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Christopher Rice removed from City Council

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At the City Council Meeting on April 5, 2022, Mayor Paul Callaghan announced a special investigation into Councilor Christopher Rice, Ward 5/Seat A.

Callaghan stated that “the City has received allegations accusing Councilor Rice of violating city policies, which if true, would constitute misconduct in office. As such, I’m forming an investigative committee to investigate these allegations to determine if they are well-founded.”

The Mayor appointed Deputy Mayor Peter Lachapelle, Councilor Amy Malone, and Councilor Skip Gilman to the Investigative Committee.

In addition to forming the committee, the City of Rochester contracted Ann S. Chapman of Drummond Woodsum, an independent law firm from Manchester, NH, to perform the initial investigation and gather in-person testimony and evidence.

The Investigative Committee considered in-person testimony, the memorandum of Ann S. Chapman, City of Rochester Harassment and Discrimination Policy and Procedures, City of Rochester Ethics and Compliance Program Policy and Procedure Memorandum, as well as several pieces of evidence that are outlined in the final report.

The Investigative Committee met in public on Monday, May 2, at 2:30pm, in City Hall, to release their findings and put forth charges.

Charges

    • Count I-Harassment
      The Investigative Committee alleges that on or between November 13, 2021 and February 3, 2022, Christopher Rice did engage in Harassment of Ashley Desrochers in that Rice made repeated unwelcome comments toward Desrochers regarding Desrochers’ body and appearance.
    • Count II- False Statements to City Staff Regarding Matters Within Their Authority
      The Investigative Committee alleges that, on or about February 22, 2022, Christopher Rice did knowingly make false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations to Kathryn Ambrose in the conduct of her duties and responsibilities as Acting City Manager in that Rice told Ambrose that he did not create a press release showing the City of Rochester’s Seal which purported to come from Rice. In response to Rice’s statements and representations, Ambrose, acting within her official duties and responsibilities, initiated an investigation.
    • Count III- False Statements to City Staff Regarding Matters Within Their Authority
      The Investigative Committee alleges that, on or about February 22, 2022, Christopher Rice did knowingly make false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations to Kathryn Ambrose in the conduct of her duties and responsibilities as Acting City Manager in that Rice told Ambrose that a press release showing the City of Rochester’s Seal which purported to come from Rice had been the result of a third party impersonating him without his consent. In response to Rice’s statements and representations, Ambrose, acting within her official duties and responsibilities, initiated an investigation.
    • Count IV-Retaliation
      The Investigative Committee alleges that on or about March 4, 2022, Christopher Rice did engage in Retaliation against Paul Callaghan in that, in response to Callaghan informing Rice of an investigation initiated into Harassment allegations against Rice, Rice told Callaghan that he would make Callaghan’s “life a living hell for the next two years” or words to the effect.

The Investigative Committee further alleged that Rice’s behavior constitutes individual acts of misconduct in office (in accordance with Section 70 of the City Charter) and unanimously recommend to send the charges to the full City Council for trial.

Trial

On Thursday, May 12, City Council held the trial in Council Chambers. City Clerk, Kelly Walters, read the charges to Rice. After each charge was read, Rice was asked to plea ‘true’ or ‘not true’. Rice, who appeared with no legal representation, plead ‘not true’ on all 4 counts.

Immediately following the pleas, the Investigative Committee presented its case and answered questions from the rest of Council. Immediately following, Rice had the opportunity to present his defense and answer questions from Council.

The entire process lasted approximately 2hours and 23minutes. For transparency, the trial was open to the public, live-streamed on the city’s website, broadcast live on Comcast Channel 22 and Breezeline (formerly Atlantic Broadband) Channel 26, and available on-demand immediately following the broadcast.

Update 5/13/22: Click here to watch on-demand.

Results

    • Count I
      A majority of the City Council found the allegations to be TRUE. Voting NOT TRUE: Laura Hainey, Dana Berlin, Tim Fontneau,
    • Count II
      A majority of the City Council found the allegations to be TRUE. Voting NOT TRUE: Laura Hainey, Dana Berlin, Tim Fontneau, James Gray
    • Count III
      A majority of the City Council found the allegations to be TRUE. Voting NOT TRUE: Laura Hainey, Dana Berlin, Tim Fontneau, James Gray
    • Count IV
      A majority of the City Council found the allegations to be TRUE. Voting NOT TRUE: Laura Hainey, Dana Berlin

Deputy Mayor Pete Lachapelle made the motion to remove Rice from City Council. The motion was seconded by Councilor Amy Malone. The City Charter requires 9 votes for removal. Only Councilors Laura Hainey, Tim Fontneau, and Dana Berlin voted in favor of keeping Rice on the City Council.

Vacancy

Since the Ward 5 / Seat A is now vacant, the City of Rochester will be accepting applications for appointment. Any registered voter of Ward 5 interested in serving on the City Council will be required to submit a Statement of Interest form to the City Clerk’s Office. 

Forms are available in the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall, 31 Wakefield St. Forms are also available for download on the City’s website. For more information call (603) 332-2130.

All qualified candidates will be invited to attend an upcoming City Council Workshop in order to participate in an open interview directly with the City Council. That date is to be determined.

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