LACONIA — The strife that has bedeviled relations between the Belknap County Convention and Belknap County Commission was missing when the convention met this week to weigh the commission's request for a supplemental appropriation to fund rehabilitative services at the county nursing home.
However, before turning to the business at hand Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, read a formal statement denying charges that the leadership of the convention was reaching decisions behind closed doors made by County Administrator Debra Shackett when the commission met on May 15.
As reported in The Daily Sun, Shackett said that "the intent of the leadership is not to deliberate issues in public. They're going to come in with a motion already prepared."
Her remarks followed Worsman's decision to abruptly cancel a public hearing on the request for a supplemental appropriation scheduled earlier, claiming that the administration failed to provide the convention with sufficient information about the issue.
Shackett was echoed by John Thomas (R-Belmont) the chairman of the commission, who was reported to suggest the convention may be in violation of the Right-to-Know Law. Likewise, Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) was quoted to have said that the convention has followed "a process which is patently incompatible with open government."
Calling the charges "entirely false," Worsman insisted that that there have been no private meetings and no decisions have been reached beyond the public eye. She stressed that it was appropriate to request information for members of the convention prior to the public hearing, which they required to make an informed and responsible decision.
"The convention has been entirely open," Worsman declared.
Shackett, who was attending to a family member with a serious medical condition, was not at the meeting and Thomas told Worsman that he would not presume to speak on her behalf.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of pursuing its dispute between with the commission over their respective authority over the budget, the convention voted to designate Worsman the liaison with Attorney David Horan, who it earlier retrained as legal counsel. When Rep. Ian Raymond (D-Sanbornton) reminded Worsman that the commission, which is authorized to retain and pay legal counsel to represent the county, has already refused to pay two legal bills and asked how Horan would be paid, she simply replied that the commission is obliged to pay legal costs incurred by the county.