Alderman says he's recovering from colon surgery

NASHUA – Alderman Richard LaRose spent much of Wednesday morning resting in his room at Greenbriar Terrace.

“It was such a long meeting,” he said. “I’m here in bed, sort of resting.”

In a dramatic and unexpected turn of events, LaRose, whose severe illness was known among the board, was allowed to take part in Tuesday night’s meeting by telephone. His vote on the $37.6 million bond to fund the Broad Street Parkway proved critical, giving the board the required 10 votes to give the project the green light.

As the meeting started, board President Steve Bolton announced that LaRose would take part in the meeting by listening and talking over a speakerphone.

Bolton explained that a provision in the state’s Right-to-Know Law that went into effect July 1 allows for members of public bodies to take part in meetings over the telephone.It was stated at the meeting that LaRose was seriously ill and was not physically able to attend the meeting.

On Wednesday, the 68-year-old LaRose elaborated on the extent of his illness, saying that he is recovering from emergency surgery, after doctors three weeks ago discovered a disease in his colon that required immediate surgery.

LaRose said there was a possibility he would not survive the procedure.

“Apparently it was a 5-0/50 proposition,” he said.

But LaRose made it through and said he has spent the past few weeks recovering. He said it has been about six weeks since he has been able to attend a meeting.

“Quite frankly, I was really down in the dumps,” he said. “But because of the support of my wife, family and friends, you want to fight on.”

LaRose, who represents Ward 2, said he has a history of health issues. He had a heart transplant in 1993, and was doing fine until last August when doctors discovered a vascular infection.

After receiving treatment for that, doctors later discovered an infection in his knee. All of the treatment resulted in a deterioration in his immune system. It was three weeks ago when doctors at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center discovered a problem in his colon.

He was transported to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where doctors performed emergency surgery.

The change to state law allows a board member for whom “attendance is not reasonably practical” to take part “by electronic or other means of communication.”

The move to have LaRose take part, which was key to getting the project passed, came as a surprise to many in the aldermanic chambers, including several aldermen.

Although no one questioned the severity of LaRose’s illness, there were questions raised about the timing and whether there should have been a conversation about allowing it prior to the decision being made.

LaRose said he took no offense to those questions being posed.

“It was good to get it out there,” he said. “I thank my fellow aldermen for allowing me to do this. I’m sure that if it happened to anyone else in the future we would accommodate them.”

LaRose said that it was Mayor Donnalee Lozeau who informed of the change to state law.

“When the mayor approached me about it, I didn’t hesitate,” LaRose said Wednesday.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Lozeau, a supporter of the project, said she told LaRose about the change to the law during a call to his room to see how he was feeling.

“I called him in the normal course of talking with him to find out how he was,” she said Tuesday. “For those of us that know Alderman LaRose, we knew he would be very distressed to not be able to participate.”

LaRose said he is getting stronger by the day and that he expects to be able to return home in a week to 10 days.

“I should be able to home and hopefully start attending some of the meetings again,” he said.