Letter: Barrington Town Manager should be held accountable

Posted 1/12/21

To the editor:

Barrington’s Town Manager, Jim Cunha, should be held accountable. 

Last week, this newspaper reported that our former tax assessor, Michael Minardi, while on his way …

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Letter: Barrington Town Manager should be held accountable

Posted

To the editor:

Barrington’s Town Manager, Jim Cunha, should be held accountable. 

Last week, this newspaper reported that our former tax assessor, Michael Minardi, while on his way out the door, had increased “individual property tax assessments” after the 2020 tax roll was certified. Mr. Cunha is solely responsible for Minard’s actions. He alone has the power to discipline and fire town hall employees. The town council has no authority over their job performance, just Mr. Cunha.

Mr. Cunha tries to avoid responsibility by claiming that Minardi did not tell anyone what he was up to. But Mr. Cunha knew Minardi had taken similar actions before this one. In fact, Mr. Cunha was the only other person at town hall who knew in advance that Minardi was taking liberties with the law in 2019 when he changed existing assessments on all 2018 homebuyers. Mr. Cunha knew and kept Minardi’s secret.

When homeowners began to figure out what Minardi had done, Mr. Cunha defended him and helped to cover it. Mr. Cunha refused to meet with concerned citizens. And even worse, he joined the effort when the town refused to release documents sought by citizens and by this newspaper who were trying to decipher Minard’s 2019 tax swindle.

As the truth came out, Mr. Cunha ignored the facts and took no action. Even after the town’s attorney publicly stated what Minardi had done would “likely” be judged unlawful in a court of law, Mr. Cunha took no corrective action. Mr. Cunha also ignored the Board of Assessment Review’s admonishments of Minardi when it overturned his 2019 unlawful assessments.

Besides the 2019 tax issue, Mr. Cunha also received circumstantial evidence from citizens suggesting 2019 was not the first year that Minardi had changed assessments for no lawful reason. At least one of those pre-2019 victims recently received an abatement by the Board of Assessment Review. Again, Mr. Cunha did nothing.

Now we know from last week’s report, after all this, Minardi continued to secretly play loose with the rules and standards without regard to fairness and equity—right up until the time he chose to leave with full benefits. We also know that, before this latest incident, Mr. Cunha has long been on notice of Minardi’s proclivity for misconduct and did nothing but provide cover and support for his colleague.

Mr. Cunha should be held accountable.

With Minardi gone, the problem might appear to be behind us. But the root of the problem remains. So long as Mr. Cunha remains in charge, this type of shenanigans can continue to go unaddressed, and a fair, transparent and lawful town hall may never be certain.

Charlie Payne

Barrington

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.