MANCHESTER, N.H. – Following Tuesday’s Inauguration Ceremony, members of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) and Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) travelled around 400 feet down Hanover Street to re-gather at City Hall for the selection of vice-chairs and board rules for the next two years.
Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long was unanimously voted in as the BMA’s vice-chair, and Long also provided the only amendments to the board’s proposed rules for the next two years (see below).
First, he proposed changing the starting time of the meeting from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and allowing the first half-hour of the meeting be given to public comment rather than having a special meeting just for special comment beginning that 7 p.m.
He also proposed requiring each Alderman to vote on any motion excluding conflicts of interest, with a specification of what the conflict of interest is and a prohibition of participating in discussion when a conflict of interest is voiced.
Lastly, Long proposed to amend Rule 19 (Road Hearings) to align with recently modified state statutes, per the recommendation of the city solicitor’s office as well as removing “sub-rules” from the set of rules, putting the final set of Aldermanic rules at 28.
All four amendments were approved unanimously.
In the BOSC meeting, At-Large BOSC Member James O’Connell defeated Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want to become the board’s new vice-chair.
O’Connell received votes from Julie Turner (Ward 1), Sean Parr (Ward 2), Ben Dion (Ward 9), Gary Hamer (Ward 10) Carlos Gonzalez (Ward 12) and Peter Argeropoulos (At-Large) and Want received votes from Karen Soule (Ward 3), Chris Potter (Ward 7) and Dr. Nicole Leapley (Ward 11) with both candidates voting for themselves. Ken Tassey Jr. (Ward 6) abstained from voting and Peter Perich (Ward 8) was absent.
Want then made a motion to make the vote for O’Connell unanimous, which was approved without dissent.
Modifications to the BOSC’s rules took longer than the updates to the BMA’s rules, beginning with Leapley’s concerns regarding contractual negotiations with the Manchester School District’s collective bargaining units.
Leapley sought to remove a paragraph from the board’s rules in Rule 1.08 which would give Manchester School District Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt or his designees the authority to conduct negotiations.
Leapley did not want to micromanage Goldhardt, but also believed the board needed to be kept in the loop regarding negotiations. A request from Soule to send the issue to the BOSC’s Policy Committee was not recommended by Mayor Craig and Manchester School District Solicitor Kathleen Cox Pelletier given the need for continuous clarity in authority for ongoing negotiations between the district and certain bargaining units.
The removal of the final paragraph was approved unanimously, although Leapley clarified that the three-person special committee that would conduct negotiations, although Goldhardt or other non-BOSC members could be on the special committee.
O’Connell also expressed concern over wording in the rules stating that the BOSC specifies that the board does not traditionally meet in July. Leapley replied that knowing there are no meetings in July could be helpful for new board members, but felt okay with not having that phrase in the rules. The phrasing was eventually removed without any requirement to have meetings in July. The vote was unanimous except for opposition from Want.
O’Connell also voiced concern regarding guidelines for submitting information for future agendas regarding deadlines as well, particularly in Rule 2.11. That rule requires items of business requiring board discussion or board action to be submitted no later than noon on the Tuesday before the next scheduled meeting, with all “backup information” provided by the BOSC Member and any information needing compilation by school administrators or the BOSC Clerk needing to be submitted five days before the Tuesday deadline. O’Connell felt that placing the onus on board members so far in advance of the meeting would produce a chilling effect on discussion.
The wording regarding the five days before the Tuesday deadline for the sake of compilation was removed from the rule, in what was the last amendment before the rest of the rules for the BOSC were approved.