Peabody Mayor Edward Bettencourt has learned that he and the city must wait until an April 2 special election in the 12th Essex District before the vacant state representative seat can be filled.
Bettencourt asked Gov. Deval Patrick in January to let him appoint an interim replacement for the late state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis in the district, which covers most of Peabody.
After speaking with Patrick’s chief of staff and legal council, Bettencourt affirmed that the governor does not have the authority to permit such an appointment, nor is there a mechanism in place for the governor to grant Bettencourt’s request to do so.
Bettencourt said that the Speaker of the state House of Representatives controls this type of situation and can authorize a special election, yet cannot appoint an interim representative.
“I understand that the governor doesn’t have that ability, however there’s a hole in the system because the city of Peabody is short one representative,” Bettencourt said. “I believe either myself or the city council should be allowed to appoint an interim to be a voice for the city of Peabody.”
The mayor compares the city’s situation to that of the state’s. Massachusetts was down a senator after John Kerry was sworn in as secretary of state, yet the governor was able to appoint an interim senator until a special election is held.
With the important decisions being made in the state, the mayor said that Peabody is at a disadvantage.
“Right now the budget is being discussed, many important decisions are taking place and city of Peabody is short a voice during those discussions,” Bettencourt said. “I think it’s something that should be resolved because there will be another city or town in the future that will have the same thing happen to them as we did in Peabody.”
Bettencourt added that he will discuss the possibility of proposing a bill permitting the appointment of an interim representative with the winner of the special election in April.
In the mean time, the mayor said he’s thankful to have the support of state Rep. Ted Spiliotis, who represents part of Ward 5 and Ward 6, Rep. John Keenan of Salem, as well as state Sen. Joan Lovely, all of which have reached out to him offering their assistance.
Terri Ogan can be reached at email@example.com.