, Derry, New Hampshire

April 11, 2013

Derry councilors still spar over gifting issue

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — The gift of an iPad to a retiring town councilor continued to fuel some fiery exchanges among officials at last week’s Town Council meeting.

Councilors are still talking about the town-owned iPad given to former town councilor Brian Chirichiello when he stepped down after nine years on the board.

At a meeting April 2, talk grew a little testy at times among councilors.

The Town Council approved the purchase of 10 iPads last summer to help cut down on the stacks of paper that traditionally make up councilors’ meeting agendas and information booklets.

The iPads were available to each councilor, as well as to Town Administrator John Anderson, Assistant Town Administrator Larry Budreau and Sheila Bodenrader, Anderson’s executive assistant.

Not all councilors opted to use the device. But Chirichiello used his. In fact, he liked it so much he asked the town to give it to him rather than the traditional chair.

But several residents complained about the gift. Councilors typically receive a rocking chair, valued at $356, when they leave the board. Chirichiello paid the difference — about $50— between a chair and the iPad.

New councilor Mark Osborne made a motion at a previous meeting, asking Chirichiello to return the iPad. But last week, some said it was time to move on.

Councilor Brad Benson said the group should be talking about more important things.

“This is the third time we’ve talked about this and I am absolutely horrified that we spent this much time on (this issue) when we have a $3.40 tax issue on the school side,” Benson said. “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in three years.”

Benson said Osborne’s motion was “politically” driven, sparking some heated words among the veteran officials and the newer members.

Osborne said he only made the motion because so many people are stopping him around town to voice concerns about Chirichiello’s gift.

“The iPad issue is bothering them,” he said.

Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said hardly anyone has complained to her and she has lived in town a very long time.

“I’m all over town,” she said. “Not one person came up to me to say they had a problem with the iPad. I had one phone call and that was it.”

Councilor Neil Wetherbee blocked Osborne’s motion with a charter objection because he didn’t know if the town had the authority to ask for the iPad’s return.

Asking for a legal opinion would end up costing more than the iPad, officials said.

Osborne did not drop his motion and Wetherbee’s charter objection remained on the table.

The council eventually voted to do away with gifts to departing councilors. But Benson, Wetherbee and Katsakiores all abstained from the vote.

Councilors Al Dimmock, Michael Fairbanks, Tom Cardon and Osborne all voted in favor of the motion to stop giving departing councilors gifts.