Since I posted the revelation about Speaker Norelli's firing of our beloved receptionist yesterday, response has been tremendous. The Concord Monitor picked up on the story; many Representatives have responded saying that they agree with me.
I suggest that anyone who agrees and wants to make it known go directly to the Speaker and her new chief of staff. Here email address is email@example.com.
The computer room informs me that the new chief of staff also has his own email address now. It's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh by the way, since I posted that piece, I thought that while the Speaker certainly should have her (or his) own chief of staff and people who staff partisan Democratic offices, the receptionist should not be partisan since that person works with all of us, not just the Speaker or one party.
I have also learned that there are two categories of people who can be removed. People who work for the House can be fired at the Speaker's will. That would include committee clerks and most of the staff on the fourth floor of the legislative office building. Another group of people (security, computer room, legislative drafting for example) are employed by the House and Senate together. Thus, they are safe from Speaker Norelli's wrath or Mahoney's attempt to foist his "it's time for a change" strategy upon hard working and long serving employees.
House Clerk Karen Wadsworth and Sergeant At Arms Walter Sword could only be removed by a vote of the House, and of course, the Secretary of State and Treasurer could only be removed by a vote of the House and Senate acting together.
UPDATE--I've just learned that it was not an original Monitor sotry, but from the Portsmouth Herald. Here it is.
N.H. House speaker Norelli blasted for firing receptionist
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PORTSMOUTH — A day after getting elected House speaker, state Rep. Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, began to take criticism from lawmakers from across the aisle for a decision to shake up staff at the Statehouse.
Leading the charge was state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, who, in an e-mail to media outlets across the state, blasted the newly elected speaker for her decision to fire longtime House receptionist Betty Lichty.
Her firing comes less than three weeks before Christmas and took effect immediately. Norelli officially became speaker on Wednesday. A woman who answered the phone at a number for Lichty at the Statehouse on Thursday said she no longer works there.
In his e-mail, Vaillancourt includes a letter he sent to Norelli asking her to reconsider her decision to fire Lichty. He copied the e-mail to her chief of staff, Ryan Mahoney, and all representatives.
"While I am aware that you are entitled to surround yourself with whatever staff you choose, I believe, as one of your first decisions, this sends the worst possible message you could possibly send," Vaillancourt wrote. "I had always understood that the receptionist position was non-partisan and did not change with administrations."
Vaillancourt further defended Lichty, calling her "extremely competent," but also someone who was loved by all who came into contact with her.
In addition, Vaillancourt referenced an encounter he had with Mahoney about the issue. "His only explanation was, 'It was time for a change.'," Vaillancourt wrote.
Vaillancourt provided his response to Mahoney: "My response was, and I quote, 'If this is the way you treat people, god save us for the next two years.'"
When reached for comment Thursday, Mahoney said it's not uncommon for new House leadership to shake up staff roles. Norelli, he said, was out of the state and was not able to be reached for comment.
Mahoney said Norelli hired Lichty for the position when she first became House speaker in 2006. She stayed in her role as receptionist when Republican Bill O'Brien took over as House speaker.
Mahoney said the decision to let go Lichty was simply a decision to bring new staff into the mix.
"We thank Betty for her service to the state and for her service to the state Legislature," he said. "As is with any new leadership group, we're going to make our own staffing decisions. We wish her well."
Rep. Pam Tucker, R-Greenland, told the NH Journal, an online news publication, that Lichty was an asset to the state.
"Betty added a personal touch to the reception area to everyone who entered," Tucker said. "She was a non-partisan, dedicated employee with a wealth of institutional knowledge and was well liked and respected by many of us in the House. Her firing is a shock to us and we are saddened at the loss."
Vaillancourt said he believes Norelli brought in another party staffer looking to get on the payroll.
"Change for no good reason can hardly be deemed a good thing, especially when people's lives are involved," he stated.
He said Norelli's firing of Lichty flies in the face of her promise to bring lawmakers together. In the first remarks of her third term as House speaker, Norelli said she wanted to "end the harshness that has been in the air, that has plagued us in recent years."
"Betty was the first voice we heard when we contacted the Speaker's office and the first face we saw," Vaillancourt wrote. "I hear she is devastated by your decision to let her go. She deserves better, but more importantly, we as Representatives deserve better and the people of New Hampshire deserve better."