Mayor Perry Attacks State Officials, City Council, Abandons Pledge to “Represent Everyone”
The Massachusetts Office of Administration and Finance (A&F) is an arm of the governor’s office. Part of their job is to oversee the state’s COVID-19 funding and grants given to local communities.
Last Month Methuen Mayor Neil Perry was notified by A&F that he had misspent $140,000 of state COVID money on business licenses for restaurants in the city. The state says that money has to be paid back.
He was also notified that he misspent $500,000 of state COVID money by giving “essential employees” – what he called “hazard pay” – but what the state and city councilors have called “bonuses”.
The city of Methuen has to pay back that money too.
A few days later, Perry appeared on an internet podcast where he went on a tirade, attacking state officials, city councilors, the Eagle Tribune, the legislature, the Governor’s office, and members of the community saying, “I’d do it again!”
Perry first chided state officials from the Office of Administration and Finance (A&F) for working remotely during COVID “while this mayor came in every single day.”
Perry claims that he emailed A&F before spending the money and that the state said it was appropriate to spend the money on “essential employees” for “hazard pay” during the lockdowns of 2021.
“I’m going to take this appeal to the governor,” he said. “I’m comfortable with the decision I made based on the information that they gave me. No matter what you think of the mayor, they said ‘yes.’ They didn’t say yes, but there’s conditions, they said yes.”
The state’s position is that it is legal to spend COVID funding on “hazard pay” for “essential employees” but that those employees who receive the “hazard pay” had to actually be doing something “hazardous”. Perry interpreted their response as giving him permission to give “hazard pay” to all essential employees.
“I would remark here that The State House, which are the folks at A&F sitting in judgement of this, have not been in The State House for some 700 plus days. The City of Methuen never shut its doors. Your mayor went in every day during the pandemic.”
He added “The State House is still closed! So, the people sitting in judgement here have not been back to work.”
For the past two years Perry has stated publicly that there is no ‘us vs them’ conflict between he and members of the city council. “there’s no we-they, there really isn’t,” he said over and over on the Paying Attention Podcast. “Myself and the city councilors are all on the same team in Methuen. Everyone is doing the best job for the city.”
But, on his own podcast he seemed to concede that there is, in-fact, an ‘us vs them’ conflict between he and the council.
“Now the governor is talking about back-dating bonuses, yet here we are in the City of Methuen in a dog-fight because people want to focus on the negativity. It’s time for the community to smarten up and recognize that there are pot-stirrers who will never be happy as long as they’re not running the show. My mission, quite frankly, is to keep them from running the show.”
City Councilors took turns at the next meeting chastising the mayor’s misspending state COVID-19 funding, taking particular aim at his tirade on the internet.
Councilor DJ Beauregard was so furious with Perry’s handling of state funds that he proposed changing the council ordinances to force Perry to get council approval for all expenditures over $5,000.
Other councilors said that Perry was blaming everyone but himself and needed to start being more transparent.
Councilor Finocchiaro, who has long said that Perry is not transparent with his spending, said that this very case is the reason why she continues to ask questions and demand documents to prove what she is being told by this administration.
She says she is worried that the money may have to come out of the city’s “free cash” account, an account that determines the city’s bond rating and ability to borrow. ◊