Tom Duggan’s Methuen Election Notebook (Oct.2019)



November 5th is Election Day for cities in the Merrimack Valley. In Methuen and Haverhill voters get to decide who their mayor will be for the next two years. In Lawrence, Mayor Dan Rivera has two years left in his term and cannot run again. The Mayor of any city is the executive in charge of hiring and firing, promoting and demoting all city workers, negotiates and signs private contracts for trash, road repairs, construction and repairs of city buildings, and gets to appoint members of city boards like the zoning board, the planning board and special commissions. The Mayor is also in charge of enforcing city ordinances passed by the council. The city council on the other hand, is in charge of the budget and passing city ordinances (local laws). The city council can pass an ordinance – for example – that citizens cannot mow their lawns before 8am, but if the mayor does not enforce that ordinance it is meaningless. The city council can pass a budget for the city, but it’s up to the mayor to spend the money. When the city council passes a measure with a majority vote, it requires the signature of the mayor to become law (so to speak). If the mayor refuses to sign it, that’s called a veto. If the mayor vetoes a measure, the city council can override his decision with a vote of 2/3 of the city council, meaning the measure passes even without the mayor’s support. But, remember it’s up to the mayor to enforce the laws and ordinances passed. We saw this in Lawrence years ago when the voters passed a measure for a residency requirement for all city workers. The city council supported the measure, the voters passed the measure at the ballot, but Lawrence Mayor Mary Claire Kennedy refused to enforce it. This left city workers who did not live in the city to keep their jobs. THIS is why it is so important to exercise your right to vote in local elections. Everything from a local meals tax, to noise ordinances, and what kind of residential developments go into your neighborhoods, all depends on who is on your city council and who sits in the mayor’s office. Financial mismanagement by the council or the mayor can result in police, school or fire layoffs, which means a lower quality of life for the citizens. SO VOTE November 5th! If you don’t, YOU are part of the problem.

You will often hear the term “bullet vote” during an election but you’re not sure what it really means. In some races you can vote for more than one person, for example, in the city council at-large race you can vote up to three people, as three candidates will get elected city-wide. But, let’s say you really like one candidate and not too thrilled with all the others in the “vote for three” at-large race. You don’t HAVE to vote for three people. You can vote for only one if you like. That’s called a bullet vote. It’s like giving one person three votes. The candidate you voted for won’t actually GET three votes when the tally is counted at the end of the night, but – by only voting for one candidate you have denied a vote for two of his or her opponents making it more likely your favorite candidate will. When you vote for only one candidate in a “vote for three” election it is counted as ONE vote for your candidate and two BLANK votes.

Dirty politics seems to be the norm in Methuen this year but nothing seemed more dirty than Kannan supporters circulating a doctored photo of Neil Perry making it look like he posed in a photo with Sharon Pollard, Tom Lussier, Steve Zanni, and Phil DeCologero. If I had to guess I would say this is the work of Sid Harris and his partner Tim Wood. Regardless of who actually designed the ad and doctored the photo, however, the Kannan campaign are the ones circulating it.  The voters of Methuen deserve the truth in this election and circulating fake photos is not the way to give it to them. Can you imagine the crying and whining we would hear from the Kannan campaign if Perry supporters doctored a photo of Kannan with Steve Baddour, Jim Jajuga, Gary Marcoux, and Bill Manzi? All of whom support Kannan? We all know they would be outraged by it, but they seem to have no problem doing it themselves. Shameful.

During the MCTV cable access debate, Central District City Council candidate Dennis DJ Deeb accused incumbent city councilor Joyce Campagnone of having a conflict of interest, claiming her son worked for the city. But, Deeb’s claim of conflict was quickly shot down by Campagnone who admitted that yes, her son is a constable in Methuen but does not work for the city. Campagnone has no conflicts of interest with immediate family members working for the city.

