor for 32 years and the city’s longest serving elected official, strongly denied the restaurant’s version of events. “It was a table dispute,” Matewsky said in an interview. “I don’t want to get into any more than that.”

He said he never saw a special needs child in the restaurant. “I never saw any child. I never had any contact with anybody,” Matewsky said

Management became concerned that other patrons overheard the exchange between Matewsky and staff, Doster said. “He left without paying his bill, though he claims he left cash on the table. If he did, nobody has since found it,” Doster said.

The incident happened at about 8:30 the night of March 6, the day after Matewsky won the Democratic nomination for state representative for the April 2 special election. An assistant manager told Matewsky that no other tables were available, Doster said.

“She also told him she did not appreciate, in the least, his language about this young child,” Doster said.

“Mr. Matewsky then said to her, ‘Do you know who I am?’ and she said she did not,” Doster said. “He called her a name, and then said, ‘I can have the health department down here tomorrow, and I can get you fired.’ ”

At that point, the assistant manager told Matewsky to leave, Doster said.

Matewsky said he left $30 on the table. “We had a Bloody Mary and two Pepsis. We never got our food,” he said.

Matewsky said he went to the restaurant about a week after the incident and apologized to the staff. “I consider the matter closed,” he said.

Doster, the restaurant spokesman, confirmed that Matewsky later visited the restaurant to apologize. “We said, ‘That’s great. But we would ask that you apologize to the family.’ To my knowledge, he still hasn’t reached out to the family, and he still hasn’t paid the bill.”

Matewsky said he had never been to the Texas Roadhouse before that night, when he went with two friends. He was bothered by the loud music and the peanut shells on the floor, he said.

“I might have said, ‘The place is messy.’ But I never called the Board of Health,” he said.

The dispute became public during the March 11 meeting of the Everett Common Council. Michael Toto, a Revere resident who said he witnessed the incident at the restaurant, spoke during the council’s public comment period.

“I saw him berating the child and her father,” Toto, 56, said in an interview. “I didn’t think that was right. I wanted him to step up and take responsibility for it.”

A week later, at the council’s March 18 meeting, Councilor Michael McLaughlin asked that the matter be referred to the council’s ethics committee. “I contacted Texas Roadhouse to see if what Mr. Toto said was true,” McLaughlin said in an interview. “They did, and I asked for a full investigation by our ethics committee.”

Matewsky said he voted in favor of the ethics committee review. “I’m a decent person. I’m a good councilman. I got elected year after year,” he said.

Witnesses at the closed-door hearing last Tuesday included Toto and Matewsky’s dining companions. Doster said he was invited to the meeting, but he told city officials he could not attend on short notice.

The ethics committee voted unanimously, 4-0, to recommend the reprimand, which is the most severe action the council could take, according to a city attorney. The committee also recommended that Matewsky apologize to the restaurant, but acknowledged that he had already done so.

The ethics committee recommendation still must be approved by the 18-member Common Council, which is expected to address it at its meeting on Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Matewsky said he thinks the the incident was publicized to hurt his chances in the state representative race.

“It was an attempt to derail my candidacy after I won the primary,” Matewsky said.

He was elected to fill the unexpired term of Stephen “Stat” Smith, who last week was sentenced to four months in federal prison and one year of probation and was fined $20,000 after pleading guilty to two counts of absentee ballot fraud. Matewsky beat former Everett mayor John Hanlon, who ran a write-in campaign, by 49 votes.

Toto, who spent the first 10 years of his childhood living in Everett, said he’s not motivated by politics.

“In no way, shape or form, is this about politics,” he said.

Matewsky, who worked as Smith’s legislative aide, said he expects to be sworn into office as state representative in the next month. He then plans to resign his seat on the Common Council, he said.

“I consider this matter behind me,” he said of the restaurant incident. “I want to move forward so I can represent the people of Everett at the State House in a professional manner.”

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