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DiNuccio; Take Chief out of Civil Service

Al Dinuccio

An Interview with Mayoral candidate Al DiNuccio: what he will do as your next Mayor

By: Tom Duggan – February, 2011

Former candidate for mayor and state representative Al DiNuccio has announced that he is running for the open seat for mayor when Bill Manzi’s term expires this year. Manzi is restricted by term limits from running again. DiNuccio sat down with Valley Patriot president Tom Duggan on WHAV’s Paying Attention! radio program last week to talk about his campaign and what he will do if he is elected to succeed Bill Manzi as the mayor of Methuen.

TERM LIMITS

“It’s an incumbents race the way it is now,” DiNuccio says. “There’s a tremendous advantage. I am 100% for term limits but I’m also 100% in favor of having the question go before the voters. I’m not afraid of the [ballot] question, I would like to see the question be on the ballot all by itself but I think the way it’s going to be, is part of the over all charter question. If we wanted to have a special election with just that question that would solve the problem.”

DiNuccio said that the ballot question before the voters this year will probably fail because it’s an all or nothing charter change question. “If you don’t like one thing on the list of proposed changes then people are going to vote it down,” DiNuccio said.

Asked if he would commit to term limiting himself if the voters did away with mandatory term limits DiNuccio said he would.

“People do need to move on, there are some dinosaurs in the Merrimack Valley. Do I want to be a politician for the rest of my life? Absolutely not! So, I would impose term limits on myself, absolutely.”

Asked how long he would stay in office if elected without term limits DiNuccio replied, “Six years is more than enough time to get anything done.”

THE UPCOMING MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

After running and losing for mayor and state representative in the last two years, DiNucio says he is going to change his campaign style and “take the gloves off this time.”

“This is actually the gloves off campaign. You know, it took us two campaigns to realize it but I don’t get the teacher vote, I don’t get the firefighter vote I get the average guy vote. That’s my base,” he said. DiNuccio also admitted that trying to be a nice guy and be non-controversial in the last two campaigns probably cost him both elections.

Chief Joe Solomon

DiNuccio was asked how he would work with Joe Solomon and if he agreed with Mayor Manzi’s efforts to fire the chief. Manzi fired Solomon three years ago but a Civil Service Commission Judge overturned his firing saying Solomon had not done anything worthy of being fired, though they did sustain a one year suspension and ordered the city to pay Solomon for two of the years he was out of work while fighting his case.

“I agree with you on the decision to fire Joe Solomon, Tom,” DiNuccio said. “He shouldn’t have been fired.”

“Should he have been reprimanded or some kind of punishment? Absolutely! And civil service said that too. The termination went too far. I’ve known Chief Solomon since he was a patrolman. I watched him go up the ranks. I’m still an intermittent police officer there for 25 years, which is a part time police officer. So, I know him, he’s easy to work with. He is a very smart person. He’s a smart cop and a very smart administrator.”

DiNuccio said he would have no problem working with Solomon but as soon as Solomon leaves or retires he plans on taking the job out of civil service.

“It’s going very smooth there right now, and I don’t think there is a better police department in the valley today . When he [Solomon] came in there was a lot of crime going on. The recession had jacked up the crime in the valley, an increase in house breaks were rampant, he put a task force in place, and he made a lot of bold moves from day one. And it’s paying off today. Crime is coming back down he’s got it under control.”

“I’m not saying anything about Chief Levigne, she did the best she could do under the circumstances. But there was a lot of turmoil under her administration just having the fact that Solomon could come back hanging over the department’s head every day… I guess the question is, can I work with Chief Solomon? YES! Should the job be in civil service NO!”

WHY?

“That position is a department heads positions. None of the other department heads have a Civil Service agreement. It’s kind of like a CEO of a company or managing a private company. They are not part of a union. It’s tough to manage as a mayor if you have that.” “Look what just happened with Bill Manzi. Lets say he just didn’t want to renew that contract. Lets say they just couldn’t work together. Lets just say it didn’t work out for the city. That’s how it should be. You say we’re just not renewing the contract. They did it with superintendents all the time. Lawrence just did it with Wilfredo Laboy. You’ve got to be able to change your department heads if they’re not working well with the government at the time. You just can’t do that under civil service. It’s a lifetime position. Asked how that squares with his position that he supports Joe Solomon who would have been fired by Manzi if there was no Civil Service Protection, DiNuccio scoffed.

“Let’s look historically at the last three mayors. We have several departments and no department head under the last three mayors has ever been terminated. It’s not like mayors go around firing people for no reason. It just doesn’t happen. Would Joe Solomon have been terminated if not for Civil Service… probably.”

But is that good for the town?

“I’m not defending Mayor Manzi. I agree with you, he should not have done what he did to Chief Solomon. But [with civil service in place] you’re undermining the leader of the city. Manzi had egg on his face when this thing was all said and done because he [Solomon] was reinstated. How do you run the city? How do you get respect from your other department heads and employees when you make decisions and others are overturning your decisions?”

Why do you want to be mayor?

“In the last mayors race we went into detail on the budgets and what the city is doing and we look at the waste and all the things we can cut and what can be privatized. That’s going to be a big part of this campaign. Privatization. You look at any department in this city and I can tell you where the waste is, and where we should be privatized. I don’t mind paying my taxes and I know the citizens don’t mind paying their taxes. But they don’t want to pay taxes when they see what is going on here now. And I know how to correct all this stuff. I have a plan.”

What would you privatize first?

“Well, lets look at the fire department, the ambulance services. Instantly privatize! We used to have a private ambulance service in Methuen, it worked very well and now it’s run by the fire dept. It costs a fortune to run an ambulance service. Some say it makes money but once you add in overtime, pensions, health insurance, and maintenance on the equipment all that stuff, we are losing money on our ambulance service.”

“All the big cities run private ambulance service and they are very efficient, Fallon, Patriot ambulance, etc., they all do well. Do you lay the guys off? Absolutely not. What do you do with them is, the Methuen fire department has a one million dollar overtime budget. So what you do is you have them work as floaters who work straight time instead of overtime and work fill in shifts and we eliminate the cost of the ambulance.

Another example, it’s not just privatization but how about janitorial services? We pay janitors huge overtime. It’s serious cash, with pensions and overtime and health care. Every private company in America uses private janitor services. Do you get rid of them all? No? You keep four or five janitors, one in each school, they open for the basketball courts and do their thing and then at night the private janitors come in and they clean the schools! It saves a lot of money!

 

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover, Massachusetts. He is an author, host of the Paying Attention TV/Radio Program, lectures on media bias and police issues, is a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, and a 1990 Police Survivor. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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