Methuen City Councilor Steve Saba (who is Chairman of the city council) says that he would rather Methuen residents go hungry than to receive food donations delivered by a company he is upset with.
The revelation came during a city council meeting last month when it was revealed that a minority (Latino) owned taxi company had been operating without a license from the city, a company Saba voted to approve without ever asking the status of their city license.
According to Methuen Police Officer Randy Haggar, the taxi company owners had received a business license from the state to operate in Methuen but did not know that they needed a separate business license from the city, so they began to operate.
Haggar says that the police department recognized that there is a language barrier and is working with the company to help them go through that process, but had shut down their operations in the meantime.
That’s when Methuen Mayor Neil Perry decided to help them with their loss of revenue by hiring them to deliver donated food to hungry Methuen residents through the Methuen Cares program.
Saba became enraged when he found out that the mayor was using the same company to deliver food to hungry residents still affected by the pandemic and shutdowns.
“I’m Just not comfortable doing that at all, and we have more and more headaches coming from this CARES program right now. I’m getting tired of all this because this falls on us too.”
The mayor took no time calling Saba to task.
“Let me respond what you just said Mr. Chair, this doesn’t come out of the CARES program this is a separate grant.”
“This is the ‘Methuen Cares program it’s separate. it is not the CARES program.”
As Saba continued to object, Perry put the question right to him.
“So, you don’t believe in providing food for Methuen residents who need it? Is that what you’re saying?”
Saba shockingly said “no”.
“I want to do it where they are safe and that the company is licensed, and we know who’s walking into people’s homes, yeah otherwise I don’t! And I don’t even want to accept this $45.9M if we’re not going to handle it the right way.”
The mayor said he was mixing apples and oranges. The CARES program is federal relief for cities and towns to pay for pandemic related expenses.The Methuen Cares program is donated money used to fill the gaps in what the federal CARES program doesn’t cover.
He said the company doesn’t need a license to deliver food because they are not acting as a taxi company when they perform such tasks.
That’s when Saba admitted to not doing his job when he, himself voted to approve the taxi company operations in Methuen.
“As far as the cab company we all approved it unanimously. That’s on all of us, we’re just not asking enough questions. We’re just not. I’m not.”
The Valley Patriot called some of the people who deliver food to Methuen residents through the Methuen CARES program to find out if they were actually going “into people’s homes” and were told by several individuals that they usually meet the residents at the door of their homes and give them the donated food without going in.
The mayor says he will continue to feed Methuen residents in need.◊