By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — City Councilor Tom Ciulla took a veiled swipe at mayoral candidate Jennifer Kannan this week, calling into question her family ties to the city payroll.
Kannan — a city councilor who will challenge Mayor Stephen Zanni in the November election — has four relatives who work for the police, fire and school departments. Her father is also a retired Methuen fire lieutenant.
Ciulla made an apparent reference to Kannan’s family this week while endorsing Zanni’s reelection bid. In an interview with The Eagle-Tribune, Ciulla said he decided to endorse Zanni because the mayor is “an independent guy.”
“He has no ties,” said Ciulla. “He has no family connections, which is important, especially when you’re dealing with the police department, the fire department and the school department.”
Kannan’s brother, Richard Aziz Jr., is a lieutenant with the Methuen Fire Department. Her son, Billy Kannan Jr., joined the police department as a full-time patrolman in 2012 after serving for several years as a reserve officer. Kannan’s daughter, Brittney Kannan, is a teacher’s aide at Marsh Grammar School. Kannan’s sister-in-law, Maria Becotte, works as a teacher at the Marsh.
Kannan said she has closely abided by all ethics and conflict of interest guidelines since becoming a councilor in 2007. She said her family’s public service in the city extends back to her great grandfather John Mannion, the former Methuen deputy fire chief.
“I’m very honored that my family wants to give back to their community,” said Kannan. “My record is spotless. I’m not going to spend my whole campaign defending myself against Tom Ciulla. I think his comment has no merit. ... It’s embarrassing for him.”
Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo also criticized Kannan this week. When asked if she planned to make a mayoral endorsement, Pappalardo said she will vote for Zanni if Kannan is his only challenger.
Pappalardo said Kannan has consistently voted to increase property taxes while on the City Council.
“I will not be endorsing her,” said Pappalardo. “I feel as though she’s not qualified. She hasn’t ever stepped up to the plate for the taxpayers of this community.”
Kannan fired back, claiming Pappalardo’s budget votes in prior years jeopardized public safety and other services. When William Manzi was mayor, Kannan said Pappalardo was more interested in obstructing his administration than solving the city’s problems.
“If it was up to Jeanne Pappalardo, Methuen would be in the sewer,” said Kannan. “She’s never had a solution.”
Other councilors interviewed this week said they aren’t ready to make mayoral endorsements. Also on the Nov. 5 ballot will be races for City Council and School Committee. Candidates can obtain nomination papers from the city clerk’s office between May 29 and July 26.
Councilors had differing opinions when asked whether their endorsements have the potential to create rifts among council members.
“I think there’s potential for a rift,” said Councilor Lisa Ferry. “I hope not. I hope things remain professional and civil.”
“I don’t think so,” said Councilor Ron Marsan. “For the most part, most of our councilors are pretty mature. Why would you create a rift? I don’t see that happening. I know I’m mature enough.”