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Worsman asks that auditor's summary report on county government be made public

LACONIA — County Convention Chairperson Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) asked Belknap County Commissioners last night to make a so-called management letter which accompanied a financial audit report the commission recently received to be made public.
Worsman made the request following a review of the audit report by a representative of Melanson Heath and Company at a commission meeting last night at a which excerpts from the management letter were read and discussed briefly by commissioners.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that it was her understanding that the letter should not be distributed publicly but would check to see if she was correct.
Worsman requested that the letter be available on the commission's web site along with the audit report itself, which commissioners said would be posted online.
The Registry of Deeds office was mentioned in the management letter, which noted that internal monitoring of the office's procedures had addressed some of the concerns raised in an audit report two years and that there were significant improvements.
But there was concern raised in the letter that the general ledger and accounts payable ledger of the office didn't agree.
The commission brought legal action against elected Registrar Barbara Luther two years ago in an attempt to have her comply with recommendations made in a management letter which criticized three specific "material weaknesses" in the record keeping or handling of public funds.
The criticisms included the fact that at times a single individual controlled "all phases of a particular (financial) activity" and certain record keeping processes. The management letter did not allege or imply any actual wrongdoing by the registry staff but dealt with improving procedures in keeping with modern accounting standards.
When the parties and registrar could not agree on system changes to address the criticisms, the commissioners brought the lawsuit in October of 2011 asking the Belknap County Superior Court to "order the (Registry) to conform with the recommendations of the management letter."
Extensive negotiations ensued in August of 2012 and a statement released to the media from the county announced that the agreement between the two parties had been reached. The agreement allowed the existing checking account used by the Register of Deeds to be continued and requires that any checks or withdrawals from that account be signed by the Register of Deeds and the Belknap County Treasurer.
It also established procedures for the daily handling of payments and operations at the office.
Commissioners said at the time that the settlement was consistent with recommended best accounting practices and removed a negative comment from the county audit.
Luther, who was represented by attorney Philip McLaughlin in the negotiations, has since asked the county to pay the $ 5,500 legal bill she incurred, but commissioners have so far refused to pay, despite the County Convention including a line item in the budget that it passed this year for $5,500 to pay Luther's bill.
Worsman also requested, speaking, she said, as a taxpayer of Meredith, that the commissioners see that no one who was an employee of the county be a part of the team negotiating contracts with representatives of the unions representing county employees.
She said that the contracts which are negotiated also affect those who are not union members and that she didn't think any of those doing the negotiating for the county should be employees of the county because they would be in a position to benefit from the contracts they negotiated.
County Commission Chairman John Thomas said that the request was ''contrary to whatever I've seen'' and noted that department heads, who are paid by the county, have routinely been part of contract negotiations on behalf of the county.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 02:53

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Surveillance photo quickly leads to man's arrest for burglary

LACONIA — A Jackson Street man will face a judge in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division this morning after being charged with burglary and theft of a handgun.

Police said Henry A. Rogers, 40, of Jackson St. was taken into custody at his home yesterday morning and charged with breach of bail for failing to appear for a 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division appearance scheduled for July 15 for simple assault.

Lt. Rich Simmons said Rogers was taken to the Belknap County House of Correction because of the bench warrant and late yesterday afternoon police charged him with burglarizing the Opechee Trading Post in Laconia on August 30 and stealing a loaded handgun during the heist.

Although Rogers allegedly cut the wires to the store's surveillance system and took the DVD cartridge, owner Jim Makris said Tuesday that camera specialists were still able to recover a photo of the person who burglarized his place.

Simmons said yesterday that numerous phone calls were made to the police and many of the officers recognized Rogers as the person who was allegedly in the trading post during the time of the burglary.

Police said it appeared Rogers first tried to enter the store on Lake Opechee through a front window and eventually got into the building through a rear window.

Police said they recovered the gun in Rogers' backyard.

He refused the services of a bail commissioner and is scheduled to appear by video in court this morning.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:50

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Forrester named chair of powerful N.H. Senate Finance Committee

CONCORD — State Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) was picked to chair the Senate Finance Committee by newly elected Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) yesterday.

Forrester, who is midway through her second term in the Senate, was the lone freshman senator to serve on the committee following her election in 2010 and was appointed vice-chairman after her re-election in 2012.

"I am very pleased by the confidence Senator Morse placed in me to head the Finance Committee," Forrester said yesterday.

Senator Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester) was named vice-chairman. Forrester said that she and D'Allesandro worked well together throughout the budget process earlier this year and anticipated their successful relationship would continue.

In a prepared statement, Morse said that he had worked closely with both senators during the last two budget cycles. "I have complete confidence in their understanding of the intricacies of the budget, as well as their ability to oversee the implementation of this fiscal spending plan going forward," he said.

