A CITY ALDERMAN is pushing for a Massachusetts company to be investigated for what he says amounts to “stealing” a fellow board member’s identity.
As previously reported by the Union Leader, former Ward 6 alderman Elizabeth Moreau filed a complaint with the city solicitor’s office claiming at-large member Dan O’Neil failed to list on his financial disclosure forms that he was affiliated with a Boston firm.
Moreau, who intends to run for an at-large seat on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen later this year, said the accounting firm Haynes Associates lists O’Neil as a senior vice president.
In a written response to the city solicitor, O’Neil said he was unaware he was listed as a leader of the firm.
“When I received your email, I was surprised to learn someone was representing that I held any position with the corporation,” O’Neil wrote.
O’Neil said he did some consulting work for the company in 2016 and 2017 but said that business had nothing to do with Manchester.
The Haynes Associates website no longer lists O’Neil, and no earlier versions of the website were available.
Last week, Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur called for an investigation into the consulting firm’s actions.
“If that was me and they appropriated my name, I’d be out of my mind right now,” Levasseur said. “This issue is not only about the alderman, who says he knew nothing about it. It’s about the fact that all of us aldermen together and the city of Manchester are under a bad spotlight.
“I can imagine if somebody appropriates anybody, anybody’s picture, their face, especially an elected official or our police chief or fire chief, puts them on a website, puts their biography ... you wonder how much money these people made by appropriating somebody’s name, their face and all the stuff they’ve done.”
Alderman Keith Hirschmann said Levasseur raises a valid point.
“If someone can steal your identity and stick it on a website ... I don’t know if it’s a crime but they shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” Hirschmann said.
Levasseur went on to say he wants to know “everything” about the firm.
“I want to know if they ever got contracts, or used influence, or got something out of Manchester that we don’t know about,” Levasseur said. “I’m sure Alderman O’Neil agrees with me. It’s his face.”
O’Neil didn’t take the bait.
“I don’t agree with you, and the letter speaks for itself, Alderman,” O’Neil said.
Mayor Joyce Craig told aldermen additional information regarding Moreau’s complaint and O’Neil’s response will be provided to the board at its next meeting.
Charter review election
Section 8.03 of the City Charter requires the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to put the question of a charter review before Queen City voters at least once every 10 years.
City Clerk Matt Normand has convinced board members to speed up the process and save money in the process.
The last regular charter commission convened in 2012, meaning a charter revision question must be presented to voters no later than September 2022.
Normand told aldermen last week that since the city’s last commission was formed, at least four state laws have been amended to prohibit a special municipal election from being held on the same day as the state biennial election.
That means if aldermen were to wait until next year to start the process, the city would be required to hold a special standalone citywide election to send the question of charter revision to the voters and — if it passed — to elect members to the commission on a day other than a regular election day.
Each of these elections costs about $60,000, in addition to the cost of scheduled citywide state elections.
In total, the city would see election expenses in Fiscal Year 2023 exceed $200,000. At the same time, voter turnout likely would be significantly lower for the special elections.
Instead, Normand recommended the board start the city charter review process this fall to align with the regularly scheduled municipal election cycle.
The proposed timeline extends the entire process by a year but gives the city a chance to save money over the next two budget cycles, align the charter review process with regularly scheduled municipal elections to take advantage of peak voter turnout and create a window on the back end of this process — after the commission has concluded its work — to educate voters on any proposed charter amendments.
Normand told aldermen nothing in his proposal precludes aldermen from considering the proposed charter amendments presented by the School District Charter Commission last year and ultimately ordering amendments to a ballot in November.
“The proposal does, however, provide the board with an alternative path to navigate the mandated charter review through very challenging budget cycles over the next two fiscal years,” he said.
Board members voted last week to approve Normand’s proposal.