Angered by Questions on his Support for Group
By Stephanie Ebbert
Boston Globe, January 28, 1999, p. B3
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company
eyes were wild, his voice raised.
in his wheelchair, in front of his nurse and behind a microphone
bedecked with a small American flag, City Councilor at Large Albert
L. "Dapper" O'Neil yesterday lashed out at a fellow councilor
for questioning his support of a white supremacist group.
known for his vitriol, the 28-year veteran of the council managed
to still stun some councilors during yesterday's City Council
meeting, hollering that he is not a racist and berating a black
colleague for asking him whether he supports the white group.
heated exchange during a break, the 78-year-old O'Neil threatened
Councilor Gareth R. Saunders (Roxbury): "I wish I could get up
out of this goddamned chair. I'll show you what you are."
before the weekly council meeting had ended, O'Neil was again
in the spotlight - this time for his longterm dedication and service,
as the Knights of Columbus recognized him as a fourth-degree Knight.
Councilor Brian Honan (Allston-Brighton) read the honor and handed
O'Neil a certificate, joking: "No speeches, right?"
juxtaposition is the tale of O'Neil's tenure. In his 28 years
on the council, the sometimes angry, sometimes animated councilor
has continually won the longstanding support and admiration of
many, coasting to reelection to represent all the city's neighborhoods.
Even as he battled illness and moved temporarily into a Stoughton
nursing home, O'Neil has harbored plans to run for another term
O'Neil's angry speeches are starting to wear thin. As he unleashed
criticism yesterday, he attracted the skepticism of his colleagues,
who have been trying to heighten the profile and professionalism
of their body. One councilor said several members want to meet
with O'Neil privately to discuss his behavior.
there's a measure of vaudeville or showmanship, or at some point
the tirades are laced with humor," said one councilor, who asked
not be be idenitified. "This was totally out of control. It was
a sad day for City Council."
said he's drafting a letter to Council President James M. Kelly
(South Boston) calling for an apology or a contempt citation.
from him or accusations or threats from him have surfaced in the
council before and many of us kind of look the other way,"
Saunders said. "We say, `That's Dapper. He's up in age.' But you
have to draw the line sometimes."
who is legally blind and has weathered a host of ailments, including
prostate cancer, an intestinal tumor, and pneumonia in recent
years, was not available late yesterday to respond to his fellow
councilors' comments about his outbursts.
his tirade yesterday, O'Neil seemed intent on demonstrating his
vigor, saying he is moving out of the Stoughton facility in two
weeks to return home and will be stronger than ever. But even
as he proclaimed that he is "not looking for sympathy from anybody,"
he spoke of the nerve disorder that left him temporarily paralyzed.
you tackle me when I was down and out," he said. "And the Globe,
get off my back."
weeks ago, O'Neil told The Boston Globe he was not a member of
the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group
whose literature touts endorsements by a number of conservative
politicians, including O'Neil. "I'm not a member of it, but they
are a good group," he said at the time.
yesterday said he had recently called O'Neil merely to verify
the statements, and became satisfied that O'Neil was not a member.
not criticize the councilor or kick him when he was down," he
said during the meeting.
fracas began when O'Neil proposed that a statue be erected for
John F. Kennedy near City Hall, an effort he linked to his refusal
two weeks ago - the only nay vote - to support a statue honoring
Martin Luther King Jr. O'Neil's proposal also passed.
several councilors criticized the "tit-for-tat" nature of his
effort. Councilor Thomas M. Keane Jr. (Back Bay) noted: "It looked
like, if you're going to honor Martin Luther King, you have to
do it for John F. Kennedy as well."