The mayor walked out and uttered a cuss word as tensions ran high at Thursday’s Haverhill School Committee meeting as the Haverhill Education Association continued its pursuit of what it calls a living wage for the city’s educational support professionals.
Prior to last night’s meeting, dozens of teachers and other school personnel stood outside city hall waving banners at passing pedestrians and motorists calling for pay increases. Much of that crowd then entered the City Council chamber to express their views to School Committee members in a one-to-one setting. Among them, Patricia Shaw who had harsh words for city lawyer David M. Connelly.
“He’s an anti-union lawyer. He is condescending. He is rude and he is disrespectful,” she said.
Shaw told the Committee Connelly has no concern for the educators or the children they teach, but is simply out to hurt the union. She also claimed that with the most recent offer brought before the union members, it is clear they are not bargaining in good faith.
“In our last negotiation, we were offered an additional quarter percent, so our lowest ESP’s, that equals five cents per hour,” she explained.
Because of the number of union members wishing to speak, Mayor James J. Fiorentini announced he would be limiting the allotted time to speak to three minutes per person and would allow no more than three speakers to address the committee.
“I’m going to limit it to no more than three speakers per topic. Who’s here? Who would like to speak? ‘You can’t go like that.’ I just did…,” he said.
That decision raised the hackles of union members who said they had a right to speak at these meetings. HEA President Barry Davis fired back at the mayor.
“That will be your legacy as the mayor of Haverhill, that when you were contested, you shut voices down. You didn’t listen to the public. These are your employees. They are on government assistance. They are hungry and you want to silence them. And, in my five years of involvement, every turn that you have had a chance to oppose us, you take it.” To which the mayor responded “My legacy will be putting up with obnoxious jerks like you.”
In an attempt to move the agenda along onto other issues, the mayor called for an end to the public input portion of the meeting, a move that was simply not acceptable to those in the audience. “The next item on the agenda is the school bus.” When ESP Patrick Kerrigan began speaking anyway, the mayor called for a five-minute recess. “Thank you all. Bye bye.”
At that point, Fiorentini walked out of the meeting, saying he doesn’t give a blank, and did not return, leaving committee member Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello to assume the position of chairperson. The meeting did eventually get back on track, but not before Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti was heard to say “This is bizzare.”