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Prosecutor drops 'with death resulting' charge against alleged dealer

LACONIA — The Belknap County Attorney's Office will not prosecute a Manchester man for allegedly supplying the heroin that killed a 22-year-old woman when she overdosed in late March of 2011. Jury selection for his trial was scheduled to begin yesterday.

Alfredo Gonzales, 46, of Center Street was charged with one special felony count of sales of heroin with death resulting for allegedly providing the heroin to Karen Mikkelson, who sold it to Ashley Denty, who died of an overdose in 2011. He still faces a separate count of sales of heroin but the potential sentence for sales is less than that for sales "with death resulting". A jury was selected yesterday to hear that case and opening arguments are scheduled for September 16.

Mikkelson, Steven Marando, and Amanda Kelly, all formerly of Laconia, pleaded guilty in their roles in Denty's death and are either serving or have served sentences in the Belknap County House of Corrections or the N.H. State Prison.

As of Friday, Mikkelson and Marando were listed as people who are scheduled to testify against Gonzales for the state.

In a motion filed last week by Gonzales's attorney Mark Sisti and argued last Friday, Sisti asked the court to dismiss both charges against his client because he recently learned the Laconia Police were investigating a different person who claimed on Facebook that he was the one who actually administered the heroin to Denty.

Sisti said the information from the new investigation could exonerate his client but was withheld from him until August 29. He said the investigation by Laconia Police began in March and the County Attorney's Office was aware of it in July but chose to tell him about it less than one week before jury selection.

After listening to both sides, Judge James O'Neill ordered on Friday that jury selection would continue as planned. He agreed to give Asst. County Atty. Carley Ahern until yesterday to answer Sisti's motions.

O'Neill heard additional arguments yesterday but has not ruled on the final motion to dismiss the sales of heroin charge.

Gonzales has one Texas conviction for selling drugs. Earlier this year, a jury found him not guilty of selling drugs in an unrelated case to a Laconia Police confidential informant. That trial lasted three days and the jury rendered their not guilty verdict in less than an hour.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 03:11

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City manager reports positive economic signs

LACONIA — There are indications of positive economic signs evident in Laconia, City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council last night.
Building activity, motor vehicle sales and property tax collection are all encouraging trends that Myers reported.
Myers said that from April 1 to Aug. 31 the city issued building permits for construction that, all told, is expected to add $12.5 million to the city's property tax base, compared to $6.2 million in new building value over the same peiord last year and $7.5 million in 2011. The manager said that a majority of the $12.5 million was associated with two projects: $6 million for the Walmart expansion on the Laconia/Gilford line and $1 million for a new auto parts store being built at Court and Fair streets.
He also reported a noticeable up-tick in motor vehicle sales. "(Local) auto dealers are seeing the best sales in several years," he said. Both private individuals and businesses modernizing their fleets were contributing to the higher volume of sales, he added.

Laconia's current budget projects the city will take in just over $2 million from motor vehicle registrations. Vehicles that have been registered since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1 have resulted in $374,482 in revenue. An increase in the number of new vehicles registered means more revenue because the registration fee is based on a vehicle's model year and its original factory list price.
Myers also reported that property tax collections are running at 95.38 percent for the 2013 first-half collection, which he called the highest collection level in recent years.
In other business, Myers reported that the public's response to the city's new mandatory recycling program continues to be generally good, but more progress is needed. He told the council that the amount of recyclables that are being picked up curbside every other week now amounts to about 23 percent of the total trash haul for a two week period. He hoped that the level of participation would increase in the coming weeks.
The council approved funds for improvements to municipal facilities. It unanimously approved an $850,000 bond issue to fund replacing the surface of the Smith Track at Opechee Park and for construction at the Weirs Community Park. The work on the Weirs park is expected to cost $550,000, while the Smith Track project has a price tag of $300,000. The council also approved spending up to $80,000 to re-shingle the roofs on City Hall and the Leavitt Park and Tardif Park clubhouses, as well as to remove lead paint and repaint the Leavitt Park Clubhouse. The council rejected a suggestion that metal roofs be installed on the three buildings because that would have added more than $42,000 to the cost.
NOTES: The council unanimously approved making the intersection of Washington and School streets in Lakeport a 4-way stop. Washington Street resident Greg Elliott, in pressing for the change, said making traffic approaching from all directions stop before entering the intersection was necessary in view of the number of children living in the neighborhood as well as those using the playing fields at nearby Leavitt Park. "We're just looking to save a life," said Elliott. . . . . . City Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) asked if there were steps the city could take to encourage owners of deteriorating buildings to take advantage of a tax incentive program which allows the city to abate a portion of their property tax in return for building improvements. Myers said the program applies to buildings in downtowns and village centers and that the improvements need to contribute the public good. Myers said he would look at the program in greater detail and report back to the council. . . . . . Myers reported that he had named Ken Malone to the board of the Laconia Housing Authority. Malone, a certified public accountant, will fill the 13 months remaining in the term of Ruth Stuart, who recently resigned. . . . . . Mayor Mike Seymour paid tribute to Bob Kingsbury who died Saturday. Seymour noted Kingsbury's military service which included combat duty during World War II in Europe, as well as serving a term as one of Laconia's representatives in state House of Representatives. Seymour extended condolences to Kingsbury's children and grandchildren. . . . . . The council approved transferring a lease for a hangar at the Laconia Airport from American Aviation Corp. to James and Eugene LaBrie.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 03:03