The builders and wreckers union has been on the attack against Dennis DJ Deeb’s campaign for city council taking out a half page ad in last month’s Valley Patriot and this month taking out a full-page ad. It seems members of the union are furious with Deeb over his opposition of a $15 an hour minimum wage, his attacks on the police union, and his statements that if he were to open up a business, he wouldn’t open it in Methuen but instead would open a business in New Hampshire. Deeb on the other hand, was not going to take this laying down. He wrote a letter to union officials attacking their president Tom Troy claiming that his ad was over the line and uncalled for, saying he was once vice president of a union, is not “anti-union” and that Troy’s attacks on him were motivated by …. get this…. Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon. Deeb also posted online that the “political hit” he took from the union president was because Mr. Troy is “Chief Solomon’s best friend”. Which is weird, because I thought that “I” was Chief Solomon’s best friend. It is true that Troy and Solomon are friends, and it is also true that Troy had words with Deeb over his treatment of Solomon, but Troy contends that his union’s ads against Deeb are about exactly what he said they were, Deeb’s opposition to a minimum wage, and his anti-union rhetoric. “He can shout that nonsense about how he was once a union vice-president as proof that he is not anti-union but we watched his votes. This guy has never seen a spending measure he didn’t want to vote against.” I guess the voters of the Central District in Methuen will have to decide for themselves on November 5th.

You might think that with names like Nick DiZoglio and Ryan DiZoglio running for office in the Methuen city elections, Senator Diana DiZoglio would be supporting both candidates. But you would be wrong. First, Senator Diana DiZoglio is supporting Jessica Finocchiaro and Dave Beauregard for city council at-large city wide and is not supporting Nick DiZoglio who is also in that race. Senator DiZoglio says that while many people may think Ryan and Nick DiZoglio are related to her because they share the same last name, “We are not related and I do not support their candidacies,” DiZoglio has said.

Much has been made about candidates having a conflict of interest in this year’s election in Methuen. The following is a list of each candidate with a conflict. It is important to note that simply having a conflict does not make a candidate a bad person or that they have done anything wrong. It simply means they have relatives working for the city and at some point, they may have to remove themselves from a vote that affects their family member.
Central District City Councilor James McCarty’s stepfather works for building maintenance department of the DPW. James says this is only an “appearance of a conflict” and legally not an actual conflict because a stepfather is not considered immediate family under the law. But they do live together and his relationship with his stepfather has already caused problems when he himself admits that his stepfather was offered a bribe by the Jajuga administration to get him to stop voting against what Jajuga wants on the council. McCarty says he did not file criminal charges as is required by law because the police and prosecutor are corrupt.

Bill Bryant has two conflicts as he is the principal of the Crest School, a public-private partnership with the City of Methuen. Crest receives millions of dollars from the City of Methuen. His wife is also a teacher in the school system.
Jen Kannan has three conflicts that have been highly publicized by the candidate herself in order to provide transparency to the voters. Her son is a hero police officer, and her brother is a hero firefighter for Methuen. She also has a daughter who works in the Methuen Schools.
Joel Faretra has a wife working in the school system and works under Bill Bryant at the Crest School as a facilities manager.

I have to admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve encountered someone as despicable as failed Methuen mayoral candidate Dan Shabilia. After Shabilia lost his bid to be the mayor of Methuen he announced a sticker campaign for the open school committee seat (there are five candidates for six spots). That means he is still a public figure running for public office and open to public scrutiny – something Dan apparently doesn’t like. What happened next was something even former Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua has never done. You see, Dan is so thin-skinned that he cannot handle anyone criticizing his politics on social media. Shabilia was so upset that a private citizen (a Methuen voter no less) was taking him to task on-line, that he researched this private citizen’s background and then literally blackmailed him into silence by threatening to reveal the damaging information he had found.
“I have this restraining order,” Shabilia texted to this private citizen “I’m trying to decide if I should post it [on Facebook] to discredit your nonsense…. thoughts?”

