Haverhill City Councilor Colin F. LePage.
Haverhill city councilors this week suggested the mayor and City Hall department heads are violating the city charter by not responding to councilors’ questions in a timely fashion.
Reading from the city charter, Councilor Colin F. LePage noted the administration is legally bound to answer questions after one week. LePage said Mayor James J. Fiorentini has not adequately answered city councilors questions—some dating back six months or longer.
“I think also there’s times where you lose some things and thing aren’t done maybe, possibly, on a timely basis or done at all.”
Councilor Michael S. McGonagle was a bit blunter.
“I really feel that (if) the mayor doesn’t want to give us some information, he won’t.”
LePage suggested one problem may be there are too few city employees after years of layoffs. The city is down 73 employees since 2003.
“I think one of the causes of this is—what something the mayor alluded to last week or the week prior when there was discussion of a theft that happened in the treasurer’s office—the lack of employees, or the amount of employees, in City Hall.”
LePage said he agrees with efficiency, but added some jobs just aren’t being done. He noted the council’s planned hearing on a 40-unit apartment complex, proposed for 2 South Grove St., couldn’t be heard Tuesday because not all department heads have reviewed the plans.
He said he is particularly concerned a request made by the city council last July to file a “statement of interest” with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to repair or replace Consentino, Whittier and Tilton Schools hadn't been acted upon. Had the city done so earlier, he said, perhaps the city wouldn’t have had to pay full price for new lockers at Consentino School. Other questions surround the $300,000 building permit the city charged the new Hunking School, girls softball field and the city’s downtown paid parking program, he added.
Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett said she has unanswered questions regarding traffic on Salem Street.
“We are often left writing letters and getting no response.”
She told David S. Van Dam, the mayor’s chief of staff, “You have to kind of haunt you or nag you to get some things done.”
Van Dam said he was taken aback by the council’s criticism.
“I must say I’m a little surprised that the council isn’t happy with some of the response rates.”
He said the mayor’s office is very careful to time date each letter and works to respond quickly. He agreed to meet with council President John A. Michitson weekly to review council questions.
Councilors Joseph J. Bevilacqua and William J. Macek suggestion to have more informal meetings with the mayor in the council office won support from other members.