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2 planning board members survive removal attempt

MOULTONBOROUGH — Following a public hearing before an overflow crowd of nearly 100 people at Town Hall Yesterday, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously not to remove Josh Bartlett from the Planning Board and without dissent agreed to abandon similar proceedings against his colleague Judy Ryerson.

"I'm incredibly gratified by the public support I've received," said Bartlett, "including from people I've had some pretty serious disagreements with."

Ryerson, who had prepared a lengthy statement in her defense, said "I'm very pleased with the result, but I wanted to have my say."

The hearings, at which the Town Administrator Carter Terenzini and the selectmen were frequently the target of catcalls and heckling, marked a lull, if not the end, of a controversy that has roiled the town for the past six weeks. Ever since Terenzini and Town Counsel Peter Minkow offered Bartlett and Ryerson an opportunity to resign or face proceedings to remove them for "inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office."

The charges stem primarily from the conduct of the two on July 10, when the Planning Board approved construction of an observation tower by Bob and Cathy Williams, doing business as Bear's Nest Trail, LLC, on Red Hill, which was built without the requisite permits. To approve the project, the board was required to find that it satisfied 11 criteria. The minutes record that the seven members of the board were "polled" on the 11 criteria. Two of the 11 failed when the board split evenly — three-to-three — with Bartlett abstaining and Ryerson voting no. However, neither believed it was the best interest of the town to require the structure be dismantled. Ryerson changed her "no" to "yes," breaking the stalemate in the "poll," and Bartlett offered a motion to grant the CUP, which carried five-to-two.

For weeks the selectmen refused to reveal the source of the complaints against the pair, once claiming there was a "petition," sometimes claiming it was one person and other times several, but always declining to identify anyone by name.

On the eve of the hearings it was disclosed, as result of a Right-to-Know request filed by Bartlett's attorney, that the original complaint was made by Terenzini. On July 16, he sent a memorandum to the Selectboard, which was copied to Peter Minkow, headed by statement that "this is a privileged and confidential communication protected by attorney client privilege. It is not subject to release under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) or RSA 91A (Right-to-know Law).

Two days later, in consultation with Terenzini and Minkow behind closed doors, the selectmen decided to initiate removal proceedings.

In his memorandum, Terenzini recounted the process at the Planning Board, stressing that after the members were polled on the 11 criteria "the appropriate motion was to deny . . . as there had not been an affirmative finding on all 11 items." But, he said that Bartlett, who had abstained, moved to approve the application then Ryerson changed her vote "without explanation" and the motion carried.

"I have no quarrel with those who did their very best to apply the ordinance," Terenzini told the Selectboard. "However, for the two who did not do this, their action sent a message that it is easier to ask for forgiveness ... than permission. This makes our enforcement difficult at best and at worse a farce."

When the hearing against Bartlett opened yesterday Terenzini, who presented the case against Bartlett, said he was prompted by complaints from several residents. "Name the names," someone shouted. Terenzini refused, drawing a round of catcalls when he said they were "verbal."

Selectman Chris Shipp, who has persistently called for full disclosure, moved to discontinue the hearing.

"The process has become more of an issue than the original problem," he said. He was second by Ed Charest, who said "I did the same thing" during his seven years on the Planning Board. Jon Tolman said that because the conduct in question took place in a recorded public meeting, the identity of those who complained is irrelevant.

When the motion failed three-to-two, the hearing continued.

Terenzini said that Bartlett, despite saying that the project failed to meet two of the 11 criteria, failed to vote "no" then moved to approve the application. At the same time, he refused to apply the so-called "de novo" standard by failing to treat the project as if it had not been built as well as the "juror standard" by allowing his personal opinions to affect his conduct.

Bartlett distributed material,. including a copy of his formal statement to the selectmen. When Terenzini asked for a copy "in the spirit of fair play" the crowd erupted in laughter.

Reading from his statement, Bartlett began by charging the Selectboard breached the N.H. Rght-to-Know law on July 18, when after receiving Terenzini's memorandum, they met with Minkow, discussed the issue and decided to proceed. He said that the Attorney General's memorandum on the statute stipulates that no deliberations are be held or decisions made while consulting with counsel in a "non-meeting," a statement Minkow later called "ridiculous."

