By Chris Paul
The Town Council voted 4-1 to support the Town Manager’s Restructuring Plan at their Monday night, Feb. 6, meeting after hearing the public speak for over an hour opposing the plan.
The major part of Mike Malaguti’s Restructuring Plan involved the removal of Laura Gandia, the town’s Associate Planner, whom many at the meeting said was a valued employee.
Gandia was removed from her position last month without any notice and was escorted out of the building. She was later served with a “No Trespassing Order,” according to statements she made at the meeting.
Over the last two council meetings, the chamber has been filled to capacity with residents, past employees, and colleagues all speaking on behalf of Gandia during the public comment segment of the meeting. Each of them was opposing the plan being presented by the Town Manager.
Monday’s meeting had dozens speaking, each being allowed three-minutes at the mic by Chairman, John Farrell.
All spoke in favor of retaining Gandia’s position and how this ordeal will make it difficult to attract new employees.
Former Londonderry police officer, resident Dan Bouchard, spoke on how disappointed he was on the way the Gandias were treated. “Why were they served with a No Trespass Order?” He also said, “I think there’s a lot more to this than a reorganization. You really have to look at this. This is not good for the town of Londonderry, not at all.”
Gandia’s husband, former Londonderry Police Captain, Chris Gandia, who served the town for over 25-years, brought to light a number of issues, including what he said was the plan for retaliation against his wife after she spoke out against unfair labor practices by the Town Manager. He also added that he and his wife are currently indefinitely banned from entering the Town Hall, Police Department, and Town Library. He also expressed his disappointment with the path Mike Malaguti has chosen to go down.
Planning Board member, Ann Chiampa, came to the meeting after spending the day in the Emergency Room and spoke emotionally about what an important asset Gandia is to the town. She said, “I hope you all vote not only with your head, but with your heart too because you’re talking about a wonderful employee of this town.”
Previous Town Planner, Colleen Mailloux, sent a letter to the council urging the council to retain Gandia’s position. She stated, “The Londonderry Town Council has prided itself on Londonderry’s “Leading the Way”. I encourage the Town Council to continue to lead the way, without eliminating any of the Staff positions that make the Planning Department team one that provides first class service and support to all its customers.” She cited many examples that made the Associate Planner position invaluable.
Laura Gandia was also allowed to speak on her own behalf. She stated that the council has the ability, through the Town Charter, to oppose the Restructuring Plan and urged them to do so. Saying the plan lacked the proper insight and knowledge of the running of the department. She also pointed out that her position represents only 0.0038 percent of the town budget. She added that the elimination of her position does not make the department more efficient or improve services.
Following the 80 minutes of public comments, the Town Council took less than 20-minutes to discuss whether or not to vote in favor of the Planning Department Restructuring Plan.
All, but Councilor Deb Paul voted in favor of the plan, each citing the Town Charter as the reason they can’t interfere with the Town Manager’s day-to-day operations.
Paul vehemently disagreed, saying that this isn’t the council micromanaging the Town Manager, it’s the overall plan that we are voting on. “To say it’s the Town Charter, why are we here voting on it? If he had the sole right to do what he wanted to do, this question would not be before us.”
Regardless of her plea to not support the change, the council voted 4-1 in favor of the plan.