Girard at Large has obtained a list of aldermen in the city of Manchester who take taxpayer provided health and dental benefits using the state’s Right to Know law. Ward Ten Alderman Bill Barry, Ward Eight Alderman Tom Katsiantonis and at-Large aldermen Dan O’Neil and Joe Kelly Levasseur are taking family health and dental plans. Ward Seven Alderman Bill Shea and Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw each take two person plans. The total taxpayer tab for the premium costs are just under one hundred twenty thousand dollars.
Last week, Girard at Large published the names of school board members taking the taxpayer provided benefits, after assisting former Hooksett School Board member John Lyscars with a Right to Know request. We’ve linked to that report showing that Ward One’s Sarah Ambrogi, Ward Three’s Mary Georges, Ward Four’s Leslie Want, Ward Sixes Dan Bergeron, Ward Eight’s Erika Connors, Ward Ten’s John Avard, Ward Eleven’s Kate Desrochers and Ward Twelve’s Constance Van Houten were costing taxpayers just under one hundred ten thousand dollars for their health and or dental plans.
So, between both boards, the taxpayers are on the hook for almost a quarter of a million dollars in premiums. But, because both the city and school district are self insured, the premium cost doesn’t represent the actual cost of providing the benefits as the city pays every dollar of every claim after the board members pay their deductibles and co-pays, up to a quarter of a million dollars per claim.
That seems like a good lead in story for this next one. The Concerned Taxpayers of Manchester, a once venerable group that came to prominence in the nineteen nineties and was instrumental in gaining the signatures necessary to put the city’s Tax Cap on the ballot has been resurrected. The group sent a statement announcing its reformation yesterday. Serving as officers on the board of directors will be:
- Sean Thomas, a former aide to mayors Ray Wieczorek and Frank Guinta
- Former Ward Six State Rep. and former Manchester City Republican Committee Chair Will Infantine
- Larraine Lencki, and
- At-Large School Board Member Rich Girard, who is a former Wieczorek budget assistant, former alderman at-Large and one time charter commissioner.
Other members of the board include:
- Jean Mathieu
- Former Ward Six Alderman Nick Pappas
- Former Ward Five State Rep. John Gimas
- Ward Six State Rep. Larry Gagne
- Conservative consultant Mike Biundo
- Former Ward Eleven Alderman Tom Robert and
- Ray Hebert, who owns an electrical contracting company.
Speaking for the group, Infantine said quote:
“The unions mobilize their members to go to public hearings and push for higher pay and more city spending. The average taxpayer, especially the elderly, find that environment intimidating and don’t show up. We’re here to speak for them and to organize on their behalf so that their elected officials hear their voice, too. People who want the city to live within the tax cap and find new and better ways of doing business are the majority in this city and we will help them be heard.”
The organization has sent a questionnaire out to all candidates running for office and will make endorsements based on the answers they receive. Candidate forums are also being planned.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Ward Six school board candidate Jon DiPietro has filed a Right to Know request seeking the investigative report that the Manchester Board of School Committee voted to keep secret at its meeting on Monday night. The report detailed the policies, charter provisions and state laws violated when at-Large School Committeewoman Nancy Tessier broke the confidentiality of a non-public session called to discuss personnel matters. Tessier divulged the contents of the meeting, including remarks and actions she attributed to Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas, to the staff members who were discussed when she copied them on an email she sent to the entire board.
At its meeting on Monday, at-Large member Rich Girard moved to release the letter after arguing with the district’s attorney over whether or not it was a public document. The board voted nine to six to keep it secret.
DiPietro noting that the facts of this situation do not seem to be in dispute, and they aren’t, said quote:
“The shameful and inexcusable behavior of the Manchester BOSC, including Ward 6 incumbent Dan Bergeron, to hide the facts from the public cannot be tolerated. For this reason, I am requesting a copy of the letter containing the findings of the investigation so that the citizens of Manchester can hold their elected officials accountable. This is another example of a board that’s dysfunctional because it’s protecting one of its own instead of the interests of the district and the kids.”
The Goffstown Zoning Board of Adjustment voted to approve the variance sought by the developers of the Mill at Hadley Falls project, which would build a sixty four foot high structure as part of a ninety nine unit condo development. Current zoning would allow sixty four units.
Board Vice-Chair Gail Lebreque, who presided over the meeting because Board Chair Alan Yeaton continued to recuse himself without explanation, moved to block elected board member Emily Sandblade from participating because she’d appeared on this radio show to discuss the project. Lebreque, holding a print out of our archive, accused Sandblade of having “ex-parte communications” and asked the board to vote on whether or not she should recuse herself without allowing Sandblade to address the allegation of improper conduct. The vote went four to nothing against her.
In politely declining to accept their recommendation, Sandblade explained she’d come onto this show to discuss the various procedural irregularities surrounding this project because, she said, the public had a right to know. Imagine that!
Our spies in the audience reported that there was about double the turnout of citizens from the prior meeting, many of whom raised concerns about the project and its impact on the downtown, schools and town services. Despite the expressed concerns, the applicants continued to paint a happy face on the project, reiterating their talking points without much attention to the issues raised by the abutters.
Also discussed was that while the project would likely pay between three hundred fifty and four hundred thousand dollars in property taxes, it would only pay about sixteen thousand dollars a year in taxes for the first five years its on the books because the project was granted a reprieve from paying taxes on the improved value by the town under state R S A seventy nine – E. That one, I’m told, made just about everybody cringe.
Among those voting in favor of the project was Chet Bowen, who was newly seated as a full board member immediately before the hearing and who, as a member of the town’s Economic Development Council, voted to support the project back in June. In case you’re wondering, the technical term for this would be “board stacking.”
The abutters have thirty days to file an appeal and are expected to do so.
That’s NEWS from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next.