Gilmanton chief unhappy about retirement news leak

GILMANTON — Town Administrator Arthur Capello has called the N.H. Attorney General's Office and asked for an outside investigation into whether or not one or more of the selectmen leaked information about the impending retirement of the Police Chief Joe Collins.

State law (RSA 42:1-a) states that a town officer can be dismissed from his or her position for divulging any information he or she learned by virtue of their official position if the public body voted by a 2/3 majority to withhold the information from the public according to the Right-to-Know law. The legal mechanism is through a petition filed with the individual county's superior court — in this case the Belknap County Superior Court.

Capello confirmed yesterday he left a message for AG Investigator Richard Tracy but has yet to hear back from him.

According to minutes of the June 30 Selectboard meeting and an audio recording of another meeting held last Tuesday, the news of Collins' retirement was breached sometime after the close of the non-public session on June 16, when he officially informed the board he was leaving at the end of the year. The minutes were sealed and records show only the three selectmen — Chair Don Guarino, Michael Jean and Stephen McCormack — Capello, Administrative Assistant Stephanie Fogg and Collins were present.

The first public mention of the leak came on June 30 during public comment when Planning Board Chair Wayne Ogni, who was attending the meeting, said he had heard Collins was retiring and wanted to know if the board was hiring from within the department or seeking someone from the outside.

"This is incredible that you are even talking about it," said Guarino, as recorded in the minutes, to which Ogni replied that he had heard it from "a couple different selectmen..."

According to minutes, later in the evening and before the board went into a non-public session with Collins and Sgt. Matt Currier — who was named as the next chief — Guarino questioned whether or not Jean should participate in it, saying he had heard there may be an issue that would bias him.

There was some public discussion, including from Collins, who said confidentiality was violated by a selectman or selectmen and he indicated that the leaker called Fire Chief Joe Hempel, who could not be reached yesterday for comment.

At the end of the June 30 meeting, Guarino said he wanted to learn who leaked the information about Collins's retirement and the matter was tabled to July 7.

According to a tape recording of the July 7 meeting, McCormack admitted he may "have screwed up" and said something to Ogni and Brett Currier. He said he didn't think he violated the Right-to-Know law but if the other two selectmen thought he should step down, he would.

Former Selectman Brett Currier said from the audience he was angry because McCormack and his wife came to his camp (in the northern part of the state) and visited with him and his wife. He said McCormack asked him if his son (Matt Currier) was interested in the job and if he would be applying.

Currier told the full board he tried to get away from the conversation, which was verified by McCormack, because the discussion was upsetting to him and his wife and shouldn't have been happening anywhere, much less in his private home.

McCormack stayed on the board and yesterday declined further comment.

Jean said yesterday that he didn't call anybody. He said he is a call member of the Fire Department and sees Hempel at training but never discussed the non-public session with him or anyone else.

"I think they're picking on me because I'm the new guy," he said.

Jean added that the entire episode was "being blown out of proportion."

"I think it's just another Peyton Place," he said.

Belmont's Penstock Park torn up by vandals

BELMONT — Police said vandals tore up many of the flowers at Penstock Park early yesterday morning and threw the bench donated by the Belmont Rotary Club in 2007 into the Tioga River.
Penstock Park is on Main Street, near St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

Town employees noticed the damage at 7:30 a.m. yesterday and reported it to police. A resident reported seeing three people who were possibly minors tearing up the flowers at 1 a.m. A dollar value of the damage has not been determined.

Lt. Rich Mann said crews from the Belmont Dept. of Public Works waded into the river and retrieved the bench, which appeared to be undamaged. Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said Allan Daisy of the town's building and grounds crew replanted every flower — most of which are perennials.

Mann said officers are following up by checking with additional neighbors and reviewing video surveillance cameras of local businesses.

Mann also wanted residents to remember the town has a curfew for minors that prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from being on public streets from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m. unless accompanied by an adult.

If anyone has any information please call the Belmont Police at 267-8350.

CUTLINE:(belmontParkDestruction) The flowers in Penstock Park have been replanted by the Belmont Public Works Department after vandals ripped us many of them yesterday in the early morning. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Neighbors secure temporary restraining order against owners of 'Pecker'

LACONIA — The neighbors of a Lakeport couple who have been keeping a pet rooster in their home as a pet have obtained a temporary restraining order against the fowl's owners, which bars them from contacting them or communicating with them.
The order was granted by Judge James D. O'Neill III in Belknap County Superior Court Tuesday and remains in effect until a hearing on the complaint seeking the restraining order is held within 10 days of the order being issued.
The complaint filed by Dan and Amanda Ouelllette of 46 North Street, maintains that the owners of the rooster, Jeffrey and Bridgette Leroux of 58 North Street, made threatening remarks to them at a June 15 meeting of the Laconia Zoning Board of Adjustment, at which the Lerouxs were denied a request for a rehearing on their request for a zoning variance which would have allowed them to keep the rooster, named ''Pecker'', as a pet.
According to the complaint, Jeffrey Leroux threatened property damage for allegedly saying to the Ouellettes, ''I guess that's the end of your garden this year,'' and Bridgette Leroux made a threat to harm the Ouellettes before she abruptly left the meeting room which was on the first floor of the Belknap Mill.
The complaint says that the Ouellettes have talked with Laconia Police about the threats made at the ZBA meeting and an incident two nights later in which they called 911 to report that the Lerouxs were being disruptive.
''As a result of all this we are not quite sure of what to expect from our neighbors,'' the complaint reads, saying that ''there exists some anxiety from all of these events.''
The complaint cites an article which appeared in the June 17 edition of The Daily Sun, which Dan Ouellette said ''offers a pretty good portrayal of the event.''
The story reported, ''the board voted 4-1 to deny the Lerouxs' request for a rehearing, prompting an angry reaction from Bridgette Leroux, who turned on the neighbors who had made the complaint about their rooster, Dan Ouellette and his wife, Amanda. who were seated behind them at the Belknap Mill.
''Want to step outside?'' she said to the Ouellettes, standing up and pointing her finger at them. She then said ''Grow up. We wouldn't be here today if it weren't for you,'' and uttered a profanity as she started to leave the room.
Steve Bogert, chairman of board, said that unless the disruption ended he would have to have Leroux removed from the hearing room.
Bogert then advised Jeffrey Leroux that if he planned to go the next level and appeal that he should do so in a timely manner as there was a time limit in which an appeal could be filed with Belknap County Superior Court.
Jeffrey Leroux said after the meeting that he planned to appeal the denial to Belknap County Superior Court.
Leroux bought the rooster at Sandwich Fair last year as a pet for his wife. In December, the Planning Department told the Lerouxs that the zoning ordinance prohibited the keeping of poultry in a residential district and advised them that they would either have to give up the rooster or apply for a variance.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders has said that the zoning ordinance defines "agriculture" as "the production, keeping or maintenance for sale, lease or personal use, of plants and animals," including poultry, and forbids agricultural uses of property in residential districts like North Street.
On May 18 the ZBA denied the Lerouxs' request for a variance by a 4-1 vote.