Spar Over O'Neil Flap
Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff
Boston Globe, Thursday, February 4, 1999, page A24
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company
racially charged flap between Councilor Gareth R. Saunders (Roxbury)
and Councilor At Large Albert L. O'Neil caused another eruption
at yesterday's City Council meeting, this time between Saunders
and the City Council president, James M. Kelly.
dispute prompted a two-hour closed-door session to ease the tension.
of South Boston, called for the executive session after refusing
to let Saunders read a statement seeking a reprimand or apology
from O'Neil due to angry remarks O'Neil made last week.
statement, which he read to reporters, asked Kelly to take control
of meetings by reprimanding councilors for personal attacks. The
statement also said that all who enter City Hall should be treated
equally and with respect.
I, as a council member, cannot be treated with dignity and respect,
how can anyone else be?'' Saunders asked.
has said that O'Neil violated a council rule that prohibits councilors
from using abusive language to members on the floor. But Kelly
has declined to invoke the rule, which calls for an apology or
for the member to be held in contempt.
said that O'Neil did not technically violate the rule because
he never mentioned Saunders by name.
last night, Kelly admitted he was liberal with that rule in allowing
O'Neil to launch into last week's discussion during what was supposed
to be the councilor's proposal to memorialize John F. Kennedy.
least for the immediate future, I will strictly adhere to the
rules,'' Kelly said.
Saunders was outraged by being muffled during the meeting - even
vowing to boycott future meetings if he is not granted justice
on the issue - he said last night that he was satisfied with the
resolution reached behind closed doors.
made my issues very clear to the council, and we were able to
work something out that satisfies my concerns,'' Saunders said.
''It was a positive thing, because everyone just got it out on
the table, how they felt about what was going on, how we felt
about each other.''
O'Neil was silent during the fracas and did not return to the
council chambers following the executive session.
disagreement began last week, when O'Neil lashed out at Saunders,
who is black, over what he saw as Saunders' insinuation that he
is a racist. Though O'Neil never named Saunders publicly, Saunders
rose to defend his actions, saying that he had merely asked O'Neil
whether he supports the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white
supremacist group, which says that it has been endorsed by O'Neil.
When asked by a reporter, O'Neil denied being a member but described
the group as good.