Democratic Town Committee Chairman Michael Pohl says that Matthew Galligan, a Republican candidate for the Board of Education, would be a poor choice for voters based on his repeated absences when he served as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and due to the "partisan politics" he demonstrated during his tenure as the chairman of the GOP's own town committee.
Pohl said that Galligan missed 17 of 24 meetings when he served as an appointee to the town's Planning and Zoning Commission, and also noted his rigid support of controversial Republican school board member Merrill Kidd after she was accused of sending threatening Facebook messages to other members of the BOE and the community.
"The next few years will be one of the most critical times in the history of Manchester Public Schools and the last thing that Manchester needs is a partisan political operative on the Board of Education," Pohl said. "Galligan’s election to the Board of Education would be a total disaster for our children."
In a response, Galligan questioned the timing of Pohl's criticism, and also its accuracy, saying that Pohl had "taken the first steps in mudslinging in a race that has seen zero acrimony."
"It seems to me that Pohl's motivations and attacks stem from the wonderful reception I've been getting at doors across our community," Galligan said. "I've carried a message that puts our children's education first and foremost, while paying close attention to the economic decisions we make and how they impact our families."
Galligan said that he actually only served as an alternative member of the commission, which meant he never had any voting rights or responsibilities when the full commission was in attendance. Pohl said his primary responsibility as an alternate was to be called in as a "substitute" when sitting members were absent or recused themselves, which he said "happens very infrequently."
Galligan said he also was going through a job change at the time, which put added pressure on his schedule.
"Today, I’ve established myself in my career and am ready, willing, and most able to volunteer my service on the Board of Education," Galligan said.
Pohl called Galligan's response "totally unfounded."
"The bottom line is, alternate or not, they are supposed to be at the meetings so they are versed on what's going on with the commission," Pohl said.
As for the Kidd situation, Galligan said that he initially discussed the matter personally with Pohl and Kelly Luxenberg, the school board member who received the threats, and was prepared to stand by Kidd as a friend with assurances that the behavior would cease.
"While I initially supported Mrs. Kidd, a friend, after reassurances that any problems would cease, I immediately called for her resignation and made it crystal clear that neither myself, nor the Manchester GOP would stand for the same behavior, which continued," Galligan said.
Pohl called Galligan's support of Kidd a "failure of leadership."
"When something like that happens as a leader, you have got to step forward and lead," Pohl said. "He didn't do that."