EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 10, 2012

Zanni holds out hope for IT plan

By Brian Messenger bmessenger@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni is holding out hope for a privatized Information Technology department, even after the City Council soundly rejected his reorganization plan last week.

Zanni believes a public hearing on IT privatization should have been held before the council voted 7-2 to kill the measure, based on language in the city charter. City Solicitor Peter McQuillan disagrees.

“I am still looking at the charter,” said Zanni. “I want to go over it with Peter and I want to get it to the council to look at.”

McQuillan said he is willing to talk with the mayor but added that he stands by his determination regarding the charter.

“The mayor has not discussed it with me yet,” said McQuillan. “I’m certainly going to listen to everything he has to say. But with the charter, the council has been advised accordingly.”

Council Chairwoman Jennifer Kannan reiterated yesterday that the council vote will stand.

“Nothing’s changed since Monday night, as far as I’m concerned,” said Kannan. “Did (Zanni) hear seven councilors say no?”

In question is a section of the charter titled, “Reorganization Plans by Mayor.”

The charter reads that the mayor can submit plans to the City Council to “reorganize, consolidate or abolish any city agency, in whole or in part, or establish new city agencies, as he deems necessary or expedient.”

“Every such reorganization plan shall ... be referred to an appropriate committee of the City Council which shall, not more than thirty days later, hold a public hearing on the matter and shall, within ten days following such hearing, report either that it approves or that it disapproves of the plan,” reads the charter.

Zanni said the city would save $485,000 over the next four and a half years by eliminating the existing four-employee IT department and contracting instead with the private firm Corporate IT Solutions of Norwood.

The mayor’s plan called for the layoff of three municipal IT employees — IT director Kingsley Lough, Network Administrator Bill Lasonde, and Information Systems Technician Peter Stone. Several councilors said Monday night they would rather see the city pay for upgraded computers and equipment before making sweeping management changes.

Zanni selected Corporate IT Solutions with the assistance of a three-member City Council subcommittee. The mayor said he is disappointed that the firm never had a chance to give a presentation to the full council.

Zanni said he knew IT privatization would be difficult to achieve. When he took office in January, Zanni said numerous city department heads told him IT performance was one of their top concerns.

“I took it upon myself as the manager of this city to follow up on it,” said Zanni. “When I was running for mayor, I promised I would run government in a cost-effective manner and try to save money.”