METHUEN — Scott McNamara was appointed Methuen’s new police chief one week ago on Aug. 31 after a lengthy interview process, with Mayor Neil Perry long telling city councilors the candidate chosen would come before them for a confirmation vote at the first meeting in September.
However, McNamara’s appointment did not make it on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting as Perry, other councilors and residents expected.
McNamara’s appointment will now go before the full City Council for a confirmation vote at the next regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 20, after Perry submitted his request in writing to Chairman Steve Saba on Friday, Sept. 3, which is 10 business days before the meeting.
In a press release touting McNamara’s hiring released to the public and to the media, Perry said he looked forward to bringing McNamara’s name forward to the council on Sept. 7 for a vote.
Throughout the interview process for chief and in several interviews with The Eagle-Tribune, Perry was vocal in telling the community the candidate chosen would appear before the council during the first meeting in September.
In accordance with the city charter, all department heads must appear before the City Council to be voted into office by the nine-member governing body.
Chairman Saba, who has control over the meeting agenda, said the vote for McNamara’s appointment was scheduled in accordance with the charter, which requires 10 days’ written notice from the mayor and after consulting with the city solicitor.
“I am excited for the new chief to take over and even offered to call for a special meeting for the 13th,” Saba said Tuesday afternoon, adding that he hopes this does not put a "dark cloud" over the new chief's arrival. “However, I was told that the vote could wait until the 20th. That offer still remains on the table if it’s the will of the council and the mayor. To be perfectly clear, if it were simply up to me, I would take the vote (Tuesday).”
Reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, Perry acknowledged he missed the 10-day window for submitting McNamara’s appointment request agenda item in writing, but said he hoped the fact that councilors were kept in the loop throughout the interview process would avoid confusion and let them know his intention for bringing the candidate forth in early September all along.
“We were inside the 10-day window, but we’ve been inside the 10-day window before during (Saba’s) chairmanship for other appointments,” Perry said. “I can’t gripe, because the charter says what it says. In my mind, I did an extraordinary step to bring these two finalists to the City Council. I didn’t have to do that. The purpose of the 10-day notice is so a candidate can’t be snuck in. Councilors had all the paperwork on the two candidates at the meeting and knew I was deciding on one of them. All along I was intending on having them come forward on Sept. 7. The blame’s on me for missing the 10-day window, but it’s not like I didn’t include councilors in the process.”
Perry also denied Saba requested a special meeting.
According to Saba, a special meeting can be called by the chairman, three councilors or the mayor.
“I’m not making a big deal out of it,” Perry said of the back and forth over the appointment vote. “When we choose to make a big deal out of things like this, count me out. I’m trying to move the city forward.”
Perry said Interim Chief Randy Haggar will continue to oversee the Police Department until the new chief is appointed and sworn in.
McNamara was chosen for the job over Salem, New Hampshire, Deputy Police Chief Shane Smith following three interviews — the last a public appearance before the City Council on Aug. 24.
“I knew both men had the capacity to do the job, but in McNamara I saw a poise and calm leadership capacity that can continue the progress we have made with the Methuen Police Department in this community,” the mayor said.
McNamara comes to Methuen from the Lawrence Police Department, where he serves as captain of the department’s bureau of professional standards. He has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience.
“I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity to lead the men and women of the Methuen Police Department as their next chief,” McNamara said. “I recognize this is an important moment in time for the city of Methuen, a time to put the past behind us and focus our collective efforts on the promise of the future.”