TOM DUGGAN’S NOTEBOOK: Lawrence Police Chief, Schools, Haverhill City Council

Jan,  20204

Lawrence Mayor Brian DePena is expected to send down William Castro’s name to the city council for approval to be the permanent Lawrence Police Chief. Castro is currently the Acting Police Chief after former Chief Roy Vasque was pushed out over politics. Castro was appointed as DePena’s Chief of Staff after several failed in that position and was instrumental in pushing out Vasque.

Since becoming acting police chief, Castro has mended some fences, worked well with neighborhood groups, has tried to hold rogue officers accountable, and is trying really hard to bring an out-of-control department back to some sanity. But he is fighting internal corruption, political interference, and social media smear campaigns.

I’m rooting for Castro. I think he understands what has to be done and if he was made permanent chief the superior officers who have been dragging their feet on needed reforms would have no choice but to start doing their jobs or find another line of work. I say, the new council should give Castro a contract with specific, achievable goals that are measurable and concrete.

Given clear direction, I think Castro can build bridges over the next two years given the chance. The question is, will the new council treat him fairly and on his performance? Or will they simply reject him to spite Mayor DePena? I’m holding out hope that the Lawrence City Council will behave better than the Methuen City Council did on this police chief issue. The one thing Lawrence doesn’t need is to start behaving as badly as Methuen.

We know Brian from the Claddagh has been feverishly trying to find a new location for the Claddagh after losing his lease in Lawrence. I was very disappointed to learn that Lawrence city officials did little to nothing to help the Claddagh stay in the city after three decades. When we got word that a car wash failed to get approval at the Fireside Restaurant in Methuen, we thought this might be a perfect spot for the new Claddagh. We are cheering on Brian and hoping that he can find a new location in the Lawrence area, preferably in Lawrence. We will let you know when there is an update. In the meantime, I urge Lawrence Mayor Brian DePena to come up with a plan to keep the Claddagh in the city. I hear officials in Methuen are trying really hard to lure him there.

With all the focus on the homeless in Lawrence these days you might think that there are no homeless people in Methuen. There are. And while I am disappointed that Lawrence officials dropped the ball during this last storm, at least Lawrence has a plan to help the homeless, has a homeless coordinator, and dedicates resources to help those with no place to go. Methuen on the other hand, has no plan to help the homeless in severe weather, leaving homeless volunteers of TMF in Lawrence to trek up to Methuen and provide food, blankets, hand warmers and essential items to get them through the bad weather.

Maybe the new city council can start to formulate an emergency plan and allocate resources to the homeless in Methuen so they don’t all end up in Lawrence burdening the officials in that city. Lawrence is already overwhelmed because other communities don’t take care of their own citizens; it’s time the communities around Lawrence start taking care of their own.

With corrupt troublemakers Steve Saba and Jim McCarty no longer on the Methuen City Council (they were termed out) the newly seated council looks like they might actually be able to get something done for the taxpayers over the next two years. Sure, they still have to deal with Mayor Perry and his “friends and family” hiring practices in city hall and they will also have to navigate all the multi-million-dollar lawsuits the city faces as the result of the previous councils bad behavior. But, with new councilors Nelly Soto, Jana Zanni Pesce, Joyce Campagnone, Patricia Valley, and Ron Marsan joining the board I expect a lot more accountability in Methuen over the next two years. Returning to the council are Allie Saffie, Dave Beauregard, Nick DiZoglio, and Joel Faretra. The council voted to name Faretra as council chairman and newcomer Nelly Soto as vice-chair.

Last summer the DePena Administration announced on my podcast that finally, there was a comprehensive plan to have the state department of education turn control of the Lawrence Schools back over to the city. The mayor said at the time that they could not find any other example of a school system that had been taken over by a state, and had control returned back to the municipality. “We are breaking new ground in education,” the mayor said at the time. His aid Octavian Spanner detailed the plan to work on a transition plan with the state, and then stressed the importance of public input. Spanner said that he expected the process to begin in 2024. And since it’s 2024, you can expect the new consultant hired by DePena to start holding public hearings on regaining control of the schools.

It was really a shame that the Lawrence City Council spit inthe face of “diversity” and “equality” when they chose not to reelect the only minority (white) elected official in the city to a leadership role on the new council. Marc LaPlant was an exceptional city council president and the council owed it to him to return him to the role. That was disappointing. Instead, he was replaced by Jeovanny Rodriguez who somehow thought this was a watershed moment for the city. (It’s not.) As Marc is the only minority on the Lawrence City Council, I find it offensive that LaPlant has no leadership position and the Latinos were not willing to vote for a white man. I mean, don’t they believe in “Diversity” and giving minorities an “equitable” position?

It was more than 8 months ago when the Valley Patriot filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office against the Haverhill City Council for using a government body to campaign for one of their own and holding an illegal public meeting to do it.

After filing our complaint, the city attorney and each councilor took turns at a subsequent council meeting admitting they broke the law but pretending they had NO IDEA there was an open meeting law prohibiting their behind-the-scenes maneuvering. We are still waiting to hear from the AG as to what punishment the council is going to get for their admitted law breaking. In the meantime, it would be nice to see the council take a class in the open meeting law, the public records law, and the conflict-of-interest law.

In fact, I would like to offer my services for a mere fee of $1,200 each to school the council on all the laws they should already know about. And since I actually wrote the state’s public records law and have won numerous lawsuits based on the open meeting and conflict of interest laws, I might just be the perfect person to help keep them all out of trouble in the future.


Everyone has their own ideas about the best roast beef in the Merrimack Valley. For years Harrison’s in North Andover was disputedly but widely thought of as the best beef in the valley, but over the years lost their lustre. Sure, there are roast beef places that are GOOD, like Big N Beefy on Broadway in Lawrence (great tacos too), or the newly opened Kelly’s in Salem, NH.

But, last year Royal House of Roast Beef in Methuen decided to branch out and open a new shop in Dracut. Known for amazing dinner plates (the fish and chips are exceptional) and pretty amazing roast beef sandwiches, Royal House has really stepped up their game. Next month I will be doing another restaurant review podcast, if you would like to recommend a restaurant or local eatery for us to review you can email ◊