Is there an effort behind closed doors to shutdown public comment sessions at meetings of Manchester School Board’s subcommittees? Last night’s meeting of the all important Curriculum and Instruction Committee indicates there has been backroom deal to shut them down as committee chair Erika Connors, who did not return our call last night, said not only would there be no public comment at last night’s meeting, but that a decision had been made to remove the public comment sessions at all subcommittee meetings. She indicated that conversations with Mayor Ted Gatsas and School Board Vice-Chair David Wihby on the matter would continue and suggested it be raised by dissatisfied committee members at the next meeting of the board. Only Ward 2 School Committeeman Debra Langton questioned why the regular public comment session wasn’t on the agenda and pressed the issue with Connors, saying that members of the public should be allowed to speak, especially those who were present at last night’s meeting for that purpose. Langton said that people needed the opportunity share their comments, concerns and information with committees. For those who don’t understand how the board and its committee structure work, here’s why this is no small matter. The board’s subcommittees are where all the work gets done to vet, develop and give preliminary approval on virtually everything that happens in the schools. The overwhelming majority of items go directly from the administration to a committee and from committee to the board with its recommendations. As an example, the grants, policies and goals approved by the committee last night all went directly to the committee for approval and the committee’s recommendations will go to the board for ratification. If the public isn’t allowed to have input at the committee level, then its information can’t inform the committees when the work’s being done. Having to wait until meetings of the full board to provide comment presents any number of challenges we’ll discuss during the show. Moreover, this decision made by whomever outside of the public’s view, will limit the the promised ability of the public to comment on the developing Manchester Academic Standards when proposed. Gatsas, Superintendent Debra Livingston and others have said on this show and elsewhere that the public will have the opportunity to review and comment on the standards as they’re placed on the committee’s agenda, that they would have the opportunity to comment again at Coordination Committee, which has already been done away with, and then again at the meetings of the full board. If this new rule, apparently adopted beyond the eyes and ears of the public stands, the only opportunity for the public to offer its input will be at the board itself, and by then, it’s a done deal. We’ll have something to say about this during the show, of course. Attempts to reach Wihby last night were unsuccessful. The mayor, no doubt, is expecting our questions this morning.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Manchester City Clerk Matthew Normand says our data regarding the number of people whose birthdays are January first of whatever year or are missing on a voter list we obtained is faulty. We asked Normand to review the list and investigate the data. Normand said that only one of the two hundred thirty one voters registered at twelve hundred Elm Street has a birthday of January first and also said there were no challenged voter affidavits on file with that address from November’s general election. We’d earlier reported that there were one hundred one folks with January first birthdays and one hundred six whose birth dates were unavailable and speculated during our interview with Ed Naile that the birth date’s listed on a voter list may have been some sort of data entry code or attempt by political activists to hide their real birth dates to avoid detection as vote stealers. Girard at Large has turned over the information it’s obtained on Caitlin Ann Legacki, who is registered to vote in three states and on record as having voted in both NH and Missouri last November and several others from that address and elsewhere who appear to have been drive by voters in the state of NH based on their home addresses, work places, telephone numbers and social media postings.
In response to our inquiry, Goffstown Planning and Zoning Administrator Brian Rose has admitted the Planning Board has no rules, policies or procedures requiring any member of the board to gain board approval before speaking with the town’s attorney. In an email to Girard at Large, Rose also said he wasn’t sure if there were any general town regulations governing the matter, but wrote that if there were, he believed he would have known about them by now. That means former Selectman Scott Gross‘ accusation against Planning Board Chairman John Hikel, alleging he acted improperly by speaking personally with the town’s attorney to discuss potential conflicts of interest on pending items were unfounded and falsely made. Gross has demanded that Hikel waive his attorney client privilege and allow the town’s attorney to disclose their discussion relative to the alleged conflicts of interest Hikel says the attorney cleared. Hikel said in an interview here on Girard at Large he would not waive that privilege, later issuing statement saying his personal attorney has advised him not to relinquish his rights and he won’t. Meanwhile, we are awaiting a response to an inquiry we’ve made of Town Administrator Sue Desruisseaux on this matter to confirm Rose’s understanding and regarding on the record statements she made to a local newspaper implying that Hikel acted improperly in contacting the town’s attorney without the approval of the board.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is straight ahead!