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March 07. 2014 12:03PM

Nashua mayor says finance committee lacked authority to table buying dump trucks

NASHUA — Controversy is brewing over how much authority the aldermanic Finance Committee has as a governing body, prompting a legal opinion on the issue.

This week, emotions flared as committee members argued with Mayor Donnalee Lozeau about their duties and fiscal responsibilities.

The responsibilities of the Finance Committee have come into question since the panel tabled a proposed purchase of two dump trucks for the city's Public Works Department last month. The board is still asking for clarification on the recommendation for 10-wheel dump trucks as opposed to smaller vehicles.

"The Finance Committee is limited in its scope of responsibility," Lozeau told the group on Wednesday, describing it as a checks and balance committee.

Alderman Ken Siegel, Ward 9, classified the lengthy discussion as a "legislative tantrum," maintaining all the committee was seeking was additional information and a simple explanation on the proposed dump truck purchases.

Lozeau said the recommended purchase of the vehicles was already approved by the Board of Public Works, and the Board of Aldermen appropriated money for the truck purchases when it authorized the operating budget.

The Finance Committee is assigned to review all contracts over $10,000.

"This contract review, however, does not give the Finance Committee the ability to contradict the full (Board of Aldermen's) appropriating authority by denying an expenditure of appropriated funds because a majority of the Finance Committee does not agree with the purpose of the spending," wrote attorney Dorothy Clark, deputy corporation counsel for the city, in a memo to the Board of Public Works.

Clark went on to explain that under its charter authority, the committee's basic responsibility is to confirm that an expenditure is from an appropriate account and that funding is available in that account.

Several committee members were taken aback by the attorney's memo.

"The legal opinion is unenforceable," said Alderman- at-Large Dan Moriarty, who stressed the committee's duty is to ensure fiscal prudence.

Alderman- at- Large James Donchess said the Public Works Department should educate the committee on the need for the trucks, recommending that the Superintendent of Streets be on hand to offer more information on the proposal.



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