Election year political controversy has swarmed around the Manchester Dog Park Association. The MDPA was founded by Ward 10 Alderman Phil Greazzo several years ago to build and maintain a dog park on land leased from the city. In the days and weeks leading to this Tuesday’s election, Greazzo has been accused, by non-association members, of everything from mismanagement of association funds, to embezzlement, to failing to provide the insurance coverage required by the lease.
Alderman at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur, a supporter of Greazzo campaign opponent Bill Barry, predicted with certainty two weeks ago on his public access television show that controversy surrounding the dog park would cost Greazzo the election and he has visibly participated in efforts to publicly draw attention to and ratchet up controversy.
Those efforts hit a new level at the Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting on Tuesday, October 29th when Levasseur, under the board’s “new business” agenda item, raised the ongoing controversy and called for an audit of the association. He said his motive for doing so was to clear the air, noting the controversy that had been swirling over the past couple of weeks, coincidentally since he mentioned it on his TV show.
While Levasseur also said he’d raised the matter because of the citizen complaint earlier that night, we noticed at the time that he was oddly prepared to raise it. He had several questions lined up, challenging Greazzo on several issues. Moreover, he angrily chastised Assistant City Solicitor Tom Arnold for not sending a copy of the MDPA’s lease as requested so he could be “better prepared” to discuss the issue. Clearly, this was a planned assault on the issue.
Importantly, he held up what he claimed to be insurance documents that he said showed a lapse of coverage. Greazzo denied knowledge of any coverage lapse and said he would make any and all financial information relative to the dog park available to the board. He questioned Levasseur as to why he simply didn’t call him if he had questions as he would have gladly given him the documents. Levasseur’s testy reply was because he’d “contacted the City Solicitor.”
The following day, Girard at Large called Greazzo to see if he knew what insurance information Levasseur had, how he may have obtained it and whether or not there had been any lapse. Greazzo said he was unaware of what Levasseur had or how he got it and confirmed he was unaware of any lapse.
During his television show on Thursday, October 30, Levasseur said that he’d contacted the dog park’s insurance agent to obtain information. That raised eyebrows. By law, an insurance agency may only provide information to one of two parties: The policy owner or the covered insured. Levasseur is not the policy owner and, absent any authorization from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, he is not in a position to present himself as the insured party on behalf of the city.
We contacted the MDPA’s insurance agent, Aspen Insurance to verify Levasseur’s assertion. Aspen owner Will Infantine, also a candidate for alderman at-Large, declined to comment for the story, referring us to Greazzo stating the agency was not authorized by the client to release any information regarding the MDPA’s policy or its interactions with any party involved in this controversy.
Greazzo confirmed that Levasseur contacted Aspen and that an agency employee did answer Levasseur’s questions regarding the MDPA’s policy. According to Greazzo, Infantine told him that the employee believed Levasseur was calling as an alderman which is why she answered his questions and released any information.
Prior to receiving his call, Aspen provided city Risk Manager Kevin O’Neil with a copy of the MDPA’s insurance certificate to confirm coverage. O’Neil gave that information to Levasseur, who then called the agency to ask questions. His presentation of that information at the board’s meeting on Tuesday night and on his television show on Wednesday night, according to Greazzo, doesn’t represent the facts.
Inasmuch as Levasseur hadn’t received authorization by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to act on its behalf and inasmuch as Levasseur used his position as an alderman to obtain information he was was not legally entitled to have, Greazzo has inquired with the Office of the City Solicitor to see whether or Levasseur violated the city’s charter. Article IX. Standards of Conduct Section 9.03 (c) Disclosure of Confidential Information reads as follows: “A city official shall not disclose confidential information concerning the city or its business without proper legal authorization; nor shall any official use any such information to advance a private interest. Confidential information is information which the official obtains because of the position held which is not a matter of public record.”
Greazzo believes that by acting without the authorization of the board to obtain private information, Levasseur violated this provision warranting a hearing before the Conduct Committee. He has indicated he will likely file a complaint against Levasseur with the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity believing that Levasseur has also violated RSA Chapter 643 entitled “Abuse of Office.” Section 643:1, “Official Oppression,” reads as follows: “A public servant, as defined in RSA 640:2, II, is guilty of a misdemeanor if, with a purpose to benefit himself or another or to harm another, he knowingly commits an unauthorized act which purports to be an act of his office; or knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”
The absence of a vote authorizing Levasseur to obtain any information on behalf of the board or the city in this matter, a matter he proposed the board audit to get the information, by default defines his inquiries as an “unauthorized act which purports to be an act of his office.” Violation of this act is a Class A Misdemeanor. Greazzo said that Levasseur, an attorney, should have known better.
“All he had to do is ask me for any information he wanted and I would have gladly given it to him,” said Greazzo, who noted that he visited the solicitor’s office to provide copies of all bank statements and insurance certificates. “There’s nothing to hide,” said Greazzo who at Tuesday’s meeting of the aldermen publicly said he’d make any and all information the city didn’t already have available.
City Solicitor Tom Clark, whose office Levasseur accused of mishandling the MDPA lease, was “unavailable” when we called and had yet to answer our request for comment prior to publication.
The request for comment made of Levasseur and his response are here as sent and received. It is published with a disclaimer that should go without having to be said, but just for good measure we say it anyway: The charges he’s made in response to our inquiry are simply not true, but in the interest of full disclosure and avoid accusations of “editing” his response, we have published his entire response.