“A treason against the taxpayers" - Councilman Joe Botelho
Did Mayor Jim Briden Castigate EP Teachers and Councilman Bob Britto?
“A treason against the taxpayers,” is what councilman Joe Botelho is calling the latest events surrounding the recent release of secret recordings of Mayor Jim Briden which appeared all over the internet on Thursday, August 24th. Botelho believes that another councilman may be responsible for taping council conversations. “It’s obvious the Mayor was having a conversation with another council member and didn’t know he was being secretly recorded,” Botelho said. “You can tell the recording was edited and was meant to cast the Mayor in the worst possible light.”
The audio recording was posted to YouTube and purports to show that Mayor Jim Briden was denegrating East Providence teachers as "crybabies" in their negotiations for contracts. A voice sounding like Briden was also casting derogatory comments toward fellow Ward One councilman Bob Britto. Briden allegedly questioned Britto's knowledge of law and municipal budgets and other things. "This council has been better under my leadership," claims the Briden tape.
Noting the content of the recording, Botelho went on to say, “that the release of this recording on the eve of the council voting on the teachers’ contract is deeply disturbing. It indicates there may have been an orchestrated attempt to influence the council’s vote through intimidation. That means a member of the council is secretly recording conversations and meetings, and colluding with special interests to influence votes, which in my mind, amounts to a treason against the taxpayers. This may call the validity of the contract into question.”
Botelho says that until the member of the council who is secretly recording meetings and conversations is uncovered, and removed or resigns, a moratorium should be placed on all city council executive session meetings, including claims, litigation and contract negotiations.
“At this point we have to wonder if what is being discussed in executive session is being secretly recorded and finding its way across the table, or will be released all over the internet. Until the offending member is discovered and removed, I have no confidence in the process.”
Botelho said he will pursue options of investigation of this matter with the City Manager and City Solicitor. “ Every contract the city has with its employees expire on November 1st, which is unprecedented, and until we resolve this matter, the integrity of the city council is in question whenever we vote on any of them.”
Mayor Jim Briden has basically denied that he is the person on the audiotape. Briden has told area media that the "tape was manufactured" and that he will discuss this matter with an attorney. Of course, the youtube audio has been making its way around social media which has been abuzz since its disclosure. The audio on youtube has been recently removed.
During the City Council meeting of August 24th, the council unanimously approved a new contract for East Providence teachers. The new contract moves local teachers on the top payment step from about the lowest paid in Rhode Island to near middle of the pack. The teacher contract has been a sore spot for many educators after they were relegated to being one of the lowest paid in New England and had benefits slashed as well as retirees being cut back.
“This should help us compete for new teacher talent and hopefully help to keep our good teachers here instead of leaving our system,” said at-large school committee member Joel Monteiro. The contract also limits the ability of teachers to take personal leaves while seeking employment elsewhere. There appears to be more parameters for job bidding and other efforts to improve stability and proper teacher development.