Published DateLACONIA — When the Belknap County Convention convenes on Tuesday, March 19 to elect its officers in an apparent effort to resolve a challenge to the election held in December, a Democrat, Representative David Huot of Laconia, will be nominated for the chairmanship.
Huot said that his candidacy will serve "as good evidence that we have a genuine and open election." He is a retired district judge serving his second term in the Legislature. Democrats hold five and Republicans 13 of the 18 seats on the convention.
Laconia residents Tom Tardif and Dave Gammon charged that the election of Representatives Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) as chairman and Bob Greemore (R-Meredith) as vice- chairman by secret paper ballot violated the Right-the-Know law. They insist that there is no basis in New Hampshire law for conducting any secret ballot vote during a meeting of a public board and that, in fact, RSA 91-A, specially prohibits such a practice.
Convention members claimed they were following the advice of the clerk of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, who cited a decades old Supreme Court advisory opinion that allowed the House to elect its speaker by secret ballot.
On December 10, Worsman defeated fellow Republican Frank Tilton of Laconia by a vote of 9-7, but how the individual members of the convention voted was not disclosed. Tilton has since been a staunch supporter of Worsman's leadership.
On February 19, the convention voted 11 to 2 with four abstentions and one member absent to "reaffirm" the election of officers on December 10, 2012. Apparently this action was taken on the advice of County Attorney Melissa Gulbrandsen, who after consulting with Worsman after the suit was filed on February 8, drafted the motion to reaffirm the vote.
Subsequently, the convention, over the objections of the Belknap County Commission, authorized Worsman to retain Laura-Spector Morgan of the Mitchell Municipal Group to represent the convention in the suit. Earlier this week, when Worsman scheduled the meeting of the convention to hold a fresh election, she acknowledged that she did so on the advice of counsel, but declined to name the attorney.
Meanwhile, Matt Huot, Representative Huot's son who chairs the Belknap County Democratic Committee, has called on Worsman to disclose the rules of procedure under which the convention conducts its business. He said that "these meetings are not governed by any clear set of rules," charged that Worsman "is simply making things up on the fly," and described the meetings as "unstructured and unproductive."
In fact, at one meeting County Commissioner Ed Philpot pointedly asked Worsman what rules the convention was following and was told it had not adopted rules.