Council Revokes Expense Account Increases, Asks for Study Commission

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill city councilors want Mayor James J. Fiorentini to establish an independent commission on compensation for all elected city officials.

Councilors Tuesday night voted unanimously to revoke the $2,400 increase in each councilor’s expense account amid concerns about its legality. Following the vote, they approved, by consensus, sending the mayor a letter directing him to establish a commission to “study local elected officials salaries and expenses for mayor, city council and school committee, including a comparative analysis of local elected officials in other cities of comparable size, population and form of government.” The request came from Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

“Said independent commission would also issue recommendations for salary adjustments for all positions, not to take effect sooner than 2018,” Sullivan said in his motion. A second came from Councilor William H. Ryan.

Sullivan also motioned to rescind last June’s expense account vote and received a second from Councilor Melinda E. Barrett. City councilors receive an annual salary of $8,000 plus expenses, for which they are not required to provide receipts. Prior to last year’s vote, each was allowed $2,484 in expenses per year.

Earlier this week, city council President John A. Michitson said the problem stems from an “apparently conflicting policy” between state and local “conflict of interest” provisions. City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. flagged the issue last month and referred it to outside lawyers, Michitson said.

Last week, the Haverhill School Committee also voted to revoke its expense account increases without discussion. It was not immediately clear what school committee members had voted on because of the deceptively named agenda item, “expenses.”