Last week, a Methuen City Council meeting degenerated into a circus, complete with an orchestrated political attack on newly elected mayor Neil Perry.
First, City Councilor Steve Saba (who campaigned against Perry) had his brother get up at public participation to lay the groundwork for a later discussion about Perry’s “rumored” choice for a new chief of staff.
His brother wasted the time of the council by discussing the “rumor” that newly elected mayor Neil Perry “might” be considering hiring an outgoing member of the Methuen School Committee when he takes office in January.
Faking shock and outrage, the councilor’s brother tried to compare this rumor… “if true” … to corruption and conflicts of interest. He also said that in order for the outgoing school committee member to be hired by Perry, the council would have to get a home rule petition because the charter doesn’t allow it.
None of this was relevant or true.
Then, one of Steve Saba’s campaign supporters got up. A gentleman named Bill Heffernan passed out screen shots of a Facebook post by this “rumored” outgoing school committee member – who might, maybe, get appointed Perry’s chief of staff.
He too clutched his pearls and feigned outrage as he read what he thought was an offending Facebook message by the person rumored to be Perry’s new chief of staff. Like Saba’s brother, he too stated that the council has set up rules to prohibit any elected official from taking a job with the city for a year after they leave office.
This was also untrue.
But, it did lay the groundwork for Saba and his allies on the council to hold up city business with an item that was not on the agenda, about an issue that is only rumored to be true, and one that the council has no legal authority over.
Nonetheless, they hemmed and hawed about how this would take Methuen “backwards” and how it would violate the charter. But, it seems that Saba wasn’t smart enough to actually read the charter before sending his brother and his campaign supporter up to public participation to do his dirty work for him.
The fact is, the Methuen charter states that members of the school committee cannot take a job in the school department for one year after leaving office. It says nothing about taking a city job outside the schools such as, chief of staff for a mayor. Yet, several councilors bastardized the meaning, spirit, and succinctness of the charter during their discussion, twisting logic on its head trying anything they could to throw roadblocks at Perry before he even takes office.
The Valley Patriot spoke to the Ethics Commission and the Secretary of State’s Office, both of whom said that the Methuen charter would indeed allow a member of the school committee to take a job with the city as long as it was not in the school department.
The charter is very clear.
State law is very clear.
This little stunt by the Saba clan is no way to show the voters that the days of orchestrated political attacks will stop come January when the new mayor and council take office.
It was no way to signal to the incoming mayor that the election is over and returning councilors are willing to work with him to move Methuen forward “for the best interest of the taxpayers.”
Methuen voters overwhelmingly rejected the politics of personal destruction when they gave Perry and the incoming councilors a mandate to change the way things have been done over the last two years.
They rejected Saba’s puppet candidates. They rejected Saba’s backroom dealings, and orchestrated political attacks using third parties. And they rejected the environment of team politics where measures before the council would be approved or rejected merely based on who it was that came up with the idea. Had he not run unopposed, we believe the voters would have rejected Saba himself.
Whether Neil Perry chooses to hire an outgoing member of the school committee to be his chief of staff or not, is none of Steve Saba’s business. He’s not the mayor, no matter how much he tries to micromanage the executive branch of government.
We only wish Saba would stop trying to manufacture scandals against his political rivals, and actually do his job – legislate.
If Councilor Steve Saba wanted to be the mayor of Methuen he should have run for the job himself. ◊