METHUEN REPORT CARDS
With a new mayor and city council in Methuen taking the reins of power in January, The Valley Patriot has been keeping track of who is serving the people of Methuen and who is there to serve themselves. Below is our objective evaluation of each councilors for 2020. Our editors, staff and volunteers all had input on these evaluations.
DAVE BEAUREGARD – Beauregard was elected at-large (city wide) last year to his first term on the city council. He is the former intern for former Methuen Mayor Bill Manzi and has been working on campaigns in Methuen for the last 15 years. With a calm and deliberative demeanor, most who know Dave thought he would spend his first year staying out of controversy and learning the job. For the most part, they were right. Beauregard acted far more mature and professional than most of his colleagues in the last year. But, he also seemed to have no problem grandstanding and throwing a few bombs during contentious city council meetings. This led to yelling matches between councilors, and in his defense, yelling matches that he did not take part in himself.
We will write those incidents off as rookie mistakes, as he has also been the one at the table who, from time to time, tried to de-escalate arguments among his colleagues. Beauregard has also been proactive in bringing new issues to the table rather than waiting for someone else to do the work.
As for transparency, like most of his colleagues, Dave talks a good game but he and his colleagues have done an awful lot of behind the scenes plotting on who is to make motions before meetings, garnering votes for his proposals, and coordinating with other councilors on who is going to say what when controversial issues come up at public meetings.
In January, he promised to vote for Eunice Zeigler for council chairman. But after behind the scenes politicking, Beauregard broke his word and voted for Jim McCarty. There was nothing transparent about that, and coincidentally he was rewarded by being elected city council vice-chairman.
On the city budget, Beauregard exceeded expectations. Being new, nobody expected him to shine at budget time, but he did. It was clear during budget hearings that Dave is very concerned with how Methuen tax dollars are spent. He obviously read the budget, understood it, and asked detailed questions. He made numerous suggested cuts, and eventually approved Mayor Perry’s budget after helping to trim it down.
His real weakness is policy. As a new councilor there is an obvious learning curve in understanding all the policies and procedures. This is why he should not have been chosen vice-chair of the council. As vice-chair he has never once fulfilled his obligation to take the gavel when the chairman is giving an opinion on an issue. He seems – at times – more interested in pleasing his colleagues than standing alone and defending the council’s policies and procedures when his colleagues break them.
We understand that Beauregard often confuses the difference between editorial opinions and objective news coverage, and as such, has publicly attacked this newspaper because he doesn’t like our views. Nevertheless, Beauregard has represented the city voters well.
JAMES McCARTY – McCarty represents the Central District of Methuen. He is in his second term as a city councilor and was elected council chairman in January. Those who know McCarty and witnessed his shenanigans in the last two years were not disappointed as he abused his position again this year, except now as head of the city council. For the first few months of 2020, McCarty ran the meetings professionally and was mostly respectful at the council table. After that he fell apart.
Despite the Methuen Charter stating that the mayor and members of the public are allowed to put items on the city council agenda, McCarty censored both the mayor and the public, refusing to let them put items on the agenda, refusing to let the mayor speak at meetings – even when he was being attacked – and falsely claimed that a city councilor must sponsor an agenda item submitted by the public. He frequently makes behind the scenes deals all the while, ironically using the word “transparency” at every meeting.
McCarty refuses to pass the gavel when he gives his opinion on issues in violation of council policy. At one meeting he violated the federal HIPAA law which makes it illegal to reveal an employee’s medical information. None of his colleagues called him out on that, so we did. He has also engaged in yelling fits at the council table, one of which was so outrageous that his colleagues told him after the meeting that they would not support him again for council chairman in January. McCarty pre-emptively announced the following week he will not run for council chairman again in January.
Despite his bad behavior and personal agendas, McCarty is no dummy. He worked diligently on the city budget trying to trim it down to bare bones, despite the fact that he is a tax and spend left-winger in his personal politics.
