METHUEN — Mayor William Manzi will not fill a new position that some city councilors contend he created specifically for his chief of staff Matt Kraunelis.
Manzi said the $83,666 assistant city solicitor/human resources manager job he budgeted for this year quickly became a "political football."
Manzi now plans to leave the position open for when the next mayor takes office in January.
Four candidates are running for mayor in today's preliminary election. Two finalists will move on to the Nov. 8 general election. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"People are trying to politicize it in a way that's despicable," said Manzi. "In an election cycle, (Kraunelis) would be a target. That whole process has been a political football, and it will be better to let the political process play itself out."
Kraunelis, who is a lawyer, told The Eagle-Tribune in July that he planned to apply for the job, which was designed with the dual responsibilities of assisting City Solicitor Peter McQuillan and replacing Colleen McCarthy as municipal human resources manager.
McCarthy is now working full-time as human resources director for the school department. Manzi said Kraunelis is already performing human resources work for the city in her absence.
"I still believe we need to fill it," said Manzi. "Matt's doing the work, so it's getting done. He's not getting paid for it."
Manzi said he will reserve the right to fill the assistant city solicitor/human resources manager position on an interim basis in the coming months if necessary.
The first public indications that Kraunelis was in the running for the job came from city councilors during a budget meeting in June, when a motion made by City Councilor Pat Uliano to cut the entire $83,666 line item reserved for the position was defeated.
At the same meeting, Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo also suggested funding the position for six months rather than a full year, effectively leaving the appointment for Manzi's successor.
A similar move was made for the position of planning and community development director, which has been vacant since late 2009. Originally slated for $99,986, Manzi suggested the council fund the line item at half that amount, allowing the next mayor to fill the job.
The majority of the council agreed and voted to budget $49,993.
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