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3 from Worcester Cable Advisory Committee Resign in Protest

By Tom Marino | May 13, 2024
Last Updated: May 13, 2024

WORCESTER – Three members of the Worcester Cable Television Advisory Board resigned from the board over the weekend. Vice-Chairperson Stephen Quist sent a letter of resignation to the city on Saturday. On Sunday, board chairperson John Keough and board member Phillip Lwasa resigned.

On Friday, the City of Worcester Law Department rejected a petition to the Worcester City Council for support of the cable advisory board’s unanimous recommendations.

As This Week in Worcester previously reported, two members of the board, Chairperson John Keough and Vice Chairperson Stephen Quist, filed a citizen’s petition on Monday, May 6, which asked Worcester City Council to vote to support the unanimous recommendations of the Cable Advisory Board.

The board voted unanimously in March to recommend the city manager deny Charter Spectrum renewal of its franchise agreement with the City of Worcester. The board began its work in 2020.

Batista announced via a blog post on May 1 that he would renew the contract with Charter Spectrum.

On Friday, May 10, at 3:46 PM, a representative of the Worcester City Clerk’s office informed Keough and Quist that the city’s law department had rejected their petition and it would not appear on the upcoming agenda.

The clerk’s office provided the following reasoning it says it received from the law department:

“These are members of an advisory committee to the city manager. They cannot petition the CC over a decision of the city manager that is contrary to their position. “[w]hen public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communication from employer discipline.” Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 421 (2006)”

The United States Supreme Court found in Garcetti v. Ceballos that “When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.”

Cable advisory committee members are unpaid volunteers.

Worcester City Solicitor Michael Traynor leads the City of Worcester’s Law Department. The city solicitor reports directly to the city manager, is a member of the manager’s cabinet, and serves at the pleasure of the city manager. A city manager can fire the city solicitor without cause.

After the May 14 city council meeting, the council meets next on May 28 and then on June 18. There are no meetings on May 21 and June 4, as budget hearings will be held. Council will also not meet on June 11 in observation of Shavuot. It meets on June 25 for its evaluation of the city manager.

Item 9.15 on the city council’s agenda for Tuesday, May 14, includes a communication from Traynor to the council which discusses “the process and governing law for renewal of the cable license.” Members of the public will be able to address that item to express themselves on issues related to the franchise agreement between the city and Spectrum Charter during the public participation portion of the meeting.

Worcester City Council meets on Tuesday, May 14, in the Esther Howland (South) Chamber of Worcester City Hall, at 455 Main St., starting at 6:30 PM. Public participation in the meeting is available remotely through Zoom.

The meeting (see agenda) broadcasts on public access channels for Spectrum customers, or the city’s Facebook page.

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