He knows the policies well and is quick to attack others for not following the rules, though he is not really good at following them himself. He is proactive (which is always good in any elected official) taking on several issues that are important to voters such as; a chicken policy for the city, a marijuana policy for the city, and has twice tried to change the city charter to make it more effective, at least in his opinion.
If not for being proactive and doing a responsible job with the city budget, McCarty would have gotten an F for his overall grade.
NICK DIZOGLIO – Having served on the school committee during the Judy Scannell fiasco, DiZoglio seemed right at home on the 2020 city council. In his first year as a councilor, (elected city wide), DiZoglio has shown that he is neither a yes-man for anyone, nor is he a no-man against anyone.
When Mayor Perry puts something before the council and DiZoglio agrees with it, he votes yes, if not, he votes no. He hasn’t been seen voting against something just because of who proposed it as some of his colleagues do. He is well versed in city policy and council procedure and spent a lot of time on the city budget trying to not only cut unnecessary spending, but also making sure those cuts would not result in an interruption of services. His extensive knowledge of budgets makes him an asset to the council as he never tried to use the budget as a tool to go after specific city employees the way others have done.
Nick has been involved in a few dust ups on the council but it’s usually when he is defending himself against personal attacks by other councilors. He does get emotional and tends to take things personal, sometimes when it’s not personal at all, which is a weakness that gets in the way of building alliances.
MIKE SIMARD – Simard represents the West End of Methuen and is serving his first term on the city council. He came into office with a lot of goodwill as he is widely known as a hero police officer in Lawrence. Simard is the recipient of the Officer Tom Duggan, Sr., Hero Police Officer award in 2017, and has been highly praised over the years for his bravery as a law enforcement officer.
While Simard is obviously great at being a cop and is known as a “nice guy”, his first year on the committee has been marred with conflict. Simard has attacked city employees from the council table – by name – attacked this media outlet despite the positive press he has always received, and had to apologize at least twice for insulting city employees during council meetings.
Simard was open about the fact that he is friends with several cops in Methuen who have been disciplined by Chief Solomon, and he was looking to get even when he got on the council. He stated that his number one priority was to go after the police department. He has certainly kept that promise. This has delighted some Methuen residents who have soured on the chief over the years and object to how much money the chief makes.
Simard’s obsession with taking down the police chief has made him a hero to those who believe Solomon is a bad chief but, to date, Simard has not been able to provide any actual evidence that Solomon is corrupt. When asked by this newspaper to provide proof that the chief is corrupt, he refused, saying he doesn’t trust us. Just imagine? But, his sudden lack of trust in The Valley Patriot (who endorsed him last year) doesn’t explain why he never provided evidence of “corruption” to the Globe, Herald, or Eagle Tribune. Why didn’t he post it on Facebook if he had the goods? Instead, he continues to make charges with no evidence.
Simard also went after the police department for having 29 take home cars, and the use of intermittent (temporary) police officers, a practice that has long been outdated.
As the result of Simard’s efforts, Mayor Perry filed legislation to do away with intermittent officers and also took away more than half the number of take home cars used by Methuen Police. We take no issue with Simard’s efforts on these two issues. His actions are saving taxpayer dollars and making the department more efficient. Good for him!
We do, however, take issue with the way he has personally attacked individual city workers.
At one point Simard attacked two police superiors because “no cop should be making that kind of money and I’m a police officer so I know” he said at one meeting, following up by complaining that “they don’t even live in Methuen.”
This seems hypocritical since Simard himself is a Lawrence cop who does not live in Lawrence, and made $197,000 last year. Over the past four years Simard was paid more than $670,000 as a Lawrence cop who does not live in Lawrence.
We have never begrudged Simard or any cop making a ton of money, most of that comes from overtime, court time, and private details. We just find it odd that he is attacking others for exactly what he is doing himself.
On the budget, Simard is very knowledgeable and did all he could to try and trim the mayor’s spending plan. He asked pointed questions during budget discussions, worked with his fellow councilors to make city spending more efficient, and when the budget hearings were over, voted to approve Mayor Perry’s budget.
