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Springfield City Councilor who said he'd subpoena police commissioners loses committee assignment

Springfield City Council Victor Davila chairs a meeting of the Public Safety Committee on December 13, 2022
Focus Springfield Community Television
Springfield City Council Victor Davila chairs a meeting of the Public Safety Committee on December 13, 2022

Victor Davila is out as chairman of Public Safety Committee after one year

New committee assignments for City Councilors in Springfield, Massachusetts include one notable shakeup.

City Councilor Victor Davila, who made headlines a month ago when he said he would consider issuing subpoenas to compel the members of the Board of Police Commissioners to appear at Public Safety Committee meetings, has been removed both as chairman and as a member of the committee.

Davila told WAMC he does not believe it is a coincidence.

“Just when we started to become critical and demand answers from the police commission not only do I get pulled off the chairmanship of Public Safety but also get pulled off of the Public Safety Committee altogether and I wonder why,” Davila said.

City Council President Jesse Lederman said his decision to remove Davila from the Public Safety Committee had nothing to do with the threat to subpoena police commissioners.

“No, my committee assignments are specifically based on assembling a team I believe can push forward the agenda that we have set out for the City Council this year,” Lederman said. He said he wanted to give Councilors “the opportunity to both work on issues they’ve expressed interest in and gain some new experiences in different areas and make us all ultimately better elected officials.”

Last month, Davila scheduled a meeting of the Public Safety Committee to receive an update on the work of the new civilian board that is tasked with disciplining Springfield police officers. But the agenda was thwarted when none of the five police commissioners showed up. That led to some discussion about the Council exercising its almost never used subpoena power.

“It would be pretty sad to have to do that but it is not completely off the table at this point,” Davila said at the meeting.

It was not the first time the police commissioners either declined, or did not respond to, an invitation from the City Council. The full Council held a meeting last October to see how the board was progressing in its role as an independent overseer of the Springfield Police Department, and no commissioners attended that meeting.

Lederman said he plans to schedule soon another special meeting of the full City Council to receive an update on police reforms.

“Let me be crystal clear that members of the Springfield police commission will appear before the full body of the Springfield City Council in 2023 through whatever means necessary,” Lederman said.

Committee assignments are made annually at the discretion of the council president.

Public Safety is considered a high-profile plum assignment. Former City Councilor Orlando Ramos served four consecutive years as chairman of the committee from 2018-2021. Before him, former Councilor Tom Ashe had a long run as chairman.

Davila was the Public Safety Committee chairman for one year.

Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce, who won a special election for the vacant Ward 5 seat last summer, is now the chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

Davila has been appointed to three committees: Audit, Civil Rights, and Elder Affairs, which he will chair.

“I will serve with honor and distinction the residents of the city of Springfield on whatever committee I’m assigned to,” Davila said.

In addition to making appointments to the Council’s dozen standing committees, Lederman, who began his first full one-year term as Council President on January 2nd, announced he’s forming two special oversight committees and creating four working groups.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.