Haverhill city councilors expressed frustration Thursday night when all but one representative of Haverhill Community Television failed to show at a planned fact-finding meeting.
Stanley W. Colten, who was nearly ousted in a failed board coup last fall, delivered copies of bylaws to the council’s Administration and Finance Committee. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle said a review of the bylaws is not enough.
“We asked for several things. That’s why I feel cheated,” he said. Councilors said they will try again April 22.
At the request of Councilor Melinda Barrett, councilors are pushing for the restoration of board positions for the city, school department, library and Northern Essex Community College. School Committeeman Paul A. Magliocchetti is seeking a seat as the schools’ representative.
“Most of these cable companies actually have everything online. They have bylaws, they have minutes—it’s all on their website. I don’t understand the shroud of secrecy here,” Magliocchetti said.
Committee Chairman Colin F. LePage said he learned Friday HCTV, operators of Comcast channels 22 and 99, would not attend the meeting. He said, however, he plans to attend the group’s own board meeting next week.
A number of residents attended in support of Mary O’Neill who was inexplicably laid off last August from her post as director of special media production and public relations at the TV station. Councilor Mary Ellen Daly-O’Brien said it was the firing of O’Neil and attempted ouster of Colten that first caused concern.
“When questions started being asked, all of a sudden, they had these vacancies and nobody did anything to fill them. Well, did you tell anybody? I didn’t know,” she said.
Resident Robert Roche asked councilors, “Don’t you all feel a little disrespected nobody showed up?”
City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. explained HCTV’s funding. Until 2009, he said, the group received the full five percent of Comcast’s gross Haverhill revenues. With a new Comcast contract with the city, Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini allocated four percent to HCTV and one percent to the city. In addition, added Magliocchetti, HCTV was required to pay back the city $400,000 a year for three years for past excesses.