By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — The town traditionally gives a rocking chair to departing town councilors. A deviation from tradition in the gift given to Brian Chirichiello is not sitting well with some residents.
After nine years on the council, Chirichiello stepped down this year and received his town-issued iPad as his farewell gift.
Now, former councilor Janet Fairbanks is calling for Chirichiello to return the iPad, saying it’s town property and not something that should be awarded as a farewell gift.
Previously, councilors stepping down received a chair valued at $356 as a goodbye gift.
“This is another example of blatant disregard and disrespect for the citizens of Derry by our local town government,” Fairbanks said.
She called for Chirichiello to return the iPad.
The Town Council approved the purchase of 10 iPads last year for councilors to use. The move was designed to cut down on the stacks of paper that traditionally make up meeting agendas and information booklets prior to meetings and to save time for administrative staff.
When Chirichiello decided not to seek re-election, Town Administrator John Anderson said the former councilor asked if he could keep his iPad in lieu of receiving a chair. Chirichiello agreed to pay the difference in price between the chair and the iPad.
“Brian brought the ($51.99 difference) check in and we gave him the iPad,” Anderson said. “I don’t think I did anything wrong.”
Chirichiello said it was a fair exchange.
“Just like every other councilor before me, all retired councilors received a gift of a rocking chair,” he said. “I have two at home so I thought I would ask that the money that would be used for my chair be used for the iPad.”
Chirichiello said he paid the difference and the town cashed his check.
When Fairbanks and Kevin Coyle stepped down from the Town Council, they, too, were offered chairs. Fairbanks wanted to use her money for charity and Coyle asked that a bench be placed on the Derry bike trail in his honor for the entire town to use.
Chirichiello said both Fairbanks and Coyle got gifts equal in value to his.
The controversy has some councilors thinking they should take a look at how gifts are given in the future when officials step down.
New Town Councilors Tom Cardon and Mark Osborne both said they received many phone calls on the iPad issue. Osborne said he didn’t think Anderson had the authority to give the iPad to Chirichiello without Town Council approval.
“I have no doubt the gift was done with good intentions,” Osborne said. “But why give the town administrator the power to give away town property without a vote? I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the town to ask that the iPad be returned immediately.”
Town Councilor Al Dimmock called the iPad gift a “misuse of town property.”
Town Councilor Neil Wetherbee said he didn’t agree with Anderson’s decision to allow Chirichiello to keep the iPad , but he said the group should move forward to look at how gifts are handled in the future.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “This is not a decision I agreed with, but I don’t have the authority to tell John Anderson what to do.”
Coyle said Chirichiello’s request to keep his iPad was “inappropriate” and he should return it to the town.
“And I asked for a bench for the bike path and that bench is owned by the town,” Coyle said. “That doesn’t compare to the iPad that was given away as town property.”
Resident Kelly Martin said everyone should move forward with more pressing concerns.
“Talking about it this way is absurd,” she said. “There are so many problems in this town, that should be the least of it. Just move forward.”
Chirichiello said taking the iPad as his gift might be a cost savings measure.
“I believe this actually saved the town money because they already purchased the iPads and at least two were not being used,” he said. “A chair would have cost money in this budget. I also want to point out that both Coyle and Fairbanks started the tradition of not taking a chair. They both got gifts of the exact same value I did. I got nothing more or nothing less.”