Bartlett continued to rebut each of the charges. He insisted that he had a right to abstain and the minutes show that he fully participated in the discussion at the Planning Board. As for the "de novo" standard, he said "I find it very hard to deny reality" and questioned the origin and legitimacy of the standard.

Noting that Terenzini charged him with making "disparaging remarks" about the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Bartlett characterized his statements as "constructive criticism" and asked "is it not the duty of a board member to pint out , emphatically if necessary, if they see what they believe to be failures of town departments or boards to do their jobs properly?"

Meanwhile, attorney Chris Meier of Cooper, Cargill and Chant of North Conway, representing Bartlett, challenged the legitimacy of the hearings on two grounds. First, he reminded the selectmen that they decided to proceed at an "non-meeting" in violation of the right-to-know law. Furthermore, he claimed that Minkow, who advised the Selectboard to proceed and was advising them at the hearing, also represents the Planning Board, which amounts to a conflict of interest.

Meier told the Selectboard that he found only one case of a member of a land use board being removed and that was overturned by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The standard for removal, he said, is "willful disregard of one's duties" which is extremely high, and none of the charges against Bartlett approached it.

When the hearing was opened to the public, eight speakers rose to Bartlett's defense. Kevin Kelly viewed the conduct of the selectmen the way his children reacted to him using a computer, remaking "they laugh." Eric Taussig, an attorney, found the removal proceedings "totally inappropriate" and "very distressing." Richard Brown, who chairs the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee, acknowledged his differences of opinion with Bartlertt, but said that he was a conscientious member of the Planning Board who should not be removed. Several people warned that removing Bartlett in these circumstances would have a chilling effect on the recruitment of volunteers to serve on boards and committees.

When the Selectboard deliberated, Charest said that the charges simply did not warrant removal. "There are valid points on both sides of the issue," said Shipp, who agreed with Charest, but added he hoped everyone learned from this controversy.

Tolman said that the issue was not about Bartlett's character, but his conduct. But, he said that "I would have a hard time removing him. The place to remove elected officials is at the voting booth."

Shipp moved not to remove Bartlett and when the motion carried unanimously someone in the crowd asked "what about an apology?"
"Anyone?" asked Joel Mudgett, chairman of the Selectboard, "It's not necessary," said selectman Russ Wakefield to the chagrin of the crowd.

"I'm sorry we put you through it," said Shipp while Tolman admitted to discomfort with the process. "Should the process have been better? Yes. No question."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 02:45

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Pembroke rallies to beat Sachems, 36-23, in first game played at Bank of New Hampshire Stadium

LACONIA —Visiting Pembroke Academy rallied from a 13 point half-time deficit to defeat Laconia 36-23 on Friday night. The Spartans win spoiled an otherwise perfect evening as a full-house crowd gathered to watch the first game played on the FieldTurf at new Bank of New Hampshire Stadium.

Leading 23-10 at the midway point, the Sachems failed to score a point in the second half, while Pembroke added four touchdowns.

"We had missed tackles and were pushed around in the second half," said Laconia coach Craig Kozens. "They were the better team tonight. We found a way to hurt ourselves on offense in the second half, with two fumbles and two false starts."

The Sachems moved the ball easily on the first drive, scoring in just over three and a half minutes on nine plays. Sophomore running back Kyle Chiasson rambled 17 yards for the first of his two touchdowns on the evening.

Pembroke answered with a nine play drive of their own, resulting in a field goal.

Early in the second quarter the Sachems pinned Pembroke back on their own two yard line. After two failed running attempts, Pembroke muffed the snap and quarterback Vinny Dustin was sacked in the end zone for a safety by Mitchell Bailey.

Laconia then capitalized on the free kick by driving 42 yards, ending with an 11 yard touchdown toss from junior quarterback Matt Swormstedt to Chiasson.
Down 15-3 Pembroke's Dustin took matters into his own hands carrying the ball four out of six plays, ending with a 29 yard scamper down the sideline for six points to bring the Spartans within five.

Laconia had some magic of its own to end the first half. Swormstedt pitched the ball to Chiasson who heaved to the end zone where Dylan Martel was streaking to the corner for a 25 yard touchdown. Laconia would complete the two point conversion this time to end the half with lead.

The second half belonged to Dustin. He had two more scores and totaled 239 yards on 28 carries.

Trailing by seven, Laconia was at midfield with five minutes to go in the fourth when Swormstedt was sacked.

For the game, Laconia had 225 yards on the ground and 88 through the air.

The Sachems head to Portsmouth to take on the Clippers in another NHIAA Division II match-up next Friday at 7:00.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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