LACONIA — New Belknap County Commissioners Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) were sworn in yesterday morning at the Belknap County Courthouse and have released an ambitious agenda for their first meeting at 9 a.m. today at the Belknap County Complex.
The third seat on the commission is vacant following the resignation of Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith), who had two years remaining on his term but said he could not work with the new commissioners.
The agenda reflects the new commissioners' expressed intentions to overturn many of the policies and actions taken by the outgoing commissioners and to bring an end to the legal battles over line item budget authority between the commission and the state lawmakers who comprise the county convention.
The agenda calls for the reinstatement of Mathew Logue as administrator of the Belknap County Nursing Home and the withdrawal of a legal appeal filed by the outgoing commissioners with the New Hampshire Supreme Court of the county convention's Personnel Committee earlier decision to reinstate Logue after he was fired in late August.
It also calls for the law firm of Donahue, Tucker and Ciandella, which represented the commission in its legal battle with the county convention over line item budget authority, to file a consent decree with Belknap County Superior Court which concurs with the decision by Judge James O'Neil III to issue a temporary injunction which prevented commissioners from transferring more than $300 between budget line items without approval of the convention's Executive Committee.
The former commissioners had been preparing to have the firm argue the case on its merits in February in Belknap County Superior Court.
The new commissioners have also asked that budget transfer requests which will be presented to the county's Executive Committee next Monday include $5,200 to pay legal fees incurred by former Belknap County Register of Deeds Barbara Luther in 2011 when she was sued by the commission in an effort to make her comply with recommendations made by an auditing firm hired by the county. In 2013 the county convention appropriated $5,200 to pay Luther's fees but the former commissioners refused to authorize payment.
Other transfer requests listed on the agenda include $260 for filing Superior Court cases on behalf of the convention as well as requests from former convention chairperson Colette Worsman and former vice chairman Bob Greemore, both of Meredith, to be paid for two Personnel Committee meetings and from Lakes Region Public Access TV to be paid for recording a Personnel Committee meeting.
The agenda makes no mention of other transfer requests but there is one major item still pending, a request for the transfer of $33,000 to pay the county's unpaid legal bills, which as of December 17 totaled $31,673. The Executive Committee has twice refused to approve transfers to pay the bills, which include bills from the Upton and Hatfield law firm which was hired by the Personnel Committee, as well as the law firms representing the commissioners.
Another agenda item calls for a strategy for jail improvements and hiring a consultant to assist the commissioners and the creation of full-time position within the Department of Corrections which would be responsible for the development and implementation of programs and for making program rooms in the so-called executive wing of the county complex available to the Department of Corrections, an approach favored by Commissioner DeVoy, who has called for converting that wing into housing for female prisoners.
The new commissioners also plan to issue a series of statements on the role of the county commissioners, the structure of county government and on public relations on county matters, the county bidding process and on copying fees charged by the county as well as budgetary philosophy and on the policy of spreading the cost of executive functions across county departments.
Commissioners plan to appoint a temporary legal counsel and have scheduled a non-public meeting to discuss a personnel matter.
DeVoy defeated Dave Pollack (D-Laconia) for the commission seat held by Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who did not seek re-election, while Burchell won election without a contest after defeating incumbent Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) in the September Republican primary.
The convention is expected to name a new commissioner to replace Nedeau, who must be from one of the towns of Meredith, Center Harbor, Gilford or Alton, sometime later this month.
Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) has said that the convention will advertise for applicants for the position and hold public interviews with potential candidates before making a decision.
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