Manchester aldermen censure board member Joe Kelly Levasseur
By BILL SMITH New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — An unbowed and unrepentant Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur was formally censured by his colleagues on the Board of Mayor and Alderman Tuesday night.
His colleagues voted 11-2 for a motion to censure that was made by Alderman Patrick Long. Aldermen Keith Hirschmann and Edward Osborne voted against it. Osborne tried to change his vote, but was told that it was too late.
After the meeting, Levasseur was dismissive of the vote.
"I feel it's all politics," he said.
The vote came after last week's report from Attorney General Joseph Foster that found no substantiation for allegations Levasseur made that he had been intimidated by the police department and that Steve Maloney, president of the patrol officers union, had "poked" Levasseur during a confrontation outside City Hall in January 2013.
Aldermen voted after hearing condemnation of Levasseur's conduct toward city police from the department's chief, assistant chief and the president of its largest union.
But the strongest criticism of Levasseur came from one of his colleagues,
Alderman William Shea, the dean of the council, who occupies the seat next to Levasseur at board meetings, tore into his colleague.
"Have some guts; kick him off the board," Shea said to his fellow aldermen. "That's where he should go, off the board,"
Shea was informed by City Solicitor Thomas Clark that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen does not have the power to remove a sitting alderman from office.
"He doesn't deserve to be an alderman at large, and anyone who thinks he should be an alderman at large is simply wasting their time," Shea said. "I can go back in history and see the same treatment that is being done to the chief of police and to the assistant chief of police was done to me by Joe Levasseur, so Joe Levasseur isn't going to stop."
Levasseur did not speak in his defense during the discussion. Only Hirschmann spoke against the censure, saying that without more than one person being involved, there would have been no altercation outside City Hall. He told his colleagues they were being asked to condemn the actions of only one of the participants.
Maloney spoke during a public participation period and directed some of his remarks to Levasseur.
"Alderman Levasseur, step down now," Maloney said. "Go back to being a private citizen."
A crowd of police officers attended the meeting to show their support for their union chief. After the public session, at which Maloney spoke, Levasseur walked past several of the police officers and said, "I'm not afraid of you," and went inside the aldermen's private anteroom.
Police Chief David Mara had submitted Foster's report to the board for discussion. Aldermen moved the issue, which had been listed 37th on the agenda, to the start of the meeting.
Mara spoke of the impact on the department of Levasseur's claims of intimidation. Assistant Police Chief Nick Willard spoke of his feelings as a police officer who had been subject to Levasseur's criticism.
"I have been accused of wrong-doing by a sitting alderman, Alderman Joseph Levasseur has accused me of intimidating him," Willard said. "I assert without hesitation here tonight, that claim of intimidation and thereby abuse of my power and my position is a blatant lie and is most likely borne of the animus he has toward the Manchester Police Department.
After the vote, Mara said in an interview that it was an important vote by the aldermen.
"City government, the Board of Aldermen, took a stand that they're not going to tolerate untrue allegations and lies to be perpetrated against the men and women of our police department," Mara said. "They're going to continue to do their jobs, continue to go out there every single night and do their jobs and keep the people of the city safe."
Mayor Ted Gatsas, whose political career also has included stints as an alderman, state senator and Republican leader in the state Senate, said that he had never seen someone with whom he served censured by colleagues.
"I think this incident is behind us. I hope it is, I hope we can move forward and solve the problems of the city," Gatsas said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a done issue."
Levasseur said the vote wouldn't change the way he approaches his work as an alderman.
Despite being censured for making claims of physical intimidation by Maloney — claims that were rejected by the attorney general — Levasseur is not backing down from the accusation.
Outside City Hall after the meeting, Levasseur said to a Union Leader reporter, "I owe my life" to Matthew Normand, the city clerk, and a security guard who intervened in the altercation outside City Hall.
"If they hadn't, I would have a lot less teeth than I have now," he said.