Despite New Charges, HHS Solar Project Remains Stalemated

Former Haverhill School Committeewoman Kerry Fitzgerald said she is “horrified at the amount of character assassination” aimed at School Committeeman Sven A. Amirian.

Haverhill School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

Haverhill School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

While both sides of the Haverhill High School solar project controversy traded barbs Thursday night, no end to the stalemate appeared in sight.

An allegation the project’s designated developer subcontracts work to an alleged felon raised eyebrows. School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey said Haverhill students were photographed with a person served with a “consent order for securities fraud.”

“I do have a problem with a company that’s less than six months old, that has relationships, and my students are on the roof or doing business or communicating with someone who’s pled guilty to a felony,” he charged. The students, touring a MassAmerican project in Ward Hill, were seen in a photograph on the school’s website. In June, Toohey joined School Committee members Scott W. Wood Jr. and Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello in opposing the project by Marlborough-based MassAmerican Energy. The company’s vice president of business development is School Committeeman Sven A. Amirian, who has recused himself from committee discussions involving the high school project.

Toohey took exception to a perception he is opposing the solar project because Amirian did not support him taking a seat on the committee last January. Toohey declared, “This is not a political payback.”

Toohey’s remarks brought strong condemnation from David J. Ellis, the lead MassAmerican Energy partner. Ellis told WHAV he did not know the background of the Haverhill-based subcontractor, but the individual’s firm is not large enough in any event to work on the high school project.

“(Toohey) slandered my company very badly. I’m meeting with the mayor the first thing in the morning to straighten this out,” Ellis, who was not present at the meeting, told WHAV. He said he first met the contractor in question at a MassAmerican job site where the individual is a tenant. “I have no idea of his past. He’s done a number of systems for us, and they did an outstanding job. These guys are killing themselves to be successful,” Ellis said.

While he won’t rule out a future a “libel suit or breach of contract” against the city, Ellis said, “The worse thing I can do is sue the city. We have to find a way to all get past this.”

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Earlier, Haverhill city councilors and high school students urged school committee members to find common ground and save the project before certain financial incentives expire in January.

City Councilor Andy Vargas read a letter signed by eight of the nine city councilors urging Ryan-Ciardiello, Toohey and Wood to reconsider their opposition.

“As detailed in this project, HHS would receive a new roof for free — valued at almost $3 million dollars. As many parents, teachers and students know, the roof at HHS is in dire need of repair,” the letter read, in part. “This would not only solve the problem, but save taxpayer money. Additionally, the solar roof is projected to save another $7 million in energy cost savings, over the course of 20 years for the taxpayers of Haverhill. That is a total of $10 million dollars.” Only Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua’s signature was absent. Vargas also made a separate appeal.

“But, at the end of the day, we’re looking at personal political battle between the status-quo Haverhill and the rising new Haverhill. I sincerely hope we don’t miss the bus here. Do the right thing and put personal politics aside.”

Haverhill City Councilor William J. Macek.

Haverhill City Councilor William J. Macek.

Councilor William J. Macek said all of the elected officials present took an oath on inauguration day to “do what’s right for our schools, do what’s right for our city.”

“I can’t come up with any idea why this isn’t the right thing to do, except if we allow politics and personality to enter,” Macek said.

Haverhill High School Senior Class President Darby Connolly told the committee she gathered more than 500 signatures online in support of the high school solar array.

“I have met with people on both sides of this argument. But please remember that you are all elected officials and your major job is to listen to the people of the community who put you in those chairs. Put your personal conflicts aside and vote with the best interests of the people and not yourself. So I ask you, members of the school committee, why are you holding back the future of HHS,” Connolly said. The petition, found at, said installation of solar panels would free up “money to better the school district” and “would also be lowering the city’s carbon footprint.” Another student, class Vice President Anna Rossi also spoke.

Former School Committeewoman Kerry Fitzgerald said she is “horrified at the amount of character assassination” aimed at Amirian. She said State Ethics Commission guidelines were created specifically to allow companies to have employees serve their communities without fear of not being able to bid on contracts. Amirian is following “the letter of the law.”

“If you don’t like the law, you still have to follow it. It’s the way the world works,” Fitzgerald said.

Haverhill School Committee members would not agree to suspend the rules to allow votes to reconsider the committee’s 3 to 3 vote last month not to advance the 2.2 megawatt solar panel project atop the school. However, the committee agreed it is still possible for the matter to be discussed again during the next few weeks. Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the city will review Toohey’s allegation as well as a proposal by Wood that the city consider owning the solar project instead of a private developer.


Haverhill High School Senior Class President Darby Connolly told the committee she gathered more than 500 signatures online in support of the high school solar array.

8 thoughts on “Despite New Charges, HHS Solar Project Remains Stalemated

  1. I would think this was,to be voted on by the City Council……….only…………why would the SC be involved as they are only the renters

  2. As this issue drags on there continues to be no explanation as to why the number one person in the entire school system, superintendent Jim Scully, was never notified of this project until he got a telephone call from the contractor. With the cronyism and corruption in this city it’s pretty obvious the many people involved with this project intentionally took steps to leave him out of the process.

