Claremont City Council sets removal hearing date for one of its own, again

  • 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 file photograph — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/25/2023 8:00:19 PM
Modified: 5/25/2023 8:00:03 PM

CLAREMONT — A month after the City Council reversed course and reinstated a city councilor who was removed from office for alleged city charter violations, another councilor will face of removal hearing over alleged interference with municipal employees.

The council voted, 8-1, on Wednesday to hold the hearing for Councilor Andrew O’Hearne, who is accused of breaking council rules by interfering with the work of Department of Public Works employees on the evening of May 11.

Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau made the motion to hold the hearing based on an email the council received from City Manager Yoshi Manale the day after the incident.

The dispute involved striping on Main Street in front of O’Hearne’s residence around 8 p.m.

In his, email Manale wrote that he was contacted by Public Works Director Alex Gleeson, who said a public works crew “informed him that Councilor O’Hearne was harassing them.”

“They were upset, as they were trying to do their jobs as expeditiously as possible to lessen the impact on the traffic on Main Street,” the email states.

Manale said when he arrived at the work site, he found O’Hearne inside the cordoned-off area where the men worked.

O’Hearne explained he was offering suggestions on how to best provide traffic safety for the workers, according to the email from Manale, who said he instructed O’Hearne to leave the area.

“After speaking with the DPW men, they said they felt the councilor was instructing them what to do, despite them telling him they were certified flaggers,” Manale wrote. “He also informed them that a police commissioner was on his way to review the areas, that he had a ‘big stick’ and that he did not mind ‘stirring the pot.’ ”

According to the email, O’Hearne, a retired Claremont police officer, first called Manale seeking a police presence for better traffic coordination and safety, and the city manager then in turn asked police dispatch to send an officer.

O’Hearne told Manale he would videotape the work and bring it up at the next council meeting.

“I assumed at this point that the councilor’s concerns were satisfied,” Manale wrote.

But it was about 10 minutes later he received the call from Gleeson about O’Hearne harassing the workers.

Manale concluded his email by stating that O’Hearne’s actions “were not appropriate” and that he was going to ask him to apologize to the workers.

O’Hearne voted in support of the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, June 21, but did not speak during the discussion. Councilor William Limoges was the lone vote against a hearing.

The council also debated, and then rejected, a motion to create a panel of councilors as it did when it investigated alleged wrongdoing by Councilor James Contois.

Matteau said the point of the three-member ad hoc committee of councilors that met several times last fall to look into Contois’ conduct was to save the full council time in collecting details on the incidents, but that is not what happened.

“The ad hoc committee’s work was just duplicated with the full council,” Matteau said. “We didn’t save any time.”

Councilor Jon Stone, one of the councilors who voted to remove Contois and voted against reinstatement, said an ad hoc committee was the right course.

“The ad hoc committee served its purpose on fact-finding, to some extent,” Stone said. “A full council hearing negates due process that we afforded another councilor, and that is why I would support an ad hoc committee.”

Contois was alleged to have asked the chief of police to lift a no-trespass order issued by a local car dealership owner against him and was also accused of “dereliction of duty” by not accurately informing the full council of actions taken by the Historic District Commission, of which he was a member.

In early February, votes to remove him on both claims failed, but a week later Matteau changed her vote for one allegation, and Contois was ousted, 5-3, for dereliction of duty. Contois appealed the decision in Superior Court. Based on the advice of its attorney, the council voted to reinstate Contois in late April in a 5-3 vote, with Matteau and Limoges reversing their previous positions.

In 2008, the council removed Richard Dietz because he issued direct instructions to the Department of Public Works, which is the same charter violation O’Hearne is accused of committee.

Matteau’s motion identifies Article 3, section 28, which requires a hearing when considering removal of a councilor, and section 29, the non-interference clause from giving orders to employees. A violation and subsequent “conviction” after a hearing is grounds for removal from office, the charter states.

“We need to do our due diligence as a council because this has been made public,” Matteau said. “It is only fair that we look at the facts with an objective eye to go through this process to be fair to the public.”

While the issue was added to the agenda when the meeting began, Mayor Dale Girard said he received calls about it on the night of May 11 and began consulting with the city’s attorney almost immediately.

After the votes, the council discussed who it wanted to testify at the hearing. In addition to the city manager, it will invite Police Commissioner Bernard Dube, Police Chief Brent Wilmot, Gleeson and possibly the three public works employees who were involved. Wilmot said he would provide the council with any dispatch recordings or police reports on the incident.

Stone asked for a different attorney, but the council agreed the mayor can contact other attorneys if the city’s attorney, Sean Tanguay, believes he may have a conflict because he already discussed the incident with councilors.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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