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January 01. 2013 11:17PM

AG rejects call for investigation into Manchester hiring


DAN O'NEIL 

MANCHESTER - The state Attorney General's Office has declined to launch a criminal investigation into allegations that Alderman Dan O'Neil interfered in City Hall hiring decisions.

The charges were made by Charles DePrima, the interim parks director who alleges he was passed over to be permanent head of the department in 2010 due to the actions of O'Neil, who is chairman of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

DePrima has alleged that O'Neil had lobbied for Parks Director Peter Capano to get the newly created post in 2010 to make up for Capano's missing out on another public works job that went to O'Neil's cousin, Tim Clougherty, two years earlier.

DePrima had originally had sought $227,000 in compensation from the city and then threatened to file a civil lawsuit seeking triple that amount when the city did not respond to the claim. It's not clear if the city has agreed to compensate DePrima, but there has been no indication that the city has done so.

DePrima did not return a call for comment.

DePrima first contacted the Attorney General's Office in July 2012.

A letter from the Attorney General's Office sent to DePrima in November states that "because the materials you provided do not establish a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, this office will not open a criminal investigation."

Among the materials DePrima has pointed to as supporting his claims is an e-mail he sent to his supervisor when the chief of parks position was under consideration.

In the e-mail, DePrima offers a "stab at replying to Dan's (O'Neil) request to 'create' a job for me should the chief of parks not be a viable option."

Referring to an e-mail provided by DePrima, attorney Geoffrey Ward, with the Attorney General's Criminal Justice Bureau, states in his letter that "this is not proof of interference of any kind. Nor have you provided any evidence that Alderman O'Neil made an unwritten request or order to appoint or remove any person from office."

DePrima has charged that O'Neil's interference violates Section 9.03 of the City Charter, which states, "The board of mayor and aldermen ... shall not seek individually to influence the official acts of any city official, or to direct or request, except in writing, the appointment or removal of any person to or from office."

DePrima has pointed to other instances of O'Neil's involvement in department personnel matters, including a personal meeting the two had with another parks department employee.

DePrima has alleged that O'Neil's actions were part of a "plague of nepotism" in city hiring decisions.

Ward also rejects the allegation that O'Neil violated a related section of the charter concerning relatives of city officials. The section states that "no city official shall participate in any way in any decision to employ or appoint any immediate family member to any city position nor any personnel action in connection with such employment or classified appointment."

Ward, the state attorney, wrote: "To the extent that you allege Alderman O'Neil participated in the decision to employ or appoint Peter Capano or Tim Clougherty, any such participation would not violate section 90.3, article B, because neither of these individuals is the 'immediate family' of (O'Neil)," as defined by the charter.

The Attorney General's Office provided the DePrima letter in response to a right-to-know request from the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.


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