Mayor Donchess and five aldermen (Tom Lopez, Brandon Laws, Shoshana Kelly, Patricia Klee, and Jan Schmidt), are proposing a City of Nashua Charter change wherein the Mayor and President of the Board of Aldermen (BoA) would appoint Police Commissioners, instead of the Governor.
They also want two additional Commissioners on the Nashua Board of Police Commissioners, for a total of five members.
Review the proposed Charter Change, R-21-143, from Nashua Board of Alderman Agenda on 5/11/21, page 53-56.
Compare with the existing Nashua Charter Subpart B, § A–101 through § A–146, page 29-42.
Being able to appoint a woman to the Nashua Board of Police Commissioners was the excuse given by Donchess for why this change is needed. Is he implying that the Governor doesn’t support women? That’s a pretty lame excuse for a power grab.
Currently, appointees must be “qualified” individuals. Donchess’ proposal says: “Appointments shall be based upon qualifications, merit and record of community service and should be balanced so that the membership of the Commission reflects the citizenship of the City.” What do qualifications, merit, community service, balanced, and reflects the citizenship of the City even mean? They’re completely undefined.
Donchess’ proposal also somewhat redundantly requires: “Appointments will be based upon qualifications, merit and record of community service. The Mayor and the President of the Board of Aldermen should use their best efforts to balance the membership of the Commission to reflect the citizenship of the City. In no event shall a member of the immediate family or a resident of the household with the Mayor or any Alderman be eligible for appointment.” Again, the requirements are so nebulous that the mayor can appoint anyone, including, according to the current rumor, an inexperienced husband of a favored City Hall director.
Since 1913, the Governor has appointed Nashua police commissioners to minimize the very real danger of political influence over the police department.
The Governor’s appointments are restricted by “…not more than two of each of said commissioners shall be of the same political party.” Donchess’ proposal updates this mandate: “Not more three commissioners shall be of the same political party.” But is that sufficient protection for the public?
The heavy hand of the Donchess’ administration has already been seen – police arrested local residents, who were women seeking public information in City Hall. Thus, it’s quite doubtful that a partisan requirement will prevent LOCAL political interests from controlling the police via Commissioner appointments.
The existing Police Commissioners are unlikely to support Donchess’ proposal on local appointments and increasing the size of the current three-member Board. Nor are they blind to the extraordinary influence that Donchess has already exerted over the police – over and above his usual ability to influence the police through union contract salary increases.
If Donchess’ proposal is approved, three new Police Commissioners will be appointed immediately, ensuring continued use of the police as political enforcers.
Board-packing is a power grab. In fact, four out of five Commissioners will be appointed before the end of Donchess’ and the BoA President’s current terms.
Talk about a takeover. Even if Donchess and the BoA President are voted out at the first opportunity in 2023, Nashua residents won’t be rid of their influence for years!