Gulick Says County Budget Has Already Passed, Maintains Phone Vote Was Illegal

LACONIA — State Rep. Ruth Gulick maintains that the Belknap County Convention has already passed a county budget of $26,570,997, and says that she will be asking the New Hampshire Attorney General's office to rule that Rep. Guy Comtois' vote by telephone at last Tuesday night's meeting that resulted in a 7-7 tie vote on the motion to pass the budget should be disallowed.
Gulick, D-New Hampton, raised the issue at last night's meeting of the convention and cited a statement by Assistant NH House Clerk Paul C. Smith on absentee voting which said, ''No member can vote who is not present when the question is put.''
''Comtois' vote doesn't count. Mason's rules of order, which the chairman claims we are following, doesn't allow it. And it that's not the rules we're following, then the state Right to Know law says the minutes of the meeting must specify the location from which the vote is being taken, and they don't. At the very least we should have taken a vote on his ability to vote. Therefore, his vote is improper and the budget actually passed by a 7-6 vote,'' said Gulick.
Last week's vote came during a heavy snowstorm after a 30-minute wait for a quorum of 10 members to arrive. Rep. Colette Worsman, R-Meredith, convention chairman, had proposed recessing the meeting. But after the number present climbed to 13, members voted to proceed and Worsman allowed Rep. Guy Comtois, R-Barnstead, who was tending to a failing roof, to join in by telephone.
All five Democrats voted for the the motion by Rep. Beth Arsenault, D-Laconia, to approve the budget as submitted by the commissioners, which the county convention majority had already trimmed by $850,000, and were joined by Republicans Don Flanders and Bob Luther of Laconia.
The Six Republicans present at the meeting were joined by Comtois in voting against the motion to pass the budget.
At the conclusion of last night's meeting Gulick invited any representative with a view of opposite hers to give their input to the Attorney General's office.