Source: Council majority seeking a candidate for mayor

Source: Council majority seeking a candidate for mayor

PAWTUCKET - The relationship between Mayor Donald Grebien and a large majority on the City Council has disintegrated to such a point that the mayor's opponents on the council are actively seeking someone to run against him in 2014, according to one inside source.

The thinking, according to the source, is that a powerful group of council members, several serving on the body for more than 20 years, would put their full political clout behind taking the mayor down.

Councilors representing several of the city's six council districts, along with at least one at-large councilor representing the whole city, are all said to be taking part in the search effort.

Grebien lost support on the council last year when Terrence Mercer took down Chris O'Neill in the District 3 council race. The mayor has only two allies remaining, District 5 Councilor Jean Philippe Barros and At-Large Councilor Albert Vitali Jr., on a nine-member governing body.

A majority on the new council have been harshly critical of Grebien and his administration, lambasting the mayor for everything from "questionable" hires to privatizing city sanitation services. The most recent point of conflict centers on Grebien's move to hire a second "director of constituent services and communications" without the council's permission, angering members.

Councilors have also taken issue with the Grebien administration's tone in communications with them, saying they don't like the shots he's taken at them personally and don't appreciate the lack of information they've received in response to their requests.

Former City Council President Henry Kinch Jr. has told The Breeze he is considering a second run for mayor against the incumbent in 2014, after losing to Grebien in 2010, but none of the councilors spoken to this week say they've been approached by Kinch to seek their support.

At-large Councilor Lorenzo "Larry" Tetreault told The Breeze there is truth to the rumors that several councilors want a new face in the chief executive seat.

"I would say that the person who told you this has been paying attention to the council meetings and what's been going on," he said. "There has been some dissatisfaction with leadership."

He hasn't heard of an "active effort" to seek someone out as a potential challenger to Grebien, said Tetreault, but he said that the "thought has crossed people's minds" and the matter "has been discussed" by several members, including himself.

City Council President David Moran, of District 1, was evasive when asked about a united effort on the part of a council majority to find a qualified candidate, asking instead about who might have shared the information. When pressed, Moran would only say, "not that I'm aware of at this time."

City Councilor Terrence Mercer, another critic of the Grebien administration, was also not aware of a joint effort to find a qualified candidate to challenge the mayor.

"I don't know of a group seeking to do that, but I think it's pretty clear the council's not happy with the way things have gone and the relationship with the mayor individually," he said Monday. He doesn't know that such a group exists, said Mercer, but he does know that there's a "growing dissatisfaction with the mayor" and his team.

Mercer said it's "tough to say" whether he would support a candidate going up against Grebien without knowing who it is first.

"For me it's not necessarily a mayor issue, it's more of an administration as a whole issue that's got me individually frustrated," he said. "We don't even see the mayor."

Councilor Thomas Hodge, another long-time veteran on the council and Grebien critic, said he is unaware of a coordinated effort to find a mayoral challenger.

Councilor John Barry III said he's heard the usual rumors, but he has not been part of talks to get behind a certain individual for mayor.

Freshman Councilor Timothy Rudd, of Council District 6, said that no one has approached him about participating in any kind of joint effort to find a candidate that a majority can support. As for his thoughts on Grebien, said Rudd, "I support some of the things the mayor's done and I'm against some things he's done."

Grebien on Monday issued a statement to The Breeze responding to talk of a possible concerted effort to unseat him.

"I am proud of my record and the work this administration has been able to achieve over the last two and a half years," he said. "Days have been long, decisions difficult, and yes, sometimes controversial. I'll continue to work hard including with the council, for a better future for the city and for all of our residents."

Added Grebien, "I value our democracy and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to discuss with the voters what's most important to them as we continue making progress on keeping the city headed in the right direction.

The 2014 election will allow me and each member of the council to discuss our individual records."