The Derry Town Council has agreed to put the issue of a retiring Councilor’s gift of an iPad to rest, after Chairman Michael Fairbanks makes one more attempt to retrieve the device. The Council discussed the issue under “old business” at its April 16 meeting, and voted 4-3 for the request to be made.
The issue surfaced when former Councilor Brian Chirichiello, who chose not to run again, asked for his town-issued iPad in place of the traditional retirement gift of a Derry Chair. Town Administrator John Anderson agreed to the request, and Chirichiello agreed to pay the difference between the computer and the chair, $50. But the action drew criticism from townspeople and other Councilors, who saw the gift as unauthorized disposal of town property.
At the April 2 meeting, Councilor Mark Osborne made a motion to ask Chirichiello to return the iPad. Councilor Neil Wetherbee halted his motion with a “charter objection,” which delays the vote. The staff then sought the opinion of the town attorney, which was reviewed at the April 16 meeting.
Osborne made a motion that the Council waive attorney-client privilege to discuss the response in public. Wetherbee objected, saying, “The Council has a long-standing policy of not revealing that.” But Osborne said it wasn’t a personnel issue, and said, “I see no reason why we can’t waive it.” The Council voted 4-3 to waive the attorney-client privilege, with Osborne, Tom Cardon, Al Dimmock and Fairbanks voting yes, and Wetherbee, Brad Benson and Phyllis Katsakiores voting no.
Osborne said the town attorney agreed that “the Council does have the authority to ask that the iPad be returned.”
But Wetherbee countered, “It also says that based on the facts, the administrator has the power to waive the regulation” to dispose of town property. Osborne said, “There is no explicit authority to ‘gift’ town property. We have the power to initiate civil action if there is no voluntary compliance with the request.” But no Councilor wanted to take their former colleague to court.
In a roll-call vote, Benson, Wetherbee and Katsakiores voted against asking for the tablet computer to be returned. Fairbanks, Cardon, Osborne and Dimmock once again voted in the affirmative. “I will ask him,” Fairbanks said. “If he says ‘no,’ we need to put the issue to bed.” Katsakiores called the entire issue “a shame.” She said, “Brian is a respected businessman in this town, and I hope this hasn’t hurt his business. It will be good to put this to bed.”
Dimmock said, “I don’t like asking him to return it – but it is town property.” Dimmock was still speaking when Wetherbee said, “I think this issue is talked out.” Dimmock countered, “Don’t tell me to shut up. I have a right to speak for my constituents. And I’m tired of you trying to run this board.” When Dimmock said he would get a legal opinion, Wetherbee said, “Are you threatening me, Al?” Fairbanks restored order to the meeting.