    How ironic is it that Toohey is worried about criminals being involved in an energy project in this city when the Energy Manager is Orlando Pacheco??? Google his name if you don’t get it……

    Is there even one city councilor with an once of business sense in this city? They’re “rushing” add TONS of weight to a roof that engineers have already determined are stressed during heavy snow accumulation. Not one of them suggests an engineering study be done before just adding all that extra weight? If city councilors are so sure there are no safety concerns of the added weight on the roof they should be required to sign an affidavit of personal responsibility in the event of an accident, with no exceptions. Let’s see how fast they are to ignore the possibility of the roof collapsing on a classroom full of kids then.

    • People expert in this field disagree with you Jack. Since that issue was raised, much research went into the allegation. It is a non issue for people; only an issue for non experts who don’t believe in Global Warming or that we need to try to “go green”. There is more research available on that particular topic if you’re interested.

      • You’re kidding, right Kerry? Your taking a safety issue where the lives of children are at risk and spinning it into a political climate change issue because people have not been thoroughly convinced this is a viable and safe project? Not that I’m at all surprised to hear this coming from you, as you’ve come up with a lot of off the charts crazy comments through the years, but this very well might be your most unprofessional, self-centered justification of an issue ever. I can’t even find the words to describe how insane putting the lives of children at risk for the sake of a political agenda is.

        Experts, huh? Who exactly are the experts that did all the “research” you claim has been done? Knowing that there are councilors who have voted against this issue based on it being a significant safety issue, why weren’t these “experts” at the meeting last night to eliminate the objection of adding additional weight to the roof? Where is the weight bearing analysis/report done by a licensed structural engineering company that proves your claim? If there has been so much research done where is it? Why has no one seen it? Has the the insurance company who under rights the property damage and personal injury policies for the high school signed off on adding all of that weight to the roof? Have they seen this mysterious research?

        I’ll say it again….are you as an advocate of this project, or the city councilors voting in favor of it, willing to take personal financial responsibility with no waiver of liability in the event something was to happen?

  3. “I do have a problem with a company that’s less than six months old” –

    First, the company was formed in September of 2013 according to MA SoS filings, so not sure where he got that. If the company were to go tits-up, it’s the bond holders that get screwed, not the city. Or does he think they’re going to rip out the solar panels in a BK as a means of collateral? Please. Friggen infant.

    “subcontracts work to an alleged felon raised eyebrows.” –

    So is the due diligence standard now to run background checks on subs? I’d like to see the criminal history of those, oh wait, THE CITY OF HAVERHILL has a long list of felons and ex-cons. Brilliant. Simple solution? Don’t use them for next job? What a jackass. Not to be outdone by Ryan-Ciardiello stating the issue was “scandalous”, I’d love to see what her standard of scandalous is, because once again, The CIty of Haverhill has had plenty of real “scandalous” issues.

    “Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the city will review Toohey’s allegation” –

    Don’t bother, it’s a dumb issue. Securities fraud? Really? Hopefully Toohey doesn’t use Bank of America, the one in downtown Haverhill, whose laundry lost of securities fraud goes deep. Not least of which includes foreclosure fraud, and probably right here in the city. Don’t forget, we have a CONgress Member, Niki Tsongas, who VOTED for Congressional immunity via voice vote to engage legally in securities fraud (i.e. political intelligence immunity), but hey, the rule of law is dead in this country, so “what difference does it make?”

    I’m don’t recall which Committee Member it was, but he stated the same thing I did: The contract was awarded BEFORE Amirian was elected, so whatever nefarious or “scandalous” intentions were intended, they sure as hell had some pretty good clairvoyance if you believe in that BS.

    I arrived too late for the public remarks, but it would be great if the public could redirect questioning after having to listen to some of the stupidity last night. Unfortunately, going forward, The People are going to have to listen to more of the stupidity because hardly anyone votes in this city or state. The status quo is indeed here to stay, at a great detriment to Citizens of this state and city. Using voting as a means of term limits sounds great in theory, but when you can’t muster 20% of The People to vote, this is the kind of “representation” we’re stuck with.

    Disclaimer: I voted for Sven, not for the politician, but for the man who came to my home to discuss the issues. I don’t have to agree with him, it’s unrealistic to agree on everything, but at least he had to balls to do so (same goes for Andy Vargas). I despise political Party’s (see Washington’s Farewell Address), and last night was yet another example, of why. As I told a City Councilor last night, I’m more likely to write in my dog for elections, it is simply that bad.

    • Well said Mr. Burns and sooo true. Has Mr Toohey looked into hos own father in laws escapades ? Guess not as he probably doesn’t care too. Hypocrisy reigns everywhere nowadays. Get over yourself Mr. Toohey. I am guessing you have never made any mistakes. Ok, so a sub contractor was convicted of securities fraud……does he get a second chance in life ? Is he on the sexual offender list ? Then there really isn’t anything to worry about is there ?

      Snuggle up to the Mayor since you are acting very much like he does. Hurt feelings are more important than doing what is right for the city. What should we expect from someone who cheats during a live debate by having his father in law mouth answers to him ! Two peas in a pod. BUT, the people of Haverhill get what they deserve after all sincethey voted for you. Oh, and what about Bevi copping out of the letter. What a whimp ! And he wants to be Mayor. Wait, he will fit right in now that I think of it !