Ted Siefer's City Hall: Financial disclosure forms give insight and raise questions
The resident representatives on the aldermanic and school boards are expected to have day jobs, and thanks to the City Clerk's Office, we now have a better sense of just how they earn their daily bread.
The office recently posted on its website the financial disclosure forms that all city elected officials are supposed to file annually. The city charter requires the officials to "disclose their own individual business and financial relationships, employment and financial holdings." (For the forms, see Voter Registration and Elections on the City Clerk section of manchesternh.gov.)
Among the elected officials, one is a partner in a dog-sitting business (school board member Roger Beauchamp of Chill Dog Petsitting LLC), another has a day camp (school board member Erika Connors), and of course there are the lawyers (including Aldermen Patrick Arnold, Joe Kelly Levasseur and Garth Corriveau).
The most intriguing form may be that Alderman Dan O'Neil. He's the owner of JMMO LLC. What is that exactly? The form doesn't say, but according to records filed with the Secretary of State's Corporation Division, the company is in the business of "design/construction, consulting, and government relations consulting."
The registered agent for the company, which was established in 2006, is a familiar face around City Hall, attorney John Deachman, who has represented developers and the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
"It's a consulting company for the engineering and construction industry. I've been involved in projects primarily in the Northeast," said O'Neil, who spent 20 years as an electrician.
Does JMMO represent any entities with business in Manchester? O'Neil bristled at the suggestion. "Absolutely not. I'd be foolish to even try that," he said. What about when Deachman has represented a party with business before the board - as was the case in October 2010 when he spoke on behalf of the housing authority - does O'Neil abstain from votes?
"No, why would I? There's no conflict. I hired him," he said. Then, paraphrasing former NFL coach Bill Parcells, O'Neil joked, "Next dumb question."
In a state that is particularly scornful of career politicians, O'Neil is hardly the only self-employed politician with an interesting line of work.
Alderman and state Rep. Phil Greazzo is the proprietor of Fillco, according to the city form. A search of corporate records reveals the company distributes products for the "purpose of asphalt maintenance." Partners in the business are former fellow state Reps. Dan and Carol McGuire.
"I can be working when the weather is good, and during the time of the year when the weather is not so good, I have time to do" my elected duties, he said.
What about Mayor Ted Gatsas? As is well known, he had a successful career as a business owner, but these days, according to his disclosure form, his only business interest is Staffing Realty, for which his brother Michael is the registered agent. The mayor said it's a holding company for a few commercial properties in the city.
As observers of City Hall meetings may be aware, it's unusual for elected officials to abstain from votes, as they are supposed to do when there is a potential conflict of interest. And when there is an abstention, an explanation is almost never offered.
It's something Gatsas has noted. Earlier this year, he recommended to the Charter Commission that it consider a policy similar to the one in the Legislature, whereby lawmakers are required fill out a form declaring a potential conflict while still being allowed to participate in votes. But then that's another story.
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It's been good to see school board member Roy Shoults at meetings lately. He'd been absent for some time as he struggled with health problems. Now Shoults has a new cause, and while he moves a little slower, he's more inspired than he's ever been by his role on the school board, to which the gentleman was elected in 2011.
Shoults is volunteering to organize cultural activities for district students. And for his first excursion, he'll be taking Central High students to the opera next month - or at least a high-definition simulcast of the Met at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.
The idea grew out of time he spent with students in the English class of Selma Naccach-Hof, who teaches her students all about etiquette. He was so impressed by the students' politeness and sophistication that he reached out to the director of the Capitol Center, who agreed to furnish discount tickets to the opera. Shoults figured maybe a half-dozen students would be interested. Nearly the whole class wanted to go. Now he's looking to get some sponsors for the trip.
Shoults hopes the opera trip will be just the beginning. A jazz lover, Shoults is thinking about a "battle of the jazz bands" among the high schools.
"I just get excited about these things," he said. "I'm just physically a little slower than before, but nothing stops."
The project has the authorization, the blessing even, of Superintendent Thomas Brennan.
As for going through the school board, he's over that.
"I've always felt the school board was dysfunctional. That's why I ran. I hoped to make it less dysfunctional - just to find out it's more dysfunctional than I ever thought," he said. "I can do these projects on my own, without getting approval from the board. That's never going to happen."
Want more information? Contact Shoults at email@example.com.
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There's at least one person who's eager to join the school board, after reading the news of an investigation of a certain principal at Manchester High School West.
Republican State Rep. Dick Marston, a longtime West Side resident, was incensed after learning that the district had spent so much money - $100,000 and counting - to investigate MaryEllen McGorry while refusing to disclose anything about what prompted the probe of the principal, who agreed to resign last month. Marston even contacted an official in the state Attorney General's Office, who confirmed what the district's lawyers have said - that state and federal privacy laws cornering personnel matters will make it hard for the public to get their hands on such information.
But for the school board charged with overseeing the district not to be able to view the report on McGorry - that's too much, Marston said.
"They have a right to have that given to them," he said. "It's fishy, it smells, because it's not being disinfected in the light of the committee."
Marston lives in Ward 12, and while he's not ready to file his papers just yet, he took note that the incumbent, Roger Beauchamp, was among the majority on the board that agreed to accept the terms of McGorry's resignation.
<i>Ted Siefer may be reached at <a href='mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org'>email@example.com</a>. Follow him on Twitter: <a href='https://twitter.com/#!/tbsreporter' target='_blank'>@tbsreporter</a>.</i>
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