CLAREMONT — Residents crowded into the City Council Chambers Wednesday night to tell council members to “grow up,” in the words of former council member Jeff Goff.
Residents were commenting on a council discussion regarding a heated email discussion among Mayor James Neilsen IV, Councilman Chris Irish and Councilwoman Kyle Messier, copied to all council members, that ends with Neilsen asking for Messier’s resignation from the council for what he said was a violation of the Right-to-Know law and city council rule 49, which outlines the use of email and the Right-to-Know law for city officials.
Neilsen accused Messier of violating Right-to-Know and rule 49 by discussing an agenda item prior to a public meeting via email with a quorum of the council.
Messier said she would correct her mistake by reading the emails into the record at the Aug. 8 meeting at which Neilsen and Irish were expected to attend.
Neilsen is on vacation until July 16 and Irish, who previously said the Wednesday night meeting was illegal, would not attend. His wife, Heather Irish, said at the meeting he could not attend because he was at work.
Irish had called the meeting illegal because the agenda was revised shortly after Neilsen had gone on vacation. The agenda item to acquire furniture and fixtures for the yet to be completed Claremont Savings Bank Community Center had been moved to an August meeting at the request of Neilsen because he planned to be out of town on vacation and he had questions about the multiyear lease proposal for furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new community center to the tune of $350,000, which is a large portion of the bond the city approved to make up a funding difference for the project and move it forward.
“This is a bunch of nonsense right here,” said resident Paul Bonneau said of the council infighting. “The city of Claremont cannot keep going on like this.”
He added that from his point of view the older council members could not get along with the newer council members, meaning Neilsen and Irish.
Regardless of which side the residents took they said they were tired of the news coverage of the fighting and wanted the council members to get along with each other.
Resident Scott Pope made a formal request that the city government bring in a third party to review alleged Right-to-Know violations.
“Its nothing personal against anybody up here,” Pope said. “I’ve seen everyone of you do great things.”
Pope said he respected all of the council members but said even he has had trouble obtaining information he has requested under Right to Know.
Resident Steve Raymond defended Messier, “She has done nothing wrong,” but said all members need to “stop pointing the finger on people.”
Those who took Neilsen and Irish’s side said the two elected officials have a right to ask questions about city government.
Other said Neilsen’s allegations that city finances are in ruins and persistent questions about finances only hurt a city that is struggling.
A discussion on the new community center furniture, fixtures and equipment was to be discussed later at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Bonneau also said the issues from the emails to the new community center fixtures all stem back to the fact the community never had a say in whether to move forward with the community center.
“The email is what started this whole meeting and what started this email was an issue that you wouldn’t even let the community vote on its all about the community center,” he said.
After letting the public speak, council members expressed their concerns.
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Meghan Pierce may be reached at email@example.com.