City Council upholds mayor’s veto of ordinance seeking compensation from CVS

  • New City of Greenfield seal. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2019 11:05:14 PM
Modified: 11/21/2019 11:05:03 PM

GREENFIELD — The City Council has upheld an Oct. 28 mayoral veto of an ordinance requesting compensation from CVS Health Corp. for its role in the city’s opioid crisis.

To override Mayor William Martin’s veto, the City Council needed a two-thirds vote or the approval of nine councilors. However, only seven voted to overturn the veto; five voted to uphold it.

Councilors Ashli Stempel, Brickett Allis and Mark Berson spoke to the ordinance during the meeting.

Stempel said she understands Greenfield is in litigation with CVS, as well as others, regarding the distribution of opioids.

“That’s why some folks thought it was not necessary to support this,” she said. “However, I think it is important as the legislative body in this community take a stand against what’s been going on in the community in terms of the opioid crisis. I shocked myself by voting for this because I didn’t think it was our place, but if not our place, then who?”

Still, Allis argued that councilors who voted against the ordinance were not against fighting the opioid crisis in the community.

“It’s important to say that not supporting this particular resolution is not suggestive of someone not supporting the fight against the opioid crisis in our community,” Allis said. “There are many causes, things that have happened and people who are responsible for over-prescribing.”

Berson said he believes CVS should be held accountable for dispensing opioids into the community.

“I, for one, feel bringing it to the attention of the public by declaration is really important, and I don’t think the mayor’s hands or the future mayor’s hands are tied by a resolution,” Berson said. “It’s a public health issue.”

The mayor’s reasoning for vetoing the resolution, which was originally approved by the council on Oct. 16, was twofold — the city is currently in litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, including CVS; and the ordinance goes beyond the scope of the City Council’s powers.

“The city became the first municipality in the state to sue to recover community damages from the opioid crisis,” Martin said. “The defendants in this legal action include CVS. ... Due to the active ongoing litigation the city has against CVS, the city is bound by Judge Polsner’s confidentiality order and should not be directly communicating with CVS.”

According to the veto, the city communicated with officers of CVS requesting an explanation of “a seemingly high prescriptive practice for opioids from their Greenfield pharmacy.” A trial date will be determined in the near future, the veto states.

Martin also wrote that the council “holds only legislative power.”

“The power to initiate a settlement with CVS for damages due to the opioid crisis is outside these powers,” Martin wrote. “If this is not intended to be a settlement, does this resolution extend beyond the powers of the government? What other private companies will the council demand payment from?”

Greenfield’s 2017 lawsuit was filed against not only Purdue Pharma, but other big-name companies like Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Precinct 5 City Councilor Timothy Dolan proposed the resolution in August.

The resolution requested “voluntary payment in the amount of $0.50 for each opioid pill dispensed from 2006 to 2012, for a total of $2,664,965, with half of that sum payable to the city of Greenfield and half payable to the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region.”

The resolution was approved at its Oct. 16 meeting by a simple majority of seven councilors; three were opposed and two abstained.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.




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