Claremont councilor stays on after city workers don’t show at hearing

  • Claremont City Councilor Andrew O'Hearne at a meeting in Claremont, N.H., on May 9, 2018. O'Hearne represents Ward I. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/22/2023 6:23:27 PM
Modified: 6/22/2023 6:23:31 PM

CLAREMONT — The City Council voted 6-2 against pursuing removal of Councilor Andrew O’Hearne following a hearing this week when the public works employees who had accused O’Hearne of interfering with their work didn’t attend.

Wednesday’s vote came after a roughly 90-minute hearing that included testimony from City Manager Yoshi Manale, Police Chief Brent Wilmot and Public Works Director Alex Gleeson.

Manale told the council that the union representing the employees, Alan Benware, Derek Hussey and Zach Melcher, said they would not attend but did not give a reason why. The employees’ presence had been requested by the council and right up until the meeting, they were given the opportunity to attend.

“I don’t think we can move forward with dismissal from the council because the three people that were involved directly and had direct contact with the councilor are not present and the councilor is entitled to due process,” Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau said shortly before the vote.

Matteau said O’Hearne’s actions on May 11, which were alleged to have been a violation of the city charter’s noninterference clause, were “inappropriate” and his apology was insufficient. But, she added, the city was risking a legal battle it could not win if it voted to remove O’Hearne.

“The councilor is entitled to face his accusers,” she added. “I think that is fair.”

Matteau was joined in the vote by Mayor Dale Girard and councilors Jonathan Stone, William Limoges, Matt Mooshian and James Contois. Councilors Nick Koloski and Spencer Batchelder voted no.

A Thursday message left with the Public Works Department for Hussey, Benware and Melcher was not returned by deadline. A message left for Manale asking for the name of the union representative he spoke with was also not returned.

At the outset of the hearing, councilors expressed disappointment that the employees did not attend, nor did they provide individual statements on the incident. Instead, the workers signed a joint statement prepared by Gleeson, the public works director.

“When I received the package on Tuesday, I observed the statement that was a conglomerate by several individuals that was signed off by them,” Stone said. “The statement we did receive in my opinion is garbage. As far as who said what, who authored this document? How do you have a group that signs off on a document that doesn’t allege who said what? Everything else is hearsay in the document itself.”

Under questioning from the council, Gleeson said he sat with the three men the day after the incident.

“I met with these individuals all together in the same room,” Gleeson said. “I transcribed as they were talking. Reread the statement multiple times for accuracy. Once everybody agreed their piece was accurate, they all signed the last page.”

Matteau agreed with Stone, stating that at the minimum there should have been three individual statements signed by each employee.

“I was shocked to see a joint synopsis,” Matteau said.

The letter, which was not read by the council on the advice of its attorney, included several statements by the employees accusing O’Hearne of saying they needed police lights while they worked and he was also critical of the striping, telling them where more paint was needed.

O’Hearne is alleged to have followed the workers from in front of Leo’s Market to across the Main Street Bridge to the Elm Street intersection.

“The whole crew reported that the councilor, while asking them questions and following them down the road, said he was telling the crew that he was calling people about them being out of line (by) striping with no traffic control,” the statement read.

The statement also states that Hussey spoke to Gleeson by phone that evening and said O’Hearne told him he was going to call a police commissioner, city manager and other councilors. He later is alleged to have said “he is not alone and had Councilor Stone on the phone.”

O’Hearne said at the hearing that statement was inaccurate. Stone also said he was never on the phone with O’Hearne.

The allegations against O’Hearne became public after Manale sent an email to the council on May 12, recapping the events of the previous evening that brought police, Gleeson and Manale to the scene where the public works employees were striping a section of Main Street in front of O’Hearne’s residence. The DPW workers claimed O’Hearne was harassing them and telling them how to do their job.

O’Hearne, according to Manale’s email, said he was merely suggesting how to best provide traffic safety. But the workers said he was instructing them in what to do and said he had a “big stick” and was not afraid “to stir the pot.”

Manale said he instructed O’Hearne to return home and said the councilor complied.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Police Chief Brent Wilmot said he asked Sgt. Cameron Blewitt to go to the scene and Blewitt reported he did not “observe any traffic issues” and returned to a previous call.

“Sgt. Blewitt determined there were no hazards and no need for a police detail and they had sufficient safety equipment,” Wilmot said at the hearing, adding that he “did not push any further.”

Blewitt’s statement to the council said he was asked to return to the location because of reports of “O’Hearne causing issues at the work site.” When he arrived, he observed O’Hearne, with whom he did not interact, walking away toward his home.

Toward the end of the hearing, O’Hearne presented a June 1 letter he received from the mayor outlining the process for the hearing and offering the option of resigning to avoid a potentially “embarrassing or detrimental” outcome.

The letter was written by the city’s attorney, Shawn Tanguay, and signed by Girard without the knowledge of the other councilors.

Manale said in his May 12 email he asked O’Hearne to apologize and state it will not happen again, which he did at the hearing.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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