Aldermen divided over mayor’s nominee for fleet manager

Kathleen Arnold unanimously approved as Ward 2 school board member.

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Mayor Joyce Craig.

MANCHESTER, NH — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen confirmed a new school board member and a new director for its fleet services during Tuesday’s meeting.

Kathleen Arnold was unanimously approved to take over as Ward 2 school board representative, replacing David Scannell who resigned earlier this year after moving out of the ward.

However, the mayor’s nominee for Central Fleet Manager, Jonathan Hopkins, was a harder sell.

Hopkins, a retired Manchester police captain, was confirmed to manage the city’s fleet of vehicles after some discussion over whether it was appropriate for him to be nominated by Mayor Joyce Craig.

Alderman Joe Levasseur

Objections from Aldermen Keith Hirschmann and Joe Levasseur were focused on Hopkins’ relationship to Attorney Arthur Gatzoulis — they are brothers-in-law — and Gatzoulis, who is a law partner with the mayor’s husband, Michael Craig, also serves as fiscal agent Craig’s mayoral campaign.

Hirschmann said it was bad optics for the city.  He said he was prepared to vote for Hopkins until he learned there was a connection to the mayor’s husband, and he chided the mayor for not disclosing that information two weeks ago when the nomination was announced.

Levasseur piled on, and also questioned Hopkins’ qualifications for the job. He said he favored promoting from within the department.

Aldermen Bill Shea and Barbara Shaw agreed that promoting from within was preferable, and Shea also said he felt Hopkins was not qualified because he lacked experience as a mechanic.

Alderman John Cataldo said he did not like the “double dipping” by retired city employees who take one pension and then take another city job, making them eligible for a second pension. Cataldo was told that Hopkins’ police pension is from the state, and would have no bearing on a city pension because he was coming in with no seniority.

That prompted a question by Hirschmann around Hopkins’ pay rate, which he said should be in the $78,000 range if he’s coming in at the bottom, rather than $90,000. Craig said his salary was worked out with Human Resources with other considerations, including overall savings to the department with the staff changes.

Craig also reiterated that what qualified Hopkins above other applicants was his “proven leadership” managing employees — which is needed in that department due to chronic grievances and morale issues — and his impeccable 31 years of service to the city.  He was selected from an initial pool of 15 applicants.

The motion to confirm Hopkins passed by a roll-call vote of 8 to 5, followed by a unanimous voice vote requested by Craig. Voting in favor of Hopkins: Aldermen Dan O’Neil, Barbara Shaw, Bill Barry, Norm Gamache, Kevin Cavanaugh, Will Stewart, Chris Herbert and Tony Sapienza. Voting against Hopkins were Aldermen Joe Levasseur, Bill Shea, John Cataldo, Keith Hirschmann, and Tim Baines. Alderman Elizabeth Moreau was not present.