The Salem News
— BEVERLY — Mayor Bill Scanlon has once again gone against the wishes of mayor-elect Mike Cahill by making last-minute appointments before he leaves office.
Scanlon has named 21 people to a key committee that will spend the next three years overseeing the process of designing and building a new middle school.
Cahill said he told Scanlon he wanted to play a role in the selection of committee members but Scanlon did not respond. Cahill said he will replace members as he sees fit after he takes office on Jan. 6.
“I asked him specifically, to sit with him and go over the names with me and go over it jointly,” Cahill said. “He didn’t really respond to my request.”
Scanlon said he made the appointments to comply with a Dec. 16 deadline set by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the state agency that oversees and helps pay for school building projects.
Scanlon said he informed Cahill that he was seeking people to serve on the committee. Asked if Cahill were involved in choosing members, Scanlon said, “I’ve met with him three times. There’s been an opportunity for him to ask questions.”
The city submitted the list of names to the School Building Authority on Monday. As of yesterday, Cahill said he did not know who the members were and was still trying to get a copy of the list.
Cahill said School Building Authority rules allow for changes to the committee for up to 20 calendar days after the list is approved. If the list is approved at the next MSBA meeting on Dec. 18, that should give him time to act, Cahill said.
“As I need to make changes I will do so immediately on taking office,” he said.
A spokesman for the School Building Authority did not return phone calls.
The city is required to form a School Building Committee as part of the process of seeking funding from the MSBA for a new middle school. The city is planning to build a new school at the site of the former Memorial Middle School on Cabot Street.
Scanlon’s appointments to the committee include Roy Gelineau, the current city solicitor whom Cahill plans to replace when he takes office, and Maria Decker, the current School Committee president who lost her re-election bid last month.
Scanlon has also appointed Decker to the Planning Board, but that nomination, along with several others that Scanlon made this week to city boards, has been held up by the City Council. Cahill said earlier this week that Scanlon should stop making appointments in his final weeks in office.
Scanlon won a contentious race against Cahill two years ago, then supported Wes Slate in the election won by Cahill last month. Scanlon chose not to run for re-election after 18 years in office.
“This again is a committee that I will be working with and the next School Committee and the next City Council will be working with for a number of years,” Cahill said. “I should’ve been involved in the creation of this committee. It didn’t happen that way. As I need to make changes, I will.”
Scanlon said the School Building Committee that has been formed has a range of experiences, including an architect, a construction manager, a civil engineer, a retired teacher, and others with experience in construction and education.
“I think we’ve got a helluva committee,” Scanlon said. “This committee is going to hopefully make sure we design the right school, build the right school and have the right school. They’re going to look at every possible aspect of it.”
Asked if he would play any role in the formation of the school after he leaves office, Scanlon said, “No, absolutely not.”
“There’s this lingering suspicion that I’m trying to do something on the QT,” Scanlon said. “This (forming the committee) is something I have to do or we fall off the train to get the school.”
As mayor, Scanlon is automatically on the School Building Committee, but Cahill will take his position when he assumes office. Interim Superintendent Albert Argenziano and city Finance Director John Dunn are also on the committee by virtue of their positions and will be replaced by their successors.
Argenziano will replaced by Steven Hiersche, who was chosen as the new school superintendent last month and is in the process of negotiating a contract with the School Committee. Dunn is one of three department heads that Cahill said he plans to replace.
Gelineau will be replaced as city solicitor, but he is listed on the School Building Committee as an attorney, not as the city solicitor.
The School Building Committee is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. in Room 164 at the Memorial Building, 502 Cabot St.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
School Building Committee