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Regional News

Springfield City Council May Retain Law Firm In Dispute With Mayor Over Police Commission

The order before the Springfield City Council, which will be discussed at a special meeting Tuesday.
Springfield City Council
The order before the Springfield City Council, which will be discussed at a special meeting Tuesday.

The Springfield City Council Tuesday will hold a special meeting to consider whether to retain outside legal counsel. This is the latest step in an ongoing dispute with the mayor over bringing back the city's police commission.

In 2016 and 2018, the city council voted to reestablish the police commission, and both times overrode the vetoes of Mayor Domenic Sarno. But Sarno refused to go along, saying the ordinances went against Springfield's charter.

Now the council is reviewing its legal options.

Councilors including President Justin Hurst have been particularly upset by the city's reinstatement of five officers indicted for perjury. 

"The idea that we can't get on the same accord with respect to that is part of the issue from a cultural standpoint that we are having with our police department," Hurst said. "It is just wrong."

In recent years, whether the city council could or would take the issue to court has been complicated by the fact that the council and the mayor are both represented by the city solicitor's office.

"We're looking to get a second opinion on whether a law that is on the books regarding the police commission is indeed valid and enforceable," Hurst said of Tuesday's special session.

The council is considering retaining the Northampton firm of Lesser, Newman, Aleo, & Nasser LLP. According to the order going before the council, the firm work pro bono. 

As of Monday afternoon, Sarno's spokesperson and City Solicitor Ed Pikula hadn't returned requests for comment. 

The Springfield Police Commission was abolished by a state control board overseeing the city in 2005. 

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