Cambridge's mayoral deadlock has sown seeds of conflict in the city's School Committee, members said yesterday.
The conflict came to a head last Tuesday night, when the committee narrowly elected Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) member E. Denise Simmons to the position of vice-chair, the second-highest position on the committee.
Members of the opposing coalition, the Alliance for Progress, protested Simmons' election, charging that the vote violated committee rules. In addition, they said the vote contradicts a previous agreement to wait until the City Council elects a mayor, who automatically serves as chair of the School Committee.
"The whole thing really stunk," committee member Alfred B. Fantini, an Alliance member, said.
At Tuesday's meeting, Alliance School Committee members Joseph G. Grassi and David P. Maher objected to holding a vote, arguing that the election was not on the meeting's agenda.
"In my opinion, this was clearly a violation of Robert's Rules [of Order]," Fantini said, referring to the standard guide for parliamentary procedure.
But Francis H. Duehay '55, acting mayor and acting school committee chair, ruled that the election of a vice-chair was an ongoing issue for the committee, since the city charter calls for an election of the vice-chair at the first committee meeting of the year. Duehay is a member of the CCA.
Alice Turkel, the CCA member who proposed Tuesday's vote, said the Alliance's objections are reasonable, but added that she went out of her way to prepare the coalition's committee members for the election.
At its inaugural meeting on January 1, the committee decided to postpone the election of a vice-chair until the council chose a mayor. In the interim, committee members agreed Simmons and Fantini would alternately serve as acting vice-chair.
"The gentleperson's agreement was broken," Grassi said.
But Turkel said that the committee's compromise was made prior to a separate City Council agreement that Duehay would act as school committee chair until a mayor was elected.
Grassi disagreed that this justified breaking the deal.
"When you make an agreement, the fact of the agreement is enough to stand by," Grassi said.
Fantini suggested that the sudden nature of the vote may indicate that a new mayor will be chosen at tonight's City Council meeting.
He speculated that the CCA and the Alliance cut a deal to appoint a school committee vice-chair from the CCA and a mayor from the Alliance.
The council has been trying for almost two months to pick a new mayor, but has been deadlocked by conflict between the two coalitions