LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee last evening unanimously endorsed the transfer of nearly $60,000 in funds to pay the county's unpaid 2014 legal bills, bringing to an end a long-standing battle over between the convention and commission.
The county rang up nearly $100,000 in legal bills last year, largely due to a dispute over budget authority between the Belknap County Convention and the former members of the commission, and has expended nearly all of the $40,000 which was appropriated last year for legal expenses.
The committee made the decision after hearing from newly-appointed Commissioner Hunter Taylor of Alton, who said ''the best thing to do is to put this behind us. We will just incur more legal fees if this goes on.''
Commissioners voted last week to request the transfers from the Executive Committee, which had earlier this year declined to take up the transfer requests from the previous commissioners, which at year's end had amounted to $31,852.54. That grew by nearly $30,000 in January with the receipt of three new bills.
Taylor, who had been designated by the commission due to his legal expertise to look at the bills to see if it was possible to reduce them, said that the lawyers who had submitted the bills had no way of knowing that the county had exceeded its appropriation for legal expenses.
"The culprit was the old commissioners,'' said Taylor, noting that the only remedy for exceeding appropriations was removal from office, which was impossible because none of the previous commissioners are now in office. "The last thing we need is more legal drama.''
The unpaid bills all related to disputes between the former Belknap County Commissioners and the Belknap County Convention and its Personnel Committee. There are two bills for $6,856.98 and $1,080 from the Donahue, Tucker and Ciandella law firm, which represented the commission in it's challenge to the convention's successful attempt to win a temporary injunction prohibiting transfers between budget line items of greater than $300 without approval of the convention's Executive Committee.
There are also two bills from the Upton and Hatfield law firm, which represented the Personnel Committee in its handling of Mathew Logue 's appeal of his firing as Superintendent of the Belknap County Home by commissioners in late August. Those bills are for $4,973.58 and $1,325,30.
There are three bills from the Drummond Woodsum law firm which represented the commission at a hearing on Logue's dismissal and on an appeal of the Executive Committee's reinstatement of Logue. Those bills are for $12,223,28 and $4,220.90 and $5,56.67.
One of the bills for $12,525 was from the David Horan law firm which represented the county convention in its lawsuit against the commission over budget authority.
There was also an unpaid bill from the Wescott Law firm for $1,172.50 relating to a personnel issue.
There was also a bill from the Anne Rice law firm for $10,429.75. Taylor said that she had represented a nursing home employee who had successfully appealed a firing and that case was unrelated to the battle between commissioners and the convention.
Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) spoke in favor of the transfers, saying that it would allow the county to ''put this behind us.''
Executive Committee Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) also supported the transfers, saying ''I don't mind being known as a cheapskate, but I don't want to be known as a thief.''
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