Morse recalled that the Legislature worked across party lines to prepare and adopt the 2014-2015 budget. "I know Senators Forrester and D'Allesandro will work well with Governor Hassan and our executive branch agencies to ensure our spending targets are met." Managing the state budget, he continued, provided the foundation for a sound economy.

Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, immediately charged that by appointing Forrester, Morse began his presidency by "starting down the same ethically questionable road that ended Peter Bragdon's."

Earlier Kirstein charged charged that Bragdon, who resigned the Senate presidency to become executive director of the Local Government Center (LGC), appointed Forrester to a committee studying the LGC and the statute governing the management of insurance risk pools, knowing that was in line for the job, which pays $180,000. Claiming the appointment to the study committee breached the Ethics Guidelines of the General Court, Kirstein alleges that Forrester lied when she denied she was not aware of Bragdon's interest in the position when she accepted the committee assignment.

Yesterday Kirstein issued a statement insinuating that Forrester's appointment to chair the Finance Committee was a reward for her part in helping Bragdon secure the job.

Bragdon has insisted that he decided to name Forrester to the study committee on July 5, when the bill creating it crossed his desk for his signature and almost a week before his initial conversation with the LGC on July 11. Later on July 16, documents record a conversation in which Bragdon told Forrester of his interest in the position. She encouraged him and offered to provide a reference.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 02:40

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Youth Football agreed to donate $10k in return for concession rights

LACONIA — City Councilor Matt Lahey said yesterday that awarding the concession stand operation during Friday night home football games at the High School to Laconia Youth Football was previously known to nearly everyone involved.

Lahey, who is the chair of the Huot Regional Technical Education Center Renovation/LHS Athletic Complex Fundraising Committee, said the Key Club advisers, who are teachers at the High School, had been told earlier this year that they would likely not be able to continue using the concession stand  during home football games this fall.

"I was aware of it and I supported it," said Lahey of the decision to make the switch. He said Laconia Youth Football leaders pledged they would raise $10,000 for the cost of the renovation and expansion project in exchange for the football home game concession stand rights.

Rod Roy is the president of Laconia Youth Football. Yesterday he said he also thought the Kiwanis Club of Laconia — the sponsoring organization of the community-service oriented Key Club — was aware of the decision but had no idea who was designated to tell them.

"My understanding was that the Key Club was going to get the other stuff, including hosting the soccer match this year," Roy said.

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has chosen Laconia as one of the hosts for this year's soccer playoffs.

He also said he wasn't privy to any discussions between the school administration, the Key Club advisers or the Kiwanis Club, whose members made their displeasure over the students losing concession stand rights known to the School Board Tuesday night. They claimed that school officials had been stringing them along for months, saying a final decision on who would operate the concession stand had not yet been made.

Kiwanians told the board the Key Club's association with football game concessions dates back six decades.

Roy said the building that housed the concession stand at the old football field was built three years ago by Laconia Youth Football and volunteer labor from the Bean family of Gilford. All of the equipment, including a grill, three Fryolator, a popcorn machine and refrigeration units, was purchased by Laconia Youth Football.

He said that for the three years after the newer concession stand was built, but before the Bank of New Hampshire Stadium project was on the city's radar, Laconia Youth Football shared the space and split the cost of supplies and the revenue with the Key Club. He also said the space-sharing agreement was arranged by former Principal Steve Beals, who told Roy he was reluctant to give the concession stand rights solely to Laconia Youth Football.

When asked why the joint relationship didn't work, Roy said in his opinion the two agencies had different missions — Laconia Youth Football needs money to support its program and the Key Club is more about civic participation and less about money.

Roy said Laconia Youth Football is one of the smaller youth football programs in the state and needs to be able to offer scholarships to the children who want to play but can't afford the $100 annual per child registration fee.

"We don't want to turn away any kids," he said, adding the number of children seeking scholarships from Laconia Youth Football increases every year. Drawing from a number of cities and towns in the Lakes Region, Roy said there have been times when they thought the program would end because there weren't enough children participating who could pay the dues.

Roy said the Huot project and stadium construction included a new concession stand and Laconia Youth Football donated the older stand to the school district for use as an equipment shed. "That's a $12,000 building," he said.

He said that Laconia Youth Football initially wanted the Friday night football concessions in exchange for the building but offered an additional $10,000 to the stadium project — a proposal he said Lahey and former Superintendent of School Bob Champlin accepted. The pair's goal was to privately raise $1 million to supplement the public funding of the project.

Roy also recalls making the arrangements at a meeting in the Media Room of the High School about six months ago.

"I don't recall specifically who was at the meeting but I know (School Board Chair Joe) Cormier was there," he said.

At Tuesday night's School Board meeting, Cormier said he didn't recall who made the decision but said Champlin was empowered to make the decision himself.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:38

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