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Tom Duggan's Notebook

Is it a "leak" or a "lie"?

Last month North Andover Superintendent Harry Harutunian told School Committeeman Bill Kelly that if he did not approve the teachers union contract (complete with 6% in additional spending the first year) that he would quit. What an ego! As if North Andover could never survive without Harutunian at the helm of our schools.

The tip we received came from an unlikely (and exceptionally credible) source, so we posted the information on the Valley Patriot web site (www.tommyduggan.com). But, within twenty-four hours Harutunian’s lapdogs on the committee (Dan Murphy and Al Perry) were hurling accusations at everyone on the contract  negotiating team in an effort to ferret out who the “leak” was, rather than expressing outrage at the superintendent’s behavior.

Within days we received word that the superintendent threatened another member of the negotiating team. That was confirmed by our original source. Then we received a frantic call from someone close to the situation who was worried that they would be “blamed” for the leak, begging us to take the story off the web site.

Then we learned that newly elected North Andover School Committeeman Bill Kelly was the swing vote on this boondoggle teachers contract which raises the salaries of tenured teachers and lays off new teachers. Kelly wouldn’t talk to us on the record about his vote except to say he felt like he was “duped” into supporting the contract, and offered an apology.

For his part in all this, Harutunian denied (to another media source) ever threatening to quit in order to get Kelly and another board member to support the contract. But if that was true, why was Harutunian (and his “friends” on the committee) trying so hard to find the “leak”. You see, if it wasn’t true, he wouldn’t be calling it a “leak,” he would be calling it a “lie.” So I am calling on all members of the negotiating team to come clean and tell the public what really happened during those negotiating sessions, now that the vote has been made public. And the taxpayers of North Andover should be demanding the same.

Who is Olympia Lopez?

The Lawrence City Council recently reappointed Olympia Lopez to the Historical Commission with a unanimous vote. But Lee Balcom, head of the Historical Commission, seemed perplexed by the reappointment on the evening of the vote. When asked why he was surprised, Balcom responded, “I’ve been on this commission for a long time and I have never even met Olympia Lopez.”
The Lawrence City Council needs to do a better job with candidates for local boards. At the previous meeting they voted to approve State Representative Willie Lantigua’s wife to the licensing board, despite the fact that many of the liquor establishments with business before the board are major campaign contributors to her husband. Wake up, councilors!

An Unpatriotic Tennis Lilly Gets  ZERO Votes

One of the applicants for the vacated Lawrence District “C” City Council seat was local leftist Tennis Lilly (well known for protesting the U.S. Government and blaming America for the problems of the world). And for a fleeting moment it seemed like he might have a fighting chance to fill the seat, despite many concerns about his patriotism and loyalty. On the evening of the final council vote, however, those concerns were realized when Council President Patrick Blanchette asked everyone to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Everyone in attendance stood, held their hand over their heart and recited the pledge. Everyone, that is, except Tennis Lilly. And he wonders why he didn’t even get one vote among the eight councilors!

Bob DesMarais Bows

Haverhill City Councilor Bob DesMarais (a Republican) will not be seeking re-election in November.  DesMarais will most likely be succeeded by Democrat activist and former State Representative David Swartz. Swartz, a retired Assistant District Attorney and a practicing lawyer, is a member of the Board of Appeals and the Haverhill Historic Commission.

What About the Children?

Students at the Sargent School in North Andover have plenty of books for their homework assignments and classroom work. But surprisingly, students in the same grades at the Thomson School have no books to bring home because, as the story goes, there isn’t enough money. Maybe we can take the raises just handed out to the teachers union (totaling about 6% per year) and use the money to buy school books “for the children.” What do you think the teachers union lapdogs on the School Committee would say about that?

Michael R. Sweeney Regatta

The 3rd annual (unofficial) “Michael R. Sweeney Regatta” will take place at the Bashara Boat House off of Eaton Street in Lawrence on Saturday, June 11th - from 9am to 2:30pm. A former City Councilor in Lawrence, Michael Sweeney was the driving force behind the very first regatta on the Merrimack River, fulfilling a campaign promise. Not surprisingly, after Sweeney brought together members of the business community and set the groundwork, David Burke in the mayor’s office  pulled the rug out from under him and used Sweeney’s business contacts to finalize the project so that Lawrence Mayor Mike Sullivan could take the credit. Nevertheless, according to Sharon DuBois from the Lawrence Planning & Development Department, more than 400 athletes participated in last year’s event. Lawrence mayor Michael Sullivan is still taking credit for the event with no recognition given to former councilor Sweeney, so The Valley Patriot will continue to call it the Michael R. Sweeney Regatta until the mayor gives proper credit where it is due.

Call the Roll!

North Andover School Committee Chairman Dan Murphy decided to stop requiring a roll call vote when there is disagreement on the board. According to state law, School Committee policy and Robert’s Rules of Order, any vote that is not unanimous must be made by roll call so that the public knows (and the record will reflect) who voted for or against each proposal. Unfortunately, not one of the other school board members had the courage to speak up and challenge the chairman by demanding a roll call vote. Come on, Dan, get on the ball. This isn’t a country club board meeting! The public needs to know what is going on!

D’Agastino on Board!

What do you do when the Lawrence City Council hires you to work for the city and the mayor declares that the hiring was illegal because there is no money in the budget for your job? Well, if you are former Lawrence Alderman Ricky D’Agastino, you take matters into your own hands. D’Agastino was hired by the City Council as assistant city solicitor despite the fact that, according to Mayor Sullivan, they have no authority to do so and there is no money in the budget for said position. So, D’Agastino pranced into the mayor’s office on June 1st and declared that he was “here to work!” But instead of sending him home, as the mayor said he would do, mayoral aid Myles Burke walked D’Agastino over to the city’s personnel office and signed him up as a new city employee. Now that’s what I call intestinal fortitude!

Red Rover!

 Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini’s aide, Brian Ellsworthy (who is also a Democrat party activist), will be leaving the mayor’s office next month (according to sources) in order to take a job with Andover State Representative Barry Finegold. Ellsworthy was previously the campaign manager for Rick Grundy who ran for District Attorney two years ago.  

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Prior Columns By Tom Duggan