Local Government and Politics, News

The Lynn City Council is deadlocked over who should replace Peter Capano in January

LYNN — Peter Capano will be sworn in as state representative next month, but it’s unclear who will replace him on the City Council. One of the candidates has secured at least four of the six votes needed to win the seat.

Capano was elected to represent West Lynn and Nahant last month in the state legislature and plans to step down as Ward 6 Councilor at the end of the month, a position he has held since 2005.

Under City Charter rules, if a seat becomes open on the council, the person who came in second gets the job. But since Capano ran unopposed in the last local election, the council will choose his replacement by majority vote. If he didn’t opt to resign, Capano could have held onto his council seat until next year’s election.

The two leading candidates who have emerged to replace him are Fred Hogan, a community activist, and Donald Castle, assistant chief probation officer in Suffolk Superior Court.

“I like both of what I perceive as candidates, Don Castle and Fred Hogan,” said Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi. “I know them both well and I think either one of them would make a fine councilor.”

City councilors receive a stipend of approximately $25,000.

Four city councilors have committed to voting for Hogan, citing the work he’s done in the community and personal connections. Another councilor is leaning toward voting for him, which would give him five of the six votes needed to fill the seat.

David Ellis, who serves on the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission board of commissioners, and Cinda Danh, once a legislative aide to former state Rep. Steven M. Walsh, have expressed interest in the post as well.

Capano declined comment through a legislative aide, but has thrown his support behind Hogan as well, who he said was in sync with many of his priorities for the city in a previous interview with The Item. The pair are the co-founders of Lynn’s Stop the Violence initiative.

Ellis, who served as Ward 6 Councilor for 12 years before Capano’s tenure, said he’s the only candidate with experience in the position. He said he’s spoken to councilors about his interest, but expects the council has another candidate in mind.

“I think there’s a lot of politics involved (with) councilors deciding to appoint somebody instead of it being done by the people who are going to be represented,” Ellis said. “I think they’ll find a political appointment that meets the political needs of the body and it will be decided that way … Anybody they put in now would be a rookie and would have to figure out how government works.”

City Councilors Buzzy Barton, Brian LaPierre, Rick Starbard and Jay Walsh have said they’re on board for Hogan. Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci is undecided but said he’s leaning toward Hogan.

Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis and Councilor at-Large Brian Field are undecided. City Council President Darren Cyr, who said he wanted Capano to serve out the remainder of his term, and Lozzi declined to say which way they would be voting. Councilor-at-Large Hong Net said he’s undecided but is leaning toward Castle.

“I’ve been a Freddie guy for awhile,” said Starbard. “I like Donnie too, but Fred has done a lot for the community.”

Walsh said Danh has approached him, but cited Hogan’s work in the community and the fact that he “wasn’t doing it with the ambition to become a councilor,” as the reason for his support.

Barton and LaPierre both know Hogan from his days coaching girls’ basketball at Lynn English High School. Barton said he was coaching boys’ basketball at Lynn English at the same time and LaPierre’s time as assistant athletic director at the school coincided with Hogan’s tenure.

LaPierre calls Hogan a “good friend” and Barton said his mother was friends with Hogan’s parents. Colucci said he’s known Hogan for years.

“I know he’s a hard worker,” Barton said. “I know he’d be a good man for the job. He would have time to give.”

Chakoutis said she’s waiting until January when the council is expected to vote on its next member.

“I know Don Castle,” she said. “Hogan has not approached me or spoken to me yet.”

Net said he’s spoken to Castle, but he hasn’t been approached by Hogan. He said he’s seen Castle’s work and believes the candidate understands the residents of Ward 6 and knows its problems.

Castle is the founding member of Protect Our Reservoir-Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that helped defeat a $188 million plan for two middle schools last spring.

If the council vote is tied on who would replace Capano, additional votes would be taken until a majority is achieved, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney.

This is the first time in more than a decade that the council will vote to fill a vacancy on the panel. The last two city councilors who were elected to the Legislature mid-term, state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) and Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), kept both jobs until the next election.

The last time there was an interim councilor was in 2006 when then-City Council President James Cowdell was appointed as director to the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn), which created a vacancy. Paula Mackin was selected to replace him on the council, according to Lamanna.

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