School Committee Delays Decision on Future of its Business Manager

Haverhill Schools Former Business Manager Brian O’Connell. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill school Business Manager Brian O’Connell answers questions before School Committee members voted on transfers within the budget Thursday night. (WHAV News photograph.)

The fate of embattled school business manager remains to be seen as the Haverhill School Committee postponed a planned closed-door session Thursday night.

Although the School Committee meeting ran late, members decided ahead of time they would delay a discussion on the future of school Business Manager Brian O’Connell. Also delayed was a vote to approve of the minutes of its Dec. 13 where the majority reportedly decided not to renew O’Connell’s $130,000 annual contract.

O’Connell, 69, showed no hint of the behind-the-scenes struggle as he appeared before the committee in open session, recommending various mid-year financial transfers.

His contract expired last June, but he has continued working under the same terms.

The business manager has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but some School Committee members have complained he did not timely inform them of the amount of last year’s roughly $1 million surplus and omitted a $290,000 from this year’s budget to pay for the National Academy Foundation technology program at Haverhill High School.

O’Connell previously told WHAV ending the year with a surplus is a positive achievement. “Unlike Lowell, Methuen, Lynn and Burlington which ran deficits, we’ve worked to keep budgets solvent and reduce citizen anxiety. Urban systems do struggle to balance their budgets,” he said.

Supporters claim O’Connell’s fate was sealed when he didn’t agree with city councilors and School Committee members that the schools needed more than the $84 million Mayor James J. Fiorentini allocated. Asked in June during City Council budget deliberations whether he can manage with the mayor’s budget, O’Connell said he could.