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County administrator has open-ended contract that grants her a year's salary if she is terminated without 'just cause'

LACONIA — The changing of the guard at the Belknap County Commission this week has cast a shadow over the future of top county officials whose relationship with the county convention during the past four years has been always tense and often acrimonious.

As agents of the outgoing commissioners, Debra Shackett and finance director Glen Waring have been swept into the controversy over the respective authority of the commission and convention over the budget. In defending the positions and pursuing the policies of the commission, their professional competence and personal integrity has been questioned by members of the convention, including Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who this week will take his seat on the commission along side fellow newcomer Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton).

Both the county administrator and finance director serve at the pleasure of the commission. However, unlike Waring, Shackett, who was appointed county administrator in June, 2008, negotiated an employment contract with commissioners in June, 2013. The contract is not limited to a fixed period of time, but instead can be terminated either with or without just cause.

Should the administrator be terminated for just cause, any severance payment would be determined by the commission. But at the same time, the contract anticipates four conditions under which it could be terminated without just cause and prescribes the severance package — including a year's pay — to be awarded to the administrator in all four cases.

The majority of the commission could vote to terminate the administrator without just cause. If the administrator resigns following an offer — either formal or informal — to do so by "a representative of the majority of the governing body," the administrator may declare the contract terminated.  Likewise, the administrator could declare the contract terminated if the county or New Hampshire Legislature amends the statutes to change the form of government as it bears on the responsibilities and authority of the administrator.

Finally, a reduction in the base salary or other financial benefit of the administrator, would represent a breach and termination of the contract, unless the percentage of the reduction was no greater than the average reduction applied to all department heads.

In 2012, the convention rejected a proposal by Representative Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), then a member of the convention, to reduce Shackett's base salary to a level equal to that of the highest paid elected official, who at the time was the county attorney. In 2013 and in 2014, the convention, then chaired by Worsman, cut her salary in the county budget, but the commission restored the funding. 

In the event the contract is terminated without just cause, the administrator would be entitled to one year's salary at the current rate of pay as well as cash value for all accrued sick leave, vacation time and paid holidays. Shackett currently earns a base salary of $106,720. In addition, for at least one year, the county would be required to pay the cost of health care for the administrator and any dependents and provide out placement services, if requested, at a cost not to exceed $10,000.

Retiring commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) declined to comment on the circumstances leading to Shackett's contract, which said are "personnel matters." He said only that such contracts are common among municipal, school and county officials employed by boards of elected officials officials.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 January 2015 01:31

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Judge declines to dismiss additional charges against Meredith man alleged to have sold deadly heroin dose

LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that additional charges brought against a Meredith man who is scheduled to stand trial next week for sales of a narcotic, death resulting, will not be dismissed.

In addition to the above charge for which Currier was indicted in 2013, a grand jury also indicted Andrew Currier, 51, now of Laconia, for two counts of conspiracy to sell narcotics and one count of accomplice to possession of a controlled drug in November of 2014.

Currier was indicted on the sales of a narcotic-death resulting in 2013 and his trial was scheduled to begin on November 17, 2014. Just before the trial, Currier's defense submitted its final discovery, or information gathered from their own investigation, and from it the state learned that one of the theories the defense was using was that another person actually sold the late Jason Dostie the heroin, not Currier.

The trial was delayed on the morning of jury selection when a key witness, the victim's father, John Dostie, was hospitalized and couldn't appear.

Using the information from the final defense discovery, the state went forward and brought additional charges against Currier for conspiracy and being an accomplice to drug sales.

At yesterday's hearing in front of Judge Peter Fauver, Currier's lawyer Steve Mirkin cried foul, saying the prosecutor knew about the possible involvement of the second man as early as 2013 but the Meredith Police failed to investigate his alleged role.

"The state should not get the benefit of seeing what happened at one trial and bring forth a second trial," Mirkin argued, unsuccessfully.

Assistant Belknap County Prosecutor Roni Karnis argued that the trial for "death resulting" had not begun and jeopardy (meaning the state can't try someone for the same thing two times) had not attached.

Fauver agreed with Karnis that the newest charges would stand, but also ruled for Currier that the two batches of charges should be severed — or tried at different times.

According to the arguments heard in court yesterday, Jason Dostie repeated sent text messages to Currier asking him for a "bump" or some heroin. Dostie also told Currier he didn't have any money and asked for it to be fronted to him.

Currier's text messages allegedly indicated that he was unwilling to do that.

Dostie allegedly texted back that Currier could take a leaf blower from his truck as collateral but Currier allegedly said he needed money not collateral.

Records indicate that Currier went to an ATM in Meredith around 8 a.m. and that he was at Dostie's place of employment at 8:20 a.m. The leaf blower was also found in his possession.

The defense said it's argument is that Currier gave Dostie money but that Dostie could have bought the heroin from someone else. Mirkin said the evidence shows that Dostie left work to go to his father's truck at 9 a.m. and was never see alive again. He argues that if Dostie was so desperate for heroin he wouldn't have waited 40 minutes if he thought the heroin was in the truck.

Arguments at yesterday's hearing also revealed police never found the needle Dostie used to inject the heroin, despite using a metal detector. They said they found a package of 10 needles with one missing in the truck.

Mirkin also said that during interviews with Dostie's father, both Currier and the second man's name came up as people who he thought could have provided his son with the heroin.

Jury selection for Currier for the sales of heroin, death resulting, is scheduled for January 5. The trial is scheduled to begin a week later.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 02:44

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Correction: Gilmanton budget hearings are on Wednesday night

In article in Friday's paper incorrectly the reported the date for public hearings on the proposed Gilmanton School District and Town of Gilmanton budgets for 2015. Both hearings will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 5 at the Academy Building. The school hearing will begin at 6 p.m. and the town hearing will immediately follow that.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 02:08

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Laconia has already spent 1/3 of winter road budget

LACONIA — Although there was no white Christmas, the Department of Public Works is on track to have spent approximately a third of its winter maintenance budget between December 21, the first day of winter, and the beginning of the New Year.

Paul Moynihan, Director of Public Works, said yesterday that the final tally for December has yet to be calculated, but he anticipates that expenses for the month will approach $90,000, which together with costs incurred in November will bring expenditures to date to around $147,000.

In November, the department spent $43,440 , $41,704 of it coping with the snow storm over the Thanksgiving holiday, when crews working overtime applied 422 tons of salt and 28 tons of sand. "It was an expensive storm," Moynihan said.

Moynihan said that the despite the lack of heavy snowfall and spells of warm temperatures in December, crews have turned out at night to plow, sand and salt on nine occasions. At the same time, he said that the department has incurred the expense of replenishing its stocks of salt and sand.

By comparison, the DPW had spent $102,890 by end of December, 2013 and $83,703 by the end of December 2012.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 02:05

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