Haverhill Councilors Press Ahead on Considering Hiring Chief of Staff for the Legislative Body

Councilors John A. Michitson and Joseph J. Bevilacqua. (Jay Saulnier photographs for WHAV News. )

City councilors will study whether the legislative body should have its own chief of staff, even as some members voiced strong feelings for and against.

Citing public responses to a recent Citizens Outreach Committee meeting on Haverhill’s charter, Councilor John A. Michitson said Tuesday his take on the suggestions and criticisms is a need for the council to communicate with the public more effectively. He said this is especially true when there is a difference of opinion between the council and mayor.

“A lot of the issues that some of the citizens brought up really had to do with the mismatch in information between what the mayor’s office has and what we have. So, we can’t change the power structure without having a charter commission, but we can level the playing field. We can meet some of these citizens’ needs with a chief of staff for the City Council,” he said.

Michitson said among other responsibilities, the chief of staff would manage public correspondence, research municipal issues for the council, co-ordinate public relations and work closely with the mayor’s chief of staff on a daily basis.

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua accused supporters with trying to circumvent the charter—a charge ruled improper by Council President Timothy J. Jordan.

“The problem we’re having is that we have a Council now that is frustrated that it is not the mayor and it’s searching for ways…” “Councilor Bevilacqua, I think you’re out of line on this. That is not the intent of the motion made by councilor Michitson at all.”

Councilor Shaun P. Toohey said he supports looking into the idea, but is concerned about a chief of staff doing what he believes is his responsibility as a councilor. He also questioned the wisdom of spending $50,000 on a part-time position.

Councilors, nevertheless, voted 7-1 to send the motion to its Administration and Finance Committee for consideration with Bevilacqua opposed and Councilor Michael S. McGonagle absent.

Currently, city councilors have a secretary that works four days-a-week for them and one day for the mayor.

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