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In Wake Of Capitol Violence, Natick Says Town Has No Authority To Remove Official Who Posted About Organizing Buses, Traveling To D.C.

Natick Town Meeting member Suzanne Ianni wraps herself in the group called Super Happy Fun America's so-called "Straight Pride" flag as she and other supporters of President Trump wait for him to address them during a rally in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Natick Town Meeting member Suzanne Ianni wraps herself in the group called Super Happy Fun America's so-called "Straight Pride" flag as she and other supporters of President Trump wait for him to address them during a rally in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Natick officials say they have no power to remove a Town Meeting member who helped organize buses of Trump supporters for the demonstrations in Washington, D.C. last week that led to the violent storming of the Capitol.

The Natick Select Board on Wednesday night took up a petition calling for the removal of Suzanne Ianni, who publicly said she organized the buses and posted online about her participation in the demonstrations.

The petition, with more than 500 signatures, says Ianni should be removed because of her role in the violence and because she did not follow coronavirus safety protocols. But town officials say they can not act on it.

"Neither the select board, the moderator, the town clerk nor the town administration have any authority over a town meeting member," said Select Board Chair Jonathan Freedman. "Nor could they take any action regarding the tenure of a town meeting member."

Freedman did not identify Ianni, and he asked attendees not to publicly name individuals during Wednesday's meeting. Town officials earlier said the select board would issue a statement on the insurrection in Washington because they had received calls and emails about Ianni's role.

Ianni did not respond to requests for comment.

The petition was organized by resident Ben Jackson, who said he was concerned that Ianni traveled out of state and potentially risked the health of other Natick residents.

"At a time when our hospitals are overwhelmed with a deadly pandemic, a member of our government endangered our community by not following public health guidelines and has been filmed maskless and not quarantining," Jackson said. "That is not acceptable — particularly when an individual is part of the governing of the town, that is a separate level of accountability."

Jackson also asked that local law enforcement investigate if any planning for the Washington unrest took place in Natick. Town officials say Jackson's petition has been referred to local law enforcement.

The board also issued a statement condemning the violence in Washington. Select  Board member Karen Adelman-Foster read a statement which urged the community to "do better."

"We call for accountability for those who acted unlawfully and for the leaders and others who encouraged or supported such actions by words and deeds," the statement said. "In light of the flagrant expressions of racist, anti-semitic and anti-LGBTQ speech that characterized the event, we reaffirm our commitment to the value of all people."

The board unanimously approved the statement.

"I do believe that we've tried to cut to the chase here and be as succinct as possible and be as supportive of as many as we can," said Select Board member Richard Jennett." It's a very difficult situation and I hope that we all can pull together and get through this and move forward in a positive direction."

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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