LACONIA — Belknap County's legal bills for 2014 topped $70,000 and nearly $32,000 of that amount remains unpaid.
On Monday the Executive Committee of the Belknap County Convention declined to take up a request for transferring $31,852.54 from one line item to another to pay the county's outstanding legal bills, all of which have been received since October 31.
Committee members noted that the transfer requests were not signed by new commissioners Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), both of whom said they had not had time to study them.
''We'll be happy to give you a few weeks to study them,'' said Rep. Herb Vadney (R-Meredith), newly elected chairman of the Executive Committee. The committee twice last month turned down requests for transfers to pay those bills.
Commissioner DeVoy said ''it is my intention to pay the bills once we get them sorted out.''
The unpaid bills all relate 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 two 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.
There is also an unpaid bill from the Wescott Law firm for $1,172.50 relating to a personnel issue.
Legal bills which have been paid through the end of the year total $39,574.59 and many of those relate to the year-long struggle between the former commissioners and the convention over line item budget authority.
The convention's legal fees, originally budgeted at $5,000, shows $18,000 having been spent, including $7,317.95 to Upton and Hatfield LLP regarding litigation filed by former Rep. Ruth Gulick and other members of the convention's Democratic minority which sought to overturn a decision made to allow Rep. Guy Comtois to vote by telephone on a crucial vote on the 2014 budget.
Legal fees charged to the convention's account also include payments to the Donahue, Tucker Ciandella law firm for budgetary authority issues of $1,272.32 in March, $814.73 in April and $5,746 in October.
Upton and Hatfield was paid for three different Personnel Committee billings of $514 and $1,446 in August and $294 in September.
Legal expenditures charged to the administration totaled $16,754.59 for a budget listed at $17,000.
Those expenditures included payments to the Donahue, Tucker and Ciandella law firm for budgetary authority issues of $216 in May, $3,251.94 in August and $4,797.52 in October. There is also a payment of $3,414.26 to the Drummond Woodsum law firm for a Personnel Committee issue in October.
Of the $5,000 budget for nursing home legal expenses there are four bills from Wescott Law PA for personnel issues for $597.22, $341.25, $402.50 and $1,029 and $2,504.03 from Drummond Woodsum relating to the Personnel Committee.
Convention chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said ''we'll have to sort these out'' and said that money that the Executive Committee agreed to transfer in November was intended to pay The Upton and Hatfield law firm for its $4,973.58 and $1,325,30 bills for its work on behalf of the Personnel Committee.
When the Executive Committee met on December 1 to take up the proposed transfer of $28,000 to pay legal bills the request was denied by a 6-3 vote after former County Convention Chairperson Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) questioned why the Personnel Committee's attorneys hadn't been paid but while attorneys representing the commissioners had been paid.
County Administrator Debra Shackett told the committee members that the oldest bills had been paid first.
Worsman maintained that the transfer of $8,000 to the convention's legal line made on October 27 was intended to pay the Upton and Hatfield firm.
But Shackett, County Financial Director Glenn Waring and former Belknap County Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) maintained that the convention lacks the authority to direct the commissioners on what bills should be paid.
Members of the newly-elected Executive Committee George Hurt (R-Gilford) and Brian Gallagher (R-Tilton) have expressed reluctance to vote on budget transfers for legal fees until they have more information about the fees and under what authority they were incurred.
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