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October 13. 2013 9:31PM

Tension mounts in Nashua over empty seat on Pennichuck board

NASHUA — Tempers flared for the second time this year as aldermen again discussed why a seat on the Pennichuck Corp. board of directors remains vacant after nearly two years.

Jay Leonard, chairman of the Pennichuck board, said he would answer questions about the controversial vacancy on the board but would not tolerate being grilled by members of the aldermanic Pennichuck Water Special Committee.

“I am not willing to be here and be deposed. I am here to cooperate,” Leonard told the committee last week after aldermen asked when the vacant seat — to be filled by a representative from the Merrimack Valley Regional Water District — will be filled.

While Leonard said he would answer questions, he objected to the “attitude” expressed, maintaining the groups need to work cooperatively. In addition, Leonard stressed that nominations are typically kept confidential until they are actually approved, which has not yet taken place.

A previous agreement with the Public Utilities Commission requires that one seat on the Pennichuck board of directors be filled by a representative from the Merrimack Valley Regional Water District. Although the city acquired the water company in early 2012, the seat still remains unfilled.

“The district presented a nominee to the corporation six months ago,” said Brian McCarthy, president of the Board of Aldermen and president of the Merrimack Valley Regional Water District. The nominee, previously identified as Tom Gaydos of Pelham, was submitted to Pennichuck but never finalized.

Initially, there was some confusion as to whether Gaydos was eligible for the position since he serves as a town manager. However, after reviewing the Pennichuck bylaws, it was determined that Gaydos is eligible since his employment is not as an elected role. Still, there was additional confusion when some individuals thought Gaydos’ name was withdrawn from consideration, Leonard said.

The matter was being handled through attorneys, he said, adding Pennichuck is now ready to go forward with the nomination but has not yet received feedback from the Merrimack Valley Regional Water District on how to proceed.

According to McCarthy, Gaydos is still willing to serve on the board, however the MVRWD has not been able to reach a quorum to formally vote and move ahead with that action.

Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson emphasized that he was not grilling Pennichuck officials but was trying to thoroughly understand the situation with the vacant board seat.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly has voiced concern about the unfilled seat repeatedly for more than a year, noting the communities that make up the MVRWD were instrumental in helping the city acquire the water company and deserve adequate participation.

“They really thought they were getting a voice, and a voice is not a vacant seat,” said Pressly. ” … They are the little guys. I don’t know why they have been so overlooked.”

It is still not clear when Pennichuck officials will vote to fill the empty seat, although Leonard said his board is happy to go forward with the nomination process.khoughton@newstote.com


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