Every two years, Methuen voters elect a mayor to represent the city’s municipal government as it’s CEO. The mayor is in charge of all hiring, firing, promotions and demotions for the City of Methuen.
The mayor is also in charge of signing all private contracts and enforcing the city ordinances set forth by the city council. While the mayor proposes a spending budget for the city each year, the city council must approve that budget.
The mayor is then in charge of spending the money allocated by the council within that budget, but has line item control within each city department’s budget. For example, the council can cut the amount of money in the police budget (as they did this year) but it’s up to the mayor to decide what will be cut within the police budget. The mayor is also in charge of appointing members of local boards (with council approval). He or she also serves as chairman of the school committee and gets to vote as an equal with the other six elected school committee members.
This year Mayor James Jajuga is not seeking reelection after only one term.
In the primary, newcomer Neil Perry topped the ticket among the four candidates in the September primary. Perry is a top executive at Raytheon in Andover and has campaigned mainly on a management philosophy of “facts and data” saying that the next mayor must remove the emotion, forget who in city hall is connected to whom, and let the facts and data determine what is best for the city.
He has heavily criticized Jen Kannan for voting for the 2017 superior officers’ contract that has been the subject of conflict and controversy over the last two years.
Perry says that the 2017 council violated the law at least twice during the vote on that contract. First, Perry says that the state law and the Methuen Charter call for a financial impact statement to be presented to the council and the public before a vote is to be taken on any contracts. “You didn’t do that,” Perry said to Kannan during the Paying Attention Podcast debate.
The second thing Perry says the 2017 council did wrong was that they took two votes in one night when the law calls for two separate votes at two different meetings. “This is not what I think they did wrong,” Perry said. “This is what the independent Inspector General’s Report said.”
Perry says if he wins, the city will still face the crisis with the police contract, disagreeing with Kannan and the current council’s borrowing only $4M to fill the deficit in the school department. He said that if the police superior officers’ union wins in arbitration this month there is no money in the budget to cover that expense. “The city council should have made provisions for this,” Perry said, adding that councilor Jessica Finocchiaro had proposed borrowing a little more than the $4M the city needed to cover the school deficit in case something like this were to happen.
“The council voted down that proposal and now we are faced with an additional crisis.”
He added that it is going to take leadership to make the hard decisions to fix these problems.
Perry has also criticized Kannan for having too many conflicts of interest. “I have no conflicts of interest, so my hands won’t be tied. On day one I will be ready to take actions to start the process of putting Methuen back on good financial footing.
Perry talks of a new vision for Methuen where city workers are held accountable and there are no more “sweetheart deals” for political insiders.
Perry touts his biggest strength as having decades of experience negotiating multi-million dollar contracts with the state and federal government working at Raytheon. He says that if the city had someone experienced with contracts, the police superior officers’ contract controversy never would have happened.
He also says that he wants to attract new businesses or business offices to the city to relieve some of the tax burden on homeowners.
Perry also took a strong stand on the school department overspending of $4M and the Judy Scannell situation saying that the school committee should have fired Scannell and that if someone in the private sector had done what she has done they would not only be fired but most likely a whole lot of other people would be as well. “No investigation was done as to how this happened,” he told The Valley Patriot.
“No investigation was done to find out who else knew about it. That was a mistake. People want accountability and they want to know their government is fair.”
Perry hinted that if he is elected and sits as chairman of the school committee he would push for an investigation saying it’s not too late and won’t be too late in January to get to the bottom of what really happened.
Jen Kannan was elected to the city council (city wide) four years ago after serving two previous terms on the council (city wide) and running for mayor against Steve Zanni in 2013.
Jennifer is married to Bill Kannan, owner of Kannan & Pricone Plumbing and Heating, a Methuen based business. They have three children: Billy and his wife, Meghan, Brittney and Farrah, and they also have a granddaughter, Tessa Rose Therrien, all of Methuen.
Kannan attended Methuen Public Schools, AREA Real Estate Academy and recently received her bachelor’s degree from UMASS Lowell’s Bachelor of Arts in Political Science program. She also took a concentration in legal studies.
Kannan has been employed for 17 years at Methuen based real estate company where she has received numerous awards for her perseverance in business.
She served as councilor at-large for three, two year terms, was chairman of the city council in 2012, elected by unanimous vote, was Vice-Chair of the City Council in 2009, was Chairman of the City Council Consolidation Committee in 2010 and 2011, a member of the Finance Committee (2010 -2011) was secretary of the Forest Lake Association (2009-2012) was an Ashford School PTO- Volunteer, (1991-1993), CGS PTO- Volunteer, (1994-2009) and Methuen Girls Softball- Volunteer coach, (1999-2000).
As chairman of the city council for the last two years, Kannan has taken on a herculean effort to make the city budget transparent by going line by line through every single expenditure in the budget during public meetings so that the taxpayers of Methuen would know about every decision that was made.
Kannan has come under fire for her vote on the police superior officer’s contract but has defended her vote, saying that the city council was lied to.
We were told this contract gave the superior officers a 0% raise in the first year and a 2% raise the next two years. That is what we were told. Had we known that the contract had ‘stacking language’ in it and that captains were going to be making $435K I don’t think anyone would have voted for it.
Kannan says that she did nothing wrong and voted with the majority of the city council to cut $1.8M out of the police budget but when it became clear that 30 patrolmen would be laid off she joined her fellow councilors in putting the money back.
Kannan says she is the candidate for change and will bring independence to the mayor’s office. She added that she has been an independent leader on the city council and wants to bring that independent leadership to the mayor’s office. Kannan says she wants to bring fiscal stability back to the city.
The CAFO is the Chief Administrative Financial Officer from the state sent to oversee Methuen’s finances after the city borrowed $4M to cover the overspending of the school department.
Kannan listed as one of her priorities to work with the CAFO to change the way Methuen does business.
Kannan has criticized her opponent Neil Perry for not having voted in city elections over the last 18 years. Perry admits that while he voted in elections for governor and president he did not vote in local elections until recently.
She has also criticized Perry for hiring North Andover Selectman Phil DeCologero as a campaign consultant since DeCologero worked in Mayor Zanni’s office as his chief of staff.
Kannan told The Valley Patriot that if elected she will be focused on the 40R project downtown. It’s a zoning change that would allow [mixed zoning] in the downtown and allow storefronts to have housing units which, she says, will bring needed foot traffic to downtown.
One of Kannan’s priorities is to fix or replace the DPW facility that has a roof leaking and is in serious disrepair.
The Valley Patriot and the Paying Attention! Podcast are sponsoring a debate between the two mayoral candidates on Thursday, October 31st at 5PM at the Studio 21 Podcast Cafe.
You can view it live on The Valley Patriot Facebook page, YouTube, or you can listen to the audio on Podbean, Spotify, Spreaker, iTunes and iHeart Radio. ◊