Appointment of Cambridge deputy mayor 'a slap in the face' to councillors: Jan Liggett

·3 min read

Cambridge city council didn’t shoot the sheriff, but almost shot down the deputy mayor appointment of Coun. Mike Mann.

In a 5-3 decision on Tuesday, council voted to appoint Mann as the deputy mayor, but amended the original motion for the position to last until the end of the council term in 2022 and changed it until the lifting of the municipal emergency or the end of December 2021, whichever comes first.

Mann will also take Mayor Kathryn McGarry’s spot at regional council and Energy+ board meetings when she is unable to attend.

Councillors Nicholas Ermeta, Mike Devine and Jan Liggett voted against the motion.

The discussion wasn’t without its fervour, as McGarry noted she brought the recommendation to city staff to “ensure business continuity” while she is off recovering from upcoming surgery.

She added that watching Regional Chair Karen Redman announce a positive COVID-19 test in January, as well as having to attend a critical Energy+ meeting a day after the death of her son, pushed her to seek the appointment of a deputy mayor, something staff said usually happens at the beginning of a council term.

She scoffed at social media chatter of her making the appointment to take on another political role or taking a voluntary leave. She said having someone in her stead to run council meetings, attend regional council — which only allows a councillor to have one designated substitute per term — and having signing authority, especially to end emergency measures if necessary, is “good governance.”

McGarry noted she chose Mann due to his “extensive knowledge” of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, his position as vice-chair Shareholders Strategic Advisory Committee, in dealing with Energy+, and the fact he has chaired several virtual council meetings.

Liggett took exception to the appointment of Mann, stating that any of the city councillors were able to perform the duties of the mayor, have chaired virtual meetings and could be quickly taught the procedures of emergency measures, if needed.

While she said the duties could be fulfilled by the acting mayor, which rotates between council members — and will continue to do so — she stated if the deputy mayor position were to be filled it should be by Ermeta, who received the highest number of votes in the 2018 municipal election.

“What I see here is preferential treatment of Coun. Mann, which has been going on for a long time. He’s been given the priority over the rest of us for council meetings and other things,” Liggett said, calling the ignoring of other councillors for the position “a slap in the face.”

Liggett added, as far as number of votes, Mann was fifth among the eight councillors. She said she was fourth but didn’t want the job.

“This isn’t about me, this isn’t about my ego, it goes against my moral compass actually to do what we’re doing now,” Liggett noted, repeating the claim of favouritism for Mann.

“You’re entitled to your opinion. I won’t agree with that,” McGarry replied.

Coun. Scott Hamilton said while he understands Liggett’s reasoning behind appointing the councillor with the highest votes to the deputy mayor position, like the City of Aurora, it’s not a true measure for the job as residents only vote for their ward, not all wards.

He said with “uncertainty and volatility” in the municipality with the pandemic, he felt Mann, with his background and experience, would bring “stability and security.”

Devine noted the only fair way to put someone in the position is to go to the electorate and have them vote. He said while it is too late for this term, he would like to see it in the future.

Bill Doucet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times