Considering Shabilia is an attorney and a state worker, I certainly hope he didn’t use Lexis Nexis from his state computer at work to find this damaging information on a private citizen to help his CAMPAIGN. Either way, I find it beyond despicable that someone who wants to represent local government to threaten to destroy someone’s reputation for expressing views he doesn’t like. People need to feel free to criticize those who run for public office. They need to feel free to participate in the election process without fear of retribution by those whom they criticize. I know a lot of people were really impressed by Dan during the primary election, in fact I was one of them. But, after seeing his text for myself, and then having two other candidates for office admit that Dan was personally spreading around this damaging information about a private citizen to silence his participation in the public debate, all I can say is Dan Shabilia does not deserve to hold any public office at any level – EVER. He is also lucky that the private citizen he threatened didn’t go to the police, although, I believe there is a three-year statute of limitations to do so.

Not quite as despicable as Dan Shabilia, Kendrys Vasquez, president of the Lawrence City Council got down and dirty last month when he publicly went after his political opponent Jorge Gonzalez to ruin his reputation. Jorge was involved in a gun incident a few years back. The police investigated Gonzalez and he was cleared of all charges. But, that didn’t stop Vasquez from running to the Eagle-Tribune and other media outlets to spread the story faking outrage about how “troubled” he was by it and then intimating that this incident should preclude Gonzalez from representing the people of Lawrence on the city council. I have always liked Kendrys despite the fact that he is Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera’s water boy. I always believed that he at least, had personal integrity. Unfortunately, Kendrys does not believe that people are innocent even when proven innocent as he is so willing to employ dirty tricks to try and win an election. Shame on you Kendrys. You are supposed to be a leader in this community, but you are nothing more than a bully who cares nothing about our constitution. For this reason alone, I hope Jorge Gonzalez wipes the floor with you on election day. Lawrence doesn’t need any more dishonest politicians who can’t win an election on the merits of their own record and have to rely on slinging mud at their opponents.

Local blogger Tim Wood, (the failed publisher of the now defunct Loop Weekly) has a very bizarre view of journalism and free speech these days. [As a side note; maybe that’s why he failed.] Wood decided to schedule candidate debates and became unhinged when mayoral candidate Neil Perry chose not to participate. Who can blame him? Wood has publicly declared his support for Perry’s opponent, campaigns for her, has a political sign on his lawn for her, and has shown that he is incapable of being objective while covering local “news”.

“Good Morning, Tim and thanks for reaching out,” Perry told Wood in a text message. “I’m participating in all debates, interviews, and forums by impartial, established media outlets. For this reason, I am declining your invitations, but wish you the best in your endeavors.”

Well, you would think Perry ran over Timmy’s puppy. Wood’s response was very un-journalistic. First, he posted Perry’s text message complete with personal attacks against ME (as if I have anything to do with this) and then he actually BANNED Neil Perry candidate for mayor, from his Facebook page. Real journalistic integrity there Tim! Then, Wood went on a wild rant against yours truly accusing me of (among other things) being on the host committee for a fundraiser for a Methuen City Council candidate (which was an outright lie). A day later, failed journalist Tim Wood deleted his posts about me and posted a message saying that he deleted it because he was getting backlash from his own readers. I posted a comment on his post saying that I would prefer he left it up, because, unlike Wood I believe in FREE SPEECH, even speech I do not like. For that… Wood banned ME from posing on his Facebook page. A journalist who believes in censorship … who’d a thought?

Tim also texted me in a fury accusing me of selling drugs to underage kids showing just how totally unhinged he has become.

“You have zero personal life; everyone hates you except the 18-year olds you buy drugs for and you live in your office. Yup, that’s success. Man of the year stuff right there,” Wood texted me. While I have to admit it was pretty inventive, it’s not exactly something you might expect from a professional journalist or man with any kind of integrity.

