Half of Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski’s raise is tied to whether he has found $225,000 in sustainable savings in Andover’s more than $140 million budget. He is arguing that he can outsource work, eliminate town positions, and total the savings created without counting the amount spent on hiring outside companies to do the work. The idea is absurd, and selectmen seem to realize it.
Based on their comments, selectmen don’t want to reward the town manager simply for robbing Peter to pay Paul. The town manager simply wants to get paid as much as possible.
Selectman Dan Kowalski told Stapczynski it appears he is arguing that he “could have eliminated $500,000 worth of employees, let’s just say hired a company to do it for $1 million, and you’re still saying that you’d be ‘saving’ $500,000.”
Incredibly, Stapczynski answered, “That’s an extreme example, but in part — yes, absolutely.”
Stapczynski went on to say, “Because $500,000 in employees could be 10 employees with all the benefits that go along with 10 employees, and I should be given credit for reducing the head count now and in the future, because that’s less costs we’re going to have.” Of course, the $1 million in outsourcing expenses would continue, too, under that scenario.
The town manager’s goal reads: “Sustainable savings — Achieve $225,000 of sustainable operating budget savings. Savings are defined as salary and health benefits.” The town manager is focusing on the second sentence and willfully ignoring the obvious point. The idea is to have sustainable operating savings. The selectmen are allowing him to include health benefits, not just salary, which should make it easier to achieve the goal. But it does not mean that he can simply pay the salary of non-town workers instead of town employees and think he has met the goal of sustainable savings. He is still spending.
Selectmen are right and should stick to their guns on this issue. If the culture of town government is going to change, it has to start at the top.
Mud-slinging in the 6th
A duel over who has the worse family scandal is starting to rumble through the race for the 6th Congressional District. This is the kind of race to the bottom that makes it clear why voters get turned off by politics and why they hold Congress in such low esteem. Unfortunately, redistricting means that part of Andover is now in mud-covered district.
Congressman John Tierney’s own scandal has become well known throughout the district, if not the state. In 2010 his wife pleaded guilty filing false tax returns on behalf of her brother, who was running an illegal gambling operation. She also admitted to being “willfully blind” about the source of the millions of dollars in the account that she managed. She spent 30 days in prison.
Since then, Tierney has faced questions over how much he knew about his wife’s dealings. It’s become a major issue for him in this election, and it has given ample fodder to his Republican opponent Richard Tisei. As much as Tierney might want to put it in the rearview mirror, that’s not happening. In recent days, three nonpartisan watchdog groups have asked that the House Ethics Committee probe whether Tierney was required to publicly disclose the more than $200,000 that his wife received while managing the bank account.
Tierney’s woes have made national headlines. But it’s been a more uphill battle for Democrats to get people to pay much attention to a murky mini scandal involving Tisei, or more accurately, his parents.
Last week, the state Democratic Committee fired back at Tisei, creating a website that documents alleged business misdeeds and claims of fraud lodged against Tisei’s parents and the home inspection business they ran. The website tries to bring into focus Richard Tisei’s own involvement in his parent’s problems. The Democrats’ intentions to make this a family affair were clear at the website’s media unveiling last week, which was billed as “Richard Tisei’s Family Web of Fraud.”
The Tisei issue brings up questions of whether Tisei attempted to intentionally shield a family asset — a property in Wakefield — from creditors who had won judgments against his parents and had a lien on the property. Tisei attempted to sell the property to his 23-year-old legislative aide. The sale did not take place.
For Democrats battling the damage done to Tierney’s reputation, the questions raised over Tisei’s family business dealings are an obvious attempt to tar Tisei with the same brush.
It will be up to voters to decide whether these family matters should disqualify either candidate. As we’ve said here before, the overriding factor in choosing one candidate over the other should be their different positions on the critical issues we face as a nation. Voters and politicians must focus on the issues to drag politics out of the mud that surrounds far too many elections.