THE COLUMN: With New Manager, Who’s Out, Who’s In

April 1, 2018 GMT

JUST DAYS after Kevin Murphy occupied the city manager’s office at City Hall in April 2014, a well-known and respected figure in state municipal government circles joined him and has been at his side since: Robert Healy.

A Lowell resident and Mt. Pleasant Golf Club regular like Murphy, Healy honed his municipal skills as the longtime Cambridge city manager. Healy would seldom be seen at public events, but at City Hall he was viewed as an integral cog in the Murphy machine.

Murphy’s resignation is official today. No surprise, Healy worked his last day Friday.

With Eileen Donoghue preparing to become the city’s first female manager, there’s much speculation about the future of several other Murphy confidantes.

From the political grapevine:

Assistant City Manager Michael McGovern will not have a role in the Donoghue administration.

Kevin Coughlin, Division of Planning and Development deputy director: Ditto

There’s persistent speculation that former City Councilor George Ramirez, a lawyer, will land a city job. The link between Donoghue and Ramirez is lawyer Michael Gallagher, a huge fan of both.

Then there’s City Solicitor Christine O’Connor. O’Connor was tapped by then-CM

John Cox as top lawyer following the retirement of Thomas Sweeney. Lynch kept her on, as did Murphy. But it’s wellknown in city legal circles that Gallagher is not an O’Connor fan, and if he’s providing counsel to Donoghue on this one ...

It also appears that Police Superintendent William Taylor, who was appointed by then-

DONOGHUE LOSING the city manager sweepstakes would have been a March Madness upset for the ages. More improbable than a 1-seed losing to a 16-seed (which actually happened this year). But the Cinderella upset from an assistant dean at MIT and a research director from North Carolina was not in the cards. Donoghue relaxed in the Mayor’s Reception Room throughout the first two interviews. During a break between interviews, she chatted with city councilors, including Rodney Elliott, who would like her Senate seat. Donoghue then began her interview by providing a list of the total state support for Lowell since 2011: $1.9 billion in state funding. It was a slam dunk from the tip off. The nine city councilors introduced themselves to the two outside candidates, but Donoghue said they didn’t need to do the same for her.

“I don’t think we have to introduce ... would you like us to introduce ourselves?” Mayor William Samaras asked Donoghue.

“Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I think I know everybody here,” she answered with a grin. Game over - a game that was never really a contest.

ONE OF those councilors asking questions was Elliott, who had reached out to the State Ethics Commission for an opinion on participating in the city manager selection while a Senate candidate.

The response from the commission: No conflict.

However, the general counsel said that those running or even considering to run must fill out a disclosure form and submit it to the city clerk’s office.

Elliott filed his disclosure, and his intent to run for an open Senate seat, on Feb. 27. Another city councilor,

Edward Kennedy, said he is preparing an announcement for his Senate candidacy.

U.S. SEN. Paul Tsongas flying high following his stunning victory in the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, was sunk a year later due to the misdeeds of his chief financial guy.

Nick Rizzo was indicted by the feds in 1993, accused of stealing more than $1 million from the campaign account in what was called “the largest case of campaign fraud in the history of this country.” Rizzo was eventually convicted and served four years in federal prison.

The dough Rizzo stole to pay off gambling debts would have gone a long way toward keeping the Tsongas campaign strong as it went up against the juggernaut of then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

Rizzo’s name resurfaced after his death a few weeks ago. A resident of an Andover elderly-care facility, Rizzo tried to light a cigarette near an oxygen machine and the mishap caused a fatal explosion.

EXPECT A handful of fundraising announcements to trickle in from 3rd Congressional District candidates this week.

Fundraising for the first quarter of 2018 closes Sunday, and reports are due to the Federal Election Commission by April 15.

As in the past few cycles, campaigns that did well will tout their success ahead of the filing deadline.

All 12 candidates who have registered will the FEC had their campaigns up and running for the full three months. Some of the frontrunners come into this quarter with significant sums already amassed, but we will also be able to compare candidates to one another in the same threemonth span.

ANOTHER deadline looms over the 3rd District race. To get on the September primary ballot, candidates must gather at least 2,000 signatures from registered 3rd District voters. Those signatures have to be submitted to registrars of voters in each town for certification by May 8.

Only Dan Koh has made it to 2,000. His campaign announced in a Tuesday press release that it had its signatures certified and submitted the nomination papers with the Secretary of State’s office.

