Rochester, NH, City Council Votes to Remove Member
The Rochester City Council "fired" a member Thursday night following allegations of sexual harassment.
The allegations against Christopher Rice, who held Ward 5 Seat A, were brought to the city's attention in March, and a special investigative committee was announced at the council meeting on April 5. It was the first time such a hearing had been held by the city council.
Rice was charged by the council with harassment, and two counts of false statements to city staff regarding matters within their authority and retaliation. He pled "not true" to each during Thursday night's trial.
Among the allegations:
- Rice made "repeated unwelcome comments" about the body and appearance of fellow councilor Ashley Desrochers several times between Nov. 13, 2022, and Feb 3, 2022.
- Made "false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations" to create a press release, knowingly make false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations to Kathryn Ambrose in the conduct of her duties and responsibilities as Acting City Manager, and claimed the release was sent by someone impersonating him.
- After being told by Mayor Paul Callaghan about the investigation, Rice promised to make his life "a living hell for the next two years”, or words to that effect.
Rice was not pleased with the process and "strongly objected" to two of his accusers being able to vote on his future with the council.
Member Paula Hainey defended Rice, saying he had always been responsive to her and his constituents and that she did not want to see him voted off the council.
"He represents his constituents very, very well. His constituents said that when he gets called, he jumps right on an issue. He is very passionate about that. He answers their questions, he takes action, he always gets back to them," Hainey said.
Hainey, Dana Berlin, and Tim Fontneau voted against Rice's removal from office.
After the 9-3 vote, he was told to turn in his city equipment.
After the vote, Callaghan said that City Council is no place for harassment, dishonesty, and retaliation.
“The voters elected us with the expectation that we serve with decency and integrity,” Callaghan said. “Rice’s behavior is exactly what’s wrong with politics today. Locally, regionally, and nationally.”