Lawmaker & sheriff trade verbal blows after meeting of Belknap Convention

LACONIA — Civility has hardly been a hallmark of the proceedings of the Belknap County Convention and this week's meeting, featuring two sharp exchanges, was no exception.

Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), not one to shrink from confrontation, figured in both encounters. After the meeting adjourned Burchell berated Glen Waring, the county finance director, for reminding Rep. Colette Worsman, who chairs the convention, that after indicating she intended to open floor to the public she adjourned the meeting without doing so.

Later that night Burchell upbraided Sheriff Craig Wiggin for calling Worsman's attention to a telephone call from Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), who was under the impression the meeting had been postponed because of the weather.

In an e-mail sent at 10:33 p.m., Burchell told Wiggin that his "interruption at the conclusion of tonight's county meeting was inappropriate. County personnel," he continued, "are at the meeting to facilitate the meeting for the convention" and "should not interrupt the proceedings other than when recognized by the chair." He went on to say that "it gives the appearance of bias when a county officer such as yourself tries to intervene in a political circumstance."

"May I remind you," Wiggin shot back at 11:20 p.m.," I am not just another of those 'county personnel as you call them; I am also an elected official." He explained that he was "merely relaying a message from one of your colleagues" and retorted "I need no lectures from you Sir, especially given the fact that these painful meetings apparently have no established rules of order."

Less than 15 minutes later Burchell replied that "my statement was intended to be factual and I believe that it was." Far from operating without rules, he claimed that the convention followed "Concord rules," which in turn are based on Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure. "Apparently, and based on your prior comments," he told Wiggin, "you are of the opinion that running (for office) as both a Democrat and Republican elevates your status; it does not." In closing he reminded Wiggin to "confine you comments at meetings of the convention to pertinent facts when recognized by the chair."

Burchell and Wiggin both forwarded the chain of e-mails to The Daily Sun.