On policy, Simard is also very knowledgeable, but sometimes seems to forget that the role as a city councilor is not to be the chief administrator of city departments, but to approve budgets and policy (city ordinances).
Nonetheless, his work on making city spending more efficient in all departments has been stellar. His knowledge of municipal laws and grants is also stellar and make him an asset to the council. We believe that if Simard simply stopped attacking people at public meetings everyone would be better off. He can still accomplish what he wants to do with the chief, the police department, and other departments without the hate and vitriol.
EUNICE ZEIGLER – Eunice is in her second term on the city council and represents the East End of Methuen. It’s hard to find a more responsible and respectable elected official in the Valley. Unlike some of her colleagues, Ziegler does not get involved in the politics of personal destruction and sees her job on the council as a way to help bring people together.
She is proactive, willing to work with anyone to get something done, and doesn’t grandstand on issues she knows nothing about. During one meeting when her colleagues were yelling and pounding their fists in fake outrage over an issue they didn’t know anything about, Zeigler refrained from jumping on the bandwagon and instead reached out to the person being maligned to actually find out what happened. That is what responsible elected officials do; do your homework, get the information first, and THEN make public statements if you think they need to be made. If only more councilors were like that. She also has no interest in playing politics at the council table.
As one example, she had commitments from the majority of her fellow councilors to be council chairman back in January. When those who gave their word, broke it and voted for someone else, she didn’t look to get even. She didn’t take her anger or disappointment out on those who lied to her. She simply moved on like a grown up, and put the issue behind her.
On the city budget she worked diligently to make sure cuts being made did not interrupt or diminish services to Methuen residents and always seems to try and find a way to negotiate for better services to the city while some of her colleagues are acting foolish.
On policy, Zeigler has great knowledge as she works for the City of Lowell and has a breadth of experience with grants and municipal budgets. She is co-founder of the Methuen Day Celebration, to do something positive for the community.
We don’t always agree with councilor Zeigler’s votes or positions on the issues, but we know full well that she is not taking votes based on politics. She is not looking to punish people, or trying to make anyone’s life difficult.
JOEL FARETRA – Joel is in his first year on the council, representing the Central District of Methuen. He is heavily involved in local sports and has used his position on the council to make sure the fields are well maintained, that youth sports and recreation are well funded, and even spearheaded an effort to name a field for Danny Ford, who passed away several years ago. He was slow to pick up on the budget process, but once he felt comfortable with language and procedures of the city budget he acted responsibly and kept the taxpayer’s wallets in mind.
While Faretra has called out some of his colleagues at the table for their foolishness, he isn’t disrespectful about it because he is not trying to embarrass anyone, he just wants the personal attacks and foolish grandstanding to stop so the council can move on to discussing city business.
On policy, Joel may be a rookie councilor, but more than once he had to tell a veteran councilor “this isn’t our role, this isn’t our job” and he was right. It seems Faretra knows more about the council’s policies – or more accurately he is more interested in following those policies – than some of the veteran councilors who should know better.
He is often quiet at the meetings, choosing to speak only when an issue has not been addressed or try and move things along.
He still seems like he is learning on the job, but it has not affected his performance.
JESSICA FINOCHIARO – Jessica is in her second term as an at-large (elected city wide) city councilor. She is brilliant, and reads every single piece of paper that comes across her desk. Nobody can ever say that Jessica is not up on the issues. She is meticulous, sometimes too meticulous, to the point of not being able to see the forest for the trees. When it comes to budget and policy she can probably recite them all by memory. She often votes alone on issues which is admirable in an environment where pleasing ones colleagues seems more important than pleasing the public.
Finocchiaro seems to have flipped the dynamic she was dealing with in her previous term on the council. In her first two years, Jessica had a mayor and council that did not want to work with her, mocked her publicly, shut her down when she tried to speak, and often dismissed her because she was not part of the “insider” club.
This year she has the opposite dynamic; a mayor who endorsed her and a majority of fellow councilors who were willing to work with her and take her seriously. Yet, instead of embracing this, she has refused to meet with, or speak with the mayor outside of city council meetings, routinely accusing him of lying, misleading, and “sweeping things under the rug”.
