Manchester man claims two aldermen violated charter with vote on reportBy PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 19. 2017 10:51PM
MANCHESTER — A city resident has filed a complaint at City Hall against two aldermen following last week’s vote to approve a fact finder’s report recommending raises for firefighter and fire supervisor unions, citing “flagrant disregard of City Charter provisions concerning conflicts of interest.”
Last week city aldermen voted 7-6 to approve the report, with Kevin Cavanaugh, Ron Ludwig, Chris Herbert, Dan O’Neil, Tom Katsiantonis, Bill Barry and Normand Gamache voting in favor. Opposed were Keith Hirschmann, Pat Long, Tony Sapienza, Joseph Kelly Levasseur, Bill Shea and Barbara Shaw. The report recommended two-year pay increases of 3 percent per year for Manchester firefighters and supervisors.
Mayor Ted Gatsas blocked the vote with a veto, saying the two-year price tag of the recommendations made in the report — totaling more than $4 million — would lead to future job losses. An attempt to override the veto failed.
Ward 2 Alderman Ron Ludwig has two sons working for the Fire Department. City salary data show Kurt Ludwig received $63,250.92 in salary in 2016, and $36,160.95 in benefits. A second son, Karl, earned $52,574.26 in salary and $23,896.08 in benefits in 2016. Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache also has a son in the Fire Department, District Fire Chief Michael Gamache. He received a salary of $145,839.67 and $62,609.46 in benefits last year.
According to Manchester’s City Charter, Section 9.03(e), which regards conflict of interest, “No city official shall participate in the decision-making process of any matter in which the official or a member of the official’s immediate family has a direct personal or financial interest. Any official who believes such an interest exists shall disclose such interest and shall not participate in the matter further.”
On Monday, Ward 8 resident Jim Gaudet sent a conflict of interest complaint to Gatsas’ office over the vote.
“A clear and plain reading of the charter would indicate that both aldermen are elected officials, their children are immediate family members, and the provisions of the Conflict of Interest article are quite clear that they may not discuss, deliberate or vote on these matters,” writes Gaudet in his complaint.
Similar complaints were lodged against Ludwig and Gamache in 2015 following their vote to ratify a contract with city teachers. Ludwig’s wife worked for the school district at the time, and Gamache has a daughter employed by city schools. Those complaints were received and filed.
“It is my expectation as a citizen and taxpayer that this matter will be investigated and referred for administrative procedures as set forth in the Charter. I expect that both Aldermen are to be publicly sanctioned, fined and even removed from office as this is a penalty prescribed by law,” writes Gaudet. “Should the BOMA not see fit to investigate and punish these deliberate and flagrant violations of the City Charter, this matter should be referred to the NH Attorney’s General’s Office (Public Integrity Unit) for criminal investigation, as a violation of the city charter is specifically punishable as a misdemeanor offense (see RSA 49-C:31), and while I have full faith that the Manchester Police Department could thoroughly investigate this matter, the appearance of a conflict of interest as well as any political retaliation will be surely avoided if they are not involved.”
Gatsas confirmed on Monday his office received Gaudet’s complaint, and forwarded it to the City Solicitor’s Office for review.