March 28. 2013 10:02PM

Gift for Derry councilor criticized

Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY - A gift for departing Town Councilor Brian Chirichiello has created some controversy as well as a discussion about the way the council honors departing members.

Some councilors and residents are calling for Chirichiello to return the town-issued iPad he received from the town for his nine years of service on the council, while others just want the council to move forward and possibly adjust its gift policy.

Typically, departing town councilors are presented with a chair valued at $356 as a parting gift.

However, when Town Administrator John Anderson approached Chirichiello about a gift for serving nine years on the council, Anderson said Chirichiello stated he would rather have the iPad he had been issued as a councilor.

"Prior to last year, we had never done anything but a chair," said Anderson.

He said, however, that last year departing councilor Janet Fairbanks asked that money be donated to a charity and Kevin Coyle asked that the town install a bench along its bike path.

Ultimately, Anderson said there were issues with the taxes on a charity donation and Fairbanks accepted a chair, while the town installed a bench for Coyle, with Coyle paying the difference between the $356 for the chair and the cost of the bench.

In Chirichiello's case, Anderson said he brought in a check for the difference between the cost of the iPad and a chair.

"That was my decision to make and that was the decision," said Anderson.

He said it has been the administrative office's decision to handle gifts for departing councilors.

Anderson said he did not think there was anything wrong with the decision that he made.

"If the council would like to change the rules to what the gifts are for those going away from the council moving forward, then I'm happy to take your input on that issue," he said.

Councilor Mark Osborne said the council should take up a collection on its own if it wishes to honor a departing member.

"The responsibility falls on us and not on the public budget," said Osborne. "I've received at least 30 phone calls from concerned citizens over this issue."

Osborne also suggested that the council ask Chirichiello to return the iPad to the town, since he said the iPad was town property and that Anderson did not have the authority to give away town property without the approval of the Town Council.

"Just to be clear, we are talking about the policy moving forward," said Councilor Neil Wetherbee. "What's done is done. Mr. Anderson had the authority to do it."

Osborne disputed whether Anderson did have that authority.

"I have no doubt that the gift was done with well intentions, I don't think anyone disputes that," said Osborne. "For my own purposes, I'm having great difficulty locating the section (of the town charter) that would authorize our administrator, well-intentioned or not, with the power to be giving away town property."

Wetherbee said he did not agree with Anderson's decision, but said the council should be moving forward.

"This is not a decision I agreed with, and I expressed that to John personally," said Wetherbee. "But being one of seven councilors on this board, I don't have the authority to tell John what to do. That has to come from all seven councilors."

The council agreed to table the discussion on the iPad and the gift policy to get a better grasp on the town regulations.

Coyle said he took offense that Anderson would classify his request for a bench along the bike path with the request for an iPad.

"That bench is owned by the town and does not compare to an iPad," said Coyle.