NORTH ADAMS -- The state Attorney General's office has ruled that City Council President Michael Bloom was not in violation of the Open Meeting Law last June, when he declared Robert Cardimino "out of order" and prohibited him from finishing his remarks during the council's Open Forum.
The determination, issued Tuesday by the Attorney General's Division of Open Government, states that Bloom acted within his rights as council president, which include determining who can and cannot address the council.
Bloom ruled Cardimino out of order during the council's June 12, 2012 meeting, after he told Councilor Marie Harpin "to pay her taxes," referring to a list of unpaid property taxes he had received from the city several months earlier. Cardimino became argumentative and refused to sit down, which led to Bloom's adjournment of the meeting.
"The ruling just reinforces that what Mr. Cardimino says is nonsense," Bloom said Thursday. "He has his own personal agenda and he brings it to every meeting. The public should be aware that's the way he operates. He consistently feels the rules do not apply to him. He feels he should be allowed different rules -- more time to speak and about whatever he wants -- when other speakers rarely, if ever, complain."
Cardimino said Thursday he is disappointed by the ruling.
"I think [the Attorney General's office] is wrong. I don't think they took into consideration that I was speaking about a municipal issue. It wasn't a personal attack. I didn't do it to be slanderous, [my comments] were based on the information I was handed by City Hall. I assumed they were accurate," he said.
Tuesday's ruling does not take the content of Cardimino's comments into consideration, only the actions taken by the council.
"The Open Meeting Law does not require that a public body allow public participation," Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Sclarsic wrote. "The law states that no person shall address a meeting of a public meeting without the permission of the chair, and all persons, at the request of the chair, be silent. ... Because the council president, as the chair of the council, has the authority to decide who may address the council, he did not violate the Open Meeting Law by cutting off Mr. Cardimino's remarks."
Cardimino's complaint, which was filed with the Attorney General's office on Aug. 1, asserted that the City Council and, in particular, Bloom, violated his freedom of speech and the Open Meeting Law. He asked that Bloom's ruling be reversed and that the council "in the future, allow the public to speak without interruption or bullying from the president or council members."
In Tuesday's ruling, Sclarsic declined to determine whether Bloom had violated Cardimino's "constitutional right to free speech" because the Division of Open Government only interprets and enforces the Open Meeting law.
"Thus we decline to review allegations of the violation of any other law," Sclarsic wrote. He also noted that the office had reviewed the complaint, the city's July 19 response and a video of the June 12 meeting before making its decision.
Bloom said he hopes Cardimino abides by the council's rules in the future.
"I hope that he realizes, that in all fairness, even though he's been rude to myself, to my family and to other councilors, I still address him in a gentlemanly fashion and allow him to speak during public comment and open forum," he said. "I don't think it will change his attitude toward the council or the mayor. Clearly he can't stand the way government is run."
Cardimino said he is still considering whether he will pursue the issue any further. Under state law, Cardimino has the right to a judicial review by Berkshire Superior Court. The complaint must be filed with the court within 21 days.
"I'm still thinking about it," he said. "This is a very important issue throughout the state. It's not just a North Adams issue. This could set a precedent. This is supposed to be a democracy, not a dictatorship. This may educate the lawyers in Boston in Attorney General Martha Coakley's office."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email