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Somerville alderman O'Donovan resigns, no appointment yet

Posted by Jarret Bencks  April 11, 2013 08:48 PM

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Somerville Alderman Sean O'Donovan resigned Thursday, citing an increased workload at his law practice and a desire to spend more time with his family.

O'Donovan, 47, has represented Ward 5 on the Board of Alderman since 1995, and previously spent four years on the Somerville School Committee.

"Something has got to give, and it is not going to be my family or my law practice," he said in a phone interview before submitting his resignation to the board Thursday night.

But a replacement was not immediately selected Thursday, as aldermen debated the process to make such an appointment.

Before officially resigning, O'Donovan recommended the board appoint Courtney O'Keefe to his post. 

Alderman Bruce Desmond made a motion to appoint O'Keefe, 32, who serves on the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment and Human Rights Commission.

"I think we need someone in that seat right away," Desmond said. "...I think we should move on this tonight."

Not all aldermen agreed. John Connolly called for O'Keefe's proposed appointment to be sent to the Aldermen's Confirmation of Appointments Committee for review.

"A process is something we have to look at here," he said. ".. .I think it merits just a little bit of deliberation."

Connolly's proposal was approved without any formal objection, but was first met with skepticism from Ward 7 Alderman Bob Trane. Only four months earlier, Ward 1 Alderman Bill Roche resigned to become the city's personnel director, and the board immediately appointed his recommendation for the seat, then-School Committee member Maureen Bastardi.

"It seems like we're in the middle of a baseball game and we changed the rules," Trane said Thursday.

Following Bastardi's appointment in December, Alderwoman Rebekah Gewirtz submitted a resolution calling for the aldermen to review how elected city boards should handle resignations. Thursday, Gewirtz again called for a review of the process, and for O'Keefe's appointment to first be subject of a committee review.

Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente said he would support O'Keefe as an appointment, but also wanted the appointment process changed. 

Unless an alderman is terminally ill, or otherwise physically unable to do the job, open seats should be subject to an election, he said.

"This is the last time I will ever vote yes [on an appointment]," he said. "Voters in the city have a fundamental right to vote in who represents them."

O'Keefe attended Thursday's meeting, and said she was not discouraged by the aldermen's decision.

"I just want to represent Ward 5," she said. "I don't blame them, and if I have to go through this process, that's what I'll do."

Whether appointed or not, O'Keefe said she planned on running for the seat in November. If elected, she would become the city's first openly gay elected official.

O'Keefe works in the trust funds office for the Local IBEW 103 electricians union, and also runs a website, ward5online.com.

The Confirmations of Appointments Committee is expected to consider O'Keefe's appointment next week. Members include Bastardi,  Desmond, Lafuente, and Trane. O'Donovan was on the committee prior to his resignation.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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