Two councilors-elect in Holyoke dealing with employment conflicts in order to take office
One city councilor-elect in Holyoke, Massachusetts, said she has quit her day job with the Holyoke Public Schools so she can take office in January. Another councilor-elect — who also works for the school department — is not sure about his next step, but vows he will also serve on the council.
At issue is a 2017 Holyoke ordinance banning councilors from holding city jobs.
Israel Rivera won an at-large seat last month. Jenny Rivera, no relation, was the winner in Ward One.
The current members of the council on Tuesday considered eliminating the rule that would stop them from taking office. During a public comment period, another councilor-elect, Kevin Jourdain, spoke out against striking the ordinance, citing potential conflicts of interest.
“Allowing the mayor and department heads to start hiring council candidates and councilors-elect and then planting them in city jobs, is a recipe for big trouble,” Jourdain said.
Tempers flared. Jourdain spoke well past his allotted one minute, leading to a shouting match with some councilors that overwhelmed the microphones on the Holyoke Media broadcast.
City Council President Todd McGee banged his gavel repeatedly and yelled, “Order!”
Jourdain, who served previously on the council for more than two decades, yelled that when he is sworn in again, councilors won't be able to shut off his microphone.
After the fracas, the council voted 8-5 to repeal the ordinance, but that was one short of the required supermajority.
Both councilors-elect affected by the rule are Hispanic, and Jenny Rivera thinks that's a factor. She notes Holyoke, which is majority Latino, just elected its first Puerto Rican mayor.
“There's a lot of Latinos in the [council] now, and it is about that,” she said.
Still, Rivera said it means so much to her to be a city councilor, she already resigned from the school department and has taken a job at a nonprofit.
Israel Rivera hasn't made that decision yet. But one way or another, he said, he's going to be on the council.
“Could be that I stay working at HPS, or it could be that I resign January 2 and I end up unemployed, looking for employment somewhere else,” he said.
Holyoke's new city council is due to be sworn in January 3.