By: Tom Duggan – July 17, 2013
With Jeanne Pappalardo leaving the city council because of term limits this year, three people are seeking to fill two seats on the city council representing Methuen’s West End. Incumbent Councilor Sean Fountain, School Committeeman George Kazanjian and Methuen’s most outspoken member of the school committee Evan Chaisson are running for the two open seats.
Chaisson says that if he is elected to the city council representing the West End he will be just as outspoken as he was on the school committee and isn’t afraid to tackle the controversial issues most politicians run away from.
“After spending six years on the school committee and being born and raised in Methuen, I’ve seen it grow from a small town to a bustling city,” Chaisson told the Valley Patriot in an exclusive interview. “I can bring forward new ideas and new initiatives that the current city council is lacking.”
CITY SOLICITOR FIASCO
“Look at this fiasco we had trying to hire a new city solicitor. It was an absolute joke. I’m not afraid to hold back, some of those city councilors are close friends of mine. But, in my opinion you had an assistant city solicitor, it says in the charter that we need a ‘suitable replacement’, and the assistant city solicitor should have been that suitable replacement until a search could have been done.”
The Methuen City Council voted not to renew Solicitor Peter McQuillan’s contract and had a search process to replace him. McQuillan was still on the job awaiting a replacement when the council was conducting a search to replace him. While Lawrence Attorney Richard D’Agositino was being interviewed as one of the finalists (at a public meeting), McQuillan was texting City Councilor Jamie Atkinson with damaging information and embarrassing questions for D’Agostino, which Atkinson did address during his question period.
McQuillan had also gone to D’Agostino’s references and convinced some of them to rescind their letters of recommendation to kill D’Agostino’s chances to get the job as he was considered the favorite of the two finalists. McQuillan also orchestrated Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua ‘s letter to the city council attacking D’Agostino and recommending they not hire him.
With the process tainted, the council ended up voting against D’Agostino and is now engaged in a contract with a private law firm to handle the city’s legal issues.
“The search should have started immediately, whoever the candidates were should have been presented to council, and that should have been it. Not this fiasco of; a tainted search, not having enough people, bringing it to the city council and not having enough votes, then (Jami Atkinson) trying to get Peter McQuillan back,” Chaisson charged.
“This should have been simple if they followed the process. By all right, Richard D’Agostino should have been appointed as the city solicitor. You can quote me on that. I think Richard D’Agostino was by far the most qualified of the candidate selections. It’s a shame that the city council couldn’t get together and get a majority of the votes. And you know who suffered? The people of Methuen.”
“The proof is in the pudding, [we are paying] $175 an hour for a company to come in and be our city solicitors, when we could have hired someone for $50 or $100 an hour. The math doesn’t make any sense, it’s fuzzy math. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty, if an issue needs to be addressed and it’s controversial, and I support that issue I’m not afraid to fight for that issue. I don’t run form the hard decisions. I think I proved that in my six years on the school committee.”
“It’s just like what we did with the high school. The city council didn’t want to float the bond for the high school, we formed teams, we had rallies, we sent out 700 pieces of mail and told them [voters] to call their city councilors and email their city councilors, and it worked!”
Asked what he would do if he was elected and the issue was still unresolved when he took office in January, Chaisson said without hesitation that he would vote to get rid of the private firm and try to put D’Agostino’s name back before the council for appointment.
“I would propose we go out for a full blown search and the candidates who were finalists in the last search will be automatically entered into the finals in this search. If I am elected and Tom Ciulla wants to put D’Agostino’s name forward again, I would support hiring D’Agostino, absolutely I would.”
Controversial issues aside, Chaisson said that he would be a watchdog for the taxpayers.
“I think my main issue is keeping same services that Methuen has grown to love with same tax base we pay now.”
Asked how he would go about that with costs like health care going up all the time, Chaisson said it’s a matter of trimming waste and being creative.
“We are going to have to broaden our horizons, bring in new businesses into the community, offer tax incentives to small, start-up companies into the district that will hire Methuen residents.”
“A big part of my experience on the school committee is budgetary items. Moving forward with all the departments in the city, it will be a huge help to have my six years of knowledge being in the school department moving forward with the budget, watching where all the money goes, looking for the transfers, making sure we are not double paying people, and making sure we are getting the right amount of bang for our buck.”
“We will have to look for ways to save money, look for way to bundle resources with other districts, we are going to have to look to see about getting grants and federal assistance on certain items like police and fire equipment, and IT equipment. We get grants through the school department for IT equipment all the time.”
When asked about Mayor Zanni’s proposal to privatize the city’s Internet Technology Department he answered sharply, “absolutely not. I’m not into any privatization because; I’m not about any Methuen resident losing their job. That’s not what I am elected to do. I am 100% against privatization of the IT department. Do we have to address problems in the IT department? Absolutely. But privatization is not the answer.”
“Why should you vote for me? I am a young, energetic guy who was born and raised in Methuen. I just recently bought a house here in Methuen, my future is here and I want to see it change in a positive direction. I think with the voters help I can make that happen.”
“I am a very big advocate for public safety, police and fire should always get the resources they need. Methuen should put in a capital improvement policy to improve police equipment and fire equipment, and furthermore, the facilities that police and fire use. Our police and fire stations are totally inadequate for a city Methuen’s size.”
“When it comes to youth services, I’ve been a big supporter of resources for your youth from the get go. Our youth are the future of Methuen we have to provide them the same quality of education that I got when I was growing up. As for the seniors, they are great asset to the City of Methuen and are one of my biggest priorities. They have laid the foundation for future generations and we need to provide them with the necessary resources that they need moving forward like funding for activities, transportation, housing, this all needs to be done.
On Mayor Zanni, Chaisson said that he is doing an “OK job. He has gotten a lot better over the last year, though, I will say that. When he first started he was a bit shaky, at times I think it was overwhelming for him, but as the year progressed and he’s gotten more comfortable I think he has gotten better.”
Chaisson says that as a West End City Councilor he will be more interested in what his constituents want when issues come before the city council and less concerned with what the insiders want. “I can tell you this, if the voters elect me to the city council I am not going to be looking to our city solicitor or any other insider to make my decisions for me, I will be looking to the voters and the taxpayers to help me make decisions for the city, that’s the difference I think between me and some of the others, I am independent and I am not interested in anything but representing the people of Methuen.”