Holyoke mayor ousts Historical Commission chairwoman

  • Holyoke City Hall, as seen from Holyoke Heritage State Park, on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/30/2023 9:22:31 PM

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia sees Paola Ferrario’s behavior toward him at a Historical Commission meeting earlier in January and complaints from city employees last summer as sufficient reasons to remove her from continued service as chairwoman of the panel.

“It was my experience at that meeting that made me fully understand how others have been feeling and therefore you left me with no other option,” Garcia wrote in a letter to Ferrario that formally ends her tenure. “Your behavior demonstrates that you lack the capacity to collaborate with others effectively in city government.”

Ferrario said she and her attorney, Brody Hale of Lee, are exploring legal options, and she is considering starting a legal fund.

“Brody and I are composing a letter to the Mass Historic Commission illustrating the situation and submitting materials,” Ferrario said.

Ferrario has defended her work as protecting Holyoke’s historic assets and that her advocacy for the Scott Tower and Anniversary Hill Park rehabilitation project has been appropriate.

Last week, the city held a hearing on Ferrario’s status on the commission after Garcia sent her a letter, via a police officer, informing her that she was being removed. That hearing included testimony from city employees, as well as input from Ferrario.

Garcia, as the hearings officer, used the information at that session, including videos and emails, and what he said are Ferrario’s continued criticism of employees in the Office of Planning and Economic Development, as rational to support his earlier decision.

In addition to seeing what legal avenues are open to her, Ferrario is being supported by the Holyoke Forward-Palante Political Action Committee, which has launched a petition. That describes troubling aspects of the situation, including Garcia sending a police car to deliver the original notice.

“The implications go well beyond this one situation: problematic in themselves, they also reveal weaknesses and uncertainty in our city and state law affecting volunteers, threaten the ability of our boards and commissions to follow state guidelines as they go about their work, and threaten their ability to act independently of political control,” the petition reads.

That petition is calling for a meeting of the City Council to discuss Ferrario’s removal and how removing an appointed board member midterm impacts Holyoke residents.

The PAC contends that 50 signatures should force the City Council to act.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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