She is convinced that if there is information not given to her live, in real time, that a conspiracy is afoot and attacks other people’s motives. She gives nobody the benefit of the doubt on anything. If something looks shady to her, she is convinced it is part of the conspiracy. For sure she is not a team player and that makes it hard for any mayor or city councilor to work with.
Finocchiaro introduced one of the most destructive measures we have seen in years when she proposed making the mayor get council approval for every single expenditure in the city. Imagine the mayor waiting weeks for the council to decide which office supply company should be providing paperclips to the city, or fire extinguishers, or auto parts? Thankfully, her colleagues rejected that proposal, but the fact that she made it shows a fundamental disrespect for the city charter and the efficiency of running a city government.
To her credit, Finocchiaro is probably the most fiscally conservative person on the city council despite the fact that she is a left wing liberal in her politics. She is very responsible with the taxpayer’s money, is accessible to the voters.
ALLISON SAFFIE – Allison is in her first term on the city council representing the West End district of Methuen. She is quiet, really quiet at city council meetings. When she makes a point she is short, sweet, and directly to the point. Though she may vote the same way as her more destructive colleagues on issues, she doesn’t get involved in the name calling, attacking people from the table, or making accusations she cannot back up.
She seemed somewhat confused at the beginning of the budget process but came into her own as the process moved forward. When we talk to her colleagues they brag about how brilliant she is and how she prefers to get her work done behind the scenes rather than airing differences or debating in public.
When it comes to policy, Saffie has shown no interest in bending policies to suit an agenda or changing policies to get a specific result on one issue. Saffie is clearly one of the adults in the room. She is spearheading a committee on trash removal and beautification of the city, but you would never know it because she doesn’t brag or grandstand about her efforts. She just does the work and moves on. She also doesn’t call the media with explosive comments that make the city look bad. Make no mistake, however, Saffie is no pushover and makes her thoughts known if she thinks something is not on the up and up.
STEVE SABA – Steve is in his second term as a city councilor representing the East End of Methuen. He is no dummy and from the second he got on the council three years ago he engaged in personal attacks, hateful comments, and is an absolute master at grandstanding and patting himself on the back. While Saba’s bad behavior has been much better of late, his conflicts of interest and clever sleight of hand has cost the city. Earlier this year the city had to settle a lawsuit paying out $48,000 after Saba slandered someone from the city council table.
He also got involved in a proposed halfway house on Quincy Street. At that meeting his brother spoke at public participation saying he was a neighbor and his property taxes would be affected by the proposal. Instead of recusing himself from the discussion he spoke up and advocated for his brother’s position in a clear conflict of interest.
He also recuses himself (rightfully) from time to time when DPW issues come up but never says why (with one exception). Saba doesn’t want to call people’s attention to the fact that he got his son a job in DPW so when he recuses himself he conveniently leaves out it’s because his kid works for the city.
Ironically, Saba is the one who chastises others with family members working for the city and often grandstands against “corruption” and all the back room deals that take place.
It’s clear that Saba desperately wants to be mayor and every single thing he does on the council is to advance that agenda. Sometimes that makes him fiscally conservative which benefits the taxpayer, other times it costs the city money because of his slander and hateful nature.
He is brash, bold, and has a firm grasp of city policies and procedures. This year he did yeoman’s work on the city budget, cutting responsibly in most areas, and also looked to make sure that none of the cuts would affect services. He has also been the main opponent of Methuen Chief Joe Solomon. Like Simard, he has been a pit bull on the issue of the police superiors’ contract, and tried to use the budget process to punish the department, which ultimately punishes the people of Methuen.
He also knows the policies inside and out, so when he breaks them he has no excuse, yet he is the first one to complain when other councilors are not following them. He is disrespectful to other councilors and members of the public who do not agree with him, yet stepped up to the plate when Mayor Perry needed an emergency vote in executive session after city computers were hacked.