Wood also banned private citizen Tina Conway from posting on his page because he apparently didn’t like her political opinions. He then attacked Dave Beauregard, candidate for City Council at-large with a post about Neil Perry’s campaign manager donating to Beauregard’s campaign. This was to insinuate that Beauregard was aligned with Perry. But Tim Wood conveniently forgot to inform his seven readers that Perry’s “campaign manager” was a personal friend of Dave’s and made the donation before getting the job with the Perry campaign. Now Timmy is starting a new venture called “Methuen Today” to try and rebrand himself as a real journalist, hoping that people will forget all of his election meddling and personal attacks. I wish him well in that venture but my suspicion is that Methuen Today will be just as much of a failure as Loop Weekly. And I say honestly, that Tim Woods implosion is really too bad. He really could have made a huge difference in educating citizens about their public officials. Unfortunately, Wood is far more interested in being a puppet for City Councilor Steve Saba and carrying his water on all issues in Methuen.

The Methuen West District City Council race may hinge on who wins the mayor’s race. With hero Lawrence Police Officer Mike Simard topping the ticket in the primary he is expected to do the same in the final election. With two open seats in the West End, that leaves Bill Bryant, Allison Saffie and Frank Gallo fighting for that second open seat. With Bill Bryant openly endorsing mayoral candidate Jen Kannan and Allison Saffie endorsing Neil Perry for mayor, Kannan and Perry supporters in the West could decide who gets that seat. For his part, Frank Gallo has not openly endorsed anyone in the mayor’s race.

Fired and disgraced Lawrence Police Officer Bill Green sued the police department and lost, sued his former mistress and lost, took the city to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and lost, ran for mayor of Lawrence two years ago and lost, and now has one more loss to add to his resume of failure. Last month Green ran for city council in District “C” and only got (drumroll please) 48 votes. You might remember Green as the guy who, after being fired from the police department, trolled the city looking for homeless people to harass and accost. Green even videotaped his antics at Pemberton Park last summer when he found a group of homeless people sleeping by the river, took a stick and started banging it on an empty barrel to wake them up. He then confronted and insulted them blaming them for Lawrence’s problems. A week later, Green showed up at the TMF Family Dinner for the Homeless pretending to be a homeless advocate who really cared. After being confronted by real homeless advocates Green left and never came back. I suggest Green do that in all aspects of Lawrence politics and civic engagement. Please go away and don’t come back. Lawrence doesn’t need a corrupt former cop getting involved in anything. As Sully from Godsmack once sang, “Just Go Away”.

It’s a funny thing. For the last 8 months people in Methuen, particularly political people have been running around trying to figure out who it was that wrote the language of the superior officers’ contract which is the subject of such conflict and controversy. People have speculated that it was Chief Solomon, others speculated that it was corrupt Mayor James Jajuga, while others have openly blamed former City Auditor Tom Kelley.
So, two months ago I published an interview with Greg Gallant, president of the Methuen Police Superior Officer’s Union. In that interview I asked Gallant directly, ‘who wrote the language of the superior officers’ contract”?
“You know what’s funny, Tom?” he replied. Everyone is running around speculating but you are the only person who has bothered to even ask me. Yes, I wrote the language of the contract. My members wanted that language and the city approved it. There was no trickery or sleight of hand. It is what it is.”
Still, to this day, everywhere I go in Methuen people are still asking who wrote the language in the contract. All you have to do is go to the Valley Patriot website and search for “Greg Gallant” and the answer is right there at your fingertips.

While it is perfectly within bounds for a candidate to criticize Jen Kannan for having a conflict of interest with family members working for the city, I am getting really tired of people blaming her for things that she had nothing to do with. Yes, she voted for it, but Jen Kannan had nothing to do with the language of the police superior officers’ contract. She had nothing to do with her son getting on the police force or her brother getting on the fire department. And while we are at it, let’s not lose sight of the fact that her son is a hero cop who puts his life on the line every single day, running towards the bullets while the rest of us are running away. Her brother, a hero firefighter runs into burning buildings to save people’s lives. Jen Kannan had nothing to do with her son getting on the police department. She had nothing to do with her brother getting on the fire department. Whatever you think of Kannan’s work on the council or her vote on the police SUPERIOR Officers’ contract, it had no affect on her son who is a patrolman. If you want to attack Kannan for legitimate city council issues I will never have a problem with that. But, when I hear these ridiculous rumors about her family and how they got their jobs, it makes me furious.