NEW BEDFORD — City Councilor Hugh Dunn, who for more than a year was involved in court proceedings over an OUI charge, announced Friday he is resigning from his position effective Dec. 1, citing the long commute and time demanded for his job as an attorney at a Boston-based personal injury law firm.
His resignation will prompt a special election for a new Ward 3 councilor to serve the remainder of Dunn’s term. He was re-elected in November of 2021, with his two-year term starting in January of this year.
Dunn announced his resignation on WBSM’s SouthCoast Tonight show with hosts Chris McCarthy and Marcus Ferro.
“I appreciate the confidence of the voters and I appreciate the opportunity to do all this work for the city,” Dunn said during the show. “But, with the law firm in Boston, I have these four-hour commutes every day and it’s not fair to the voters for me to give them that level of commitment.”
He added that if he was able to work remotely, he would stay on as councilor and that the decision was “purely a career move” as he can no longer do both jobs at the same time.
Dunn had his bench trial last month for the OUI charge after months of delay. A New Bedford district court judge found Dunn not guilty, stating the commonwealth did not meet the legal bar of beyond a reasonable doubt.
“You very well may have been operating under the influence, but I have to find beyond a reasonable doubt that you were, and given the conflicting testimony in this case, you’re entitled to the benefit of that doubt,” Judge Joseph Harrington told the courtroom.
For the charges of leaving the scene and negligent operation of a vehicle, the judge said there was no question the commonwealth had enough evidence, but given Dunn admitted to those two charges and his lack of a criminal history, the findings were continued for one year with Dunn under probation for that time.
During the radio show, Dunn and the hosts discussed the crash, in which Dunn hit two parked cars after having drinks at Cork Wine and Tapas, per police reports.
“How many cars did you wreck in those six years?” McCarthy asked, which was followed by laughter.
“There’s only the two that we know about, so what are the others?” Ferro said, prompting more laughter.
They asked if Dunn could drive yet, whether he voted for Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn in the recent primary election and mentioned “state police tapes.”
Per trial testimony, Quinn directed a state police detective to investigate the crash after the New Bedford Police Department did not conduct a field sobriety test on Dunn or issue any citations or charges. During the trial, the special prosecutor for the case, appointed by the district attorney’s office, played video footage obtained by state police of Cork Wine and Tapas, which showed some of Dunn’s activity in the establishment.
Dunn was elected to New Bedford City Council in 2017 through a special election. He announced this April that he joined the Boston personal injury law firm, Kelly & Associates.
City Clerk Dennis Farias said the next step would be for the city council to order a special election to fill Dunn’s seat. Until a new councilor is elected, the council will operate with only 10 members following Dunn’s resignation.
Per the city’s code, “If a vacancy occurs, before the last six (6) months of the term in the office of a councilor elected by and from the voters of a ward, the city council shall forthwith order an election to fill such vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.”
City spokesperson Holly Huntoon said by email that if there needs to be a special election for Ward 3, the estimated cost could be between $8,000 and $15,000.
As of early Monday afternoon, Farias said the city clerk’s office had not yet received an official resignation notice from Dunn — a procedural step that’s taken when elected officials resign.
City Council President Ian Abreu said he was not given prior notice from Dunn regarding his resignation announcement, and that he wished Dunn the best with his future.
“My focus, going forward, is less of ‘why’ he wishes to resign, but rather, to ensure that the city does its job in promoting this up-coming special election so that viable candidates can make informed, educated decisions about whether or not they wish to seek elected office,” Abreu said by email. “There’s a lot going on in Ward 3 right now — whether it’s the Advanced Manufacturing Campus development on Hathaway Rd., the Hicks Logan area redevelopment project down by the waterfront or general constituent quality of life issues, the Ward will need a full time representative. I am more than willing to meet with anyone who may be interested in running to discuss the process.”
Dunn did not respond to a request for comment.
Email Anastasia E. Lennon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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