Observers think the signature deadline could cull the enormous field of Democrats as smaller campaigns struggle.

IS SENATE Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reading The Sun?

The timing would seem to indicate it: just days after The Sun published its story on an editorial board meeting with 3rd Congressional District candidate Keith St.John, who repeatedly touted the benefits of industrial hemp, McConnell submitted a bill that would eliminate federal restrictions blocking hemp as an agricultural product. Touting hemp’s role in Kentucky’s early farming days, the Republican said it could be “an important part of our future,” a theme St.John raised several times.

Replied St.John in a statement: “I applaud Mitch McConnell for introducing this bill. The primary reason to implement hemp production on a large scale is its potential to drive economic growth for the whole of our society.”

MANY 3rd District Dems made a point to publicize their appearances at the March For Our Lives rally in Chelmsford last week. All were cautious, though, to publish photos of the candidates merely participating rather than collecting signatures for their campaigns. The event organizers stressed no signaturegathering was permitted.

State Sen. Barbara L’Italien’s team seems to have missed that message.

A picture posted to Facebook by a resident and shared with The Sun shows a 3rd District resident signing L’Italien’s nomination papers, geotagged at Chelmsford’s Town Common where the rally took place.

Dan Hoffer, L’Italien’s campaign manager, said the campaign made its “best effort” to inform volunteers not to collect signatures at the rally.

“Unfortunately, not all the volunteers got the message,” Hoffer said in an email.

JUST two endorsements in the 3rd Congressional District race this week:

Maynard Selectman

Melissa Levine-Piro announced her support for

Alexandra Chandler.

The union Marlboro Firefighters Local 1714 endorsed Lori Trahan.


Business Association finally held its Candidates Night Wednesday, and with the Board of Selectmen portion resembling more of an interrogation.

Attorney Doug Hausler, acting as moderator, immediately launched into an attack on incumbent Selectman George Dixon and challenger Emily Antul for supporting a split tax rate for homeowners and business owners.

Hausler asked Dixon why he (and fellow Selectman Glenn Diggs, who was in the audience) broke the promise they made before the CBA membership to vote against tax classification. Hausler said those in the local business community “question the credibility of those selectmen” and asked Dixon to acknowledge that “you betrayed your word.” “If everything I said three years ago you’re going to hold me to today, I think I’ll probably break my word once in a while,” Dixon said. Dixon said he changed his mind due to changing circumstances, and listening to seniors and others he went to school with.

Dixon gave it right back to Hausler. He said the attorney and the CBA often lobby against awarding new liquor licenses to new businesses.. Dixon said selectmen hasn’t issued any of the beer and wine licenses it has under its control.

However, this year, Dixon said, Hausler “came in and you berated us for not allowing your client” one of those licenses.

Hausler snuck in some more digs at Diggs, who was behind two tax-raterelated nonbinding referenda on the April 3 ballot.

Hausler read the simple wording of the first question, which the CBA opposed, then a similar but more technically worded referendum from 1985 that residents overwhelmingly voted against.

Hausler asked the candidates whether Diggs’ phrasing was “unfair.”

“No, I think it’s a fairly straightforward question,” Antul said. “I also think that the world is completely different from 1985 and what was voted for in the ’80s is not relevant to today given how many things have changed.”

Dixon and incumbent Selectman Laura Merrill also agreed the question’s wording is fair.

AFTER THE event, Hausler approached a Sun reporter who was covering the debate and asked that she “exercise editorial discretion” and downplay the back-and-forth between him and Dixon.

He said it might not be good for Dixon, given the selectman’s recent health issues.


Committee members Sabrina Heisey, who is challenging state Rep. Colleen Garry in this September, has received endorsements from Mass Alliance and the National Association of Social Workers-Massachusetts Chapter (NASWMA).

The two groups identify and support progressive Democratic candidates for public office across the commonwealth, according to a release issued by Heisey’s campaign office.

This is the first time in many years that Garry is facing a primary challenge. She’s taking Heisey seriously.

Garry stood outside Tyngsboro Elementary School, flanked by about at least 30 volunteers, before Tuesday’s Special Town Meeting there. The supporters held signs bearing Garry’s name and a few collected signatures for her nomination papers.

Contributing to The Column this week: Rick Sobey in Lowell, Amaris Castillo in Dracut, Chris Lisinski on the 3rd Congressional District campaign trail, Alana Melanson in Chelmsford and Enterprise Editor Christopher Scott.