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Briarcrest opponents of sale to Lakemont Cooperative seek to intervene

LACONIA — A majority of the unit owners at Briarcrest Estates yesterday petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to intervene in pending litigation in an effort to forestall the sale of the manufactured housing park to the Lakemont Cooperative Inc., which was formed by a minority of tenants of the park.

Attorney Philip McLaughlin, representing at least 175 of the 240 residents of the park, claims that the state statute governing such transactions fails to anticipate that a majority of tenants will prefer commercial to cooperative ownership and to provide them with a role in affecting the sale of the property. Nevertheless, they have a "direct and apparent interest" in both the transaction and litigation, namely "their desire not to be forced to assume for themselves or their successors, through an involuntary process, debt associated with the proposed acquisition of Briarcrest Estates by Lakemont Cooperative, Inc."

In July Mark and Ruth Mooney, the owners of the park, accepted an offer from Hometown America Corporation of Chicago to purchase the park for $10 million. In accord with a state law entitling park tenants to make a counteroffer and requiring park owners to bargain in good faith, a group of residents, with encouragement and assistance from ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, incorporated as the Lakemont Cooperative and matched the $10 million offer.

In response, the Mooneys asked the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the sale of the park to Hometown America. Attorney John Giere, representing the Mooneys, claimed that approving the transaction would be in keeping with the statute, which is is intended to safeguard the best interests of tenants, most of whom oppose cooperative ownership of the park.

The Lakemont Cooperative, represented by Attorney Robert Shepherd of Nashua, asked the court to dismiss the Mooneys' petition. Shepherd told the court that as the owners of the park the Mooneys were in no position to represent the interests of its residents. Shepherd reminded the court that the statute does not prescribe that the cooperative include a specific number or percentage of tenants to make an offer and pursue the transaction. By refusing to sign the purchase and sale agreement, he charged, the Mooneys have wrongfully refused to consider the cooperative's offer and failed to negotiate in good faith, exposing themselves to penalties amounting to $10,000 or 10 percent of the sale price whichever is greater.

In seeking a role for the majority, McLaughlin told the court that "the legislation (RSA 205-A:21) . . . did not contemplate that the Community Loan Fund, or any affiliate, such as ROC-NH, would organize a tenants' organization that represented the will of a distinct minority." At the same time, he noted that nothing in the statute "prohibits Briarcrest tenants from intervening in the present action" or bars the Mooneys from weighing the opposition of a majority of tenants to cooperative ownership when fulfilling their duty to bargain in good faith.

McLaughlin asked the court to conclude that the Mooneys "may, as they discharge their statutory duty to bargain in good faith, take into account, that good faith extends to consideration beyond the will of the minority (whether in an association or not) and should consider the will and the reasons for the opposition of the majority."

McLaughlin filed a petition bearing the signatures of both the 11 original complainants and their supporters from 131 households in the park with the court. Together they represent 59 percent of the 241 sites in the park.

Meanwhile, the Mooneys and the cooperative are at odds about how the litigation should proceed. So far attorneys representing the two parties have failed to reach agreement. Those representing the Mooneys, believe that the issue is a matter of law that can be resolved based on the pleadings and documents before the court, while Shepherd prefers a more traditional approach, including discovery through interrogatories and depositions and perhaps a trial.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 03:38

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Laconia’s clear choice for mayor: Ed Engler

LACONIA —In yesterday's election, Ed Engler topped Kailief Mitchell by a wide margin to win the race for mayor while Armand Bolduc staved off a challenge from Tony Felch in Ward 6 to earn his 16th consecutive term on the City Council, incumbent councilor Bob Hamel prevailed over Tom Tardif in Ward 5 and David Bownes bested Richard Beaudoin in Ward 2 to capture the only open council seat.

Incumbent city councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1), Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Brenda Baer (Ward 4) ran unopposed.

Engler, the president and editor of the Laconia Daily Sun, polled three of every four votes cast in besting Mitchell, an academic assistant at the Spaudling Youth Center, 1,155 to 403. Engler carried Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 by 100 or more votes while Mitchell ran closest in Ward 5, where he has served as moderator for the past seven years, narrowing the margin to 114 to 82 .

When the votes were tallied Engler said that he was not surprised by the result. "In the last week or so I felt pretty good about the situation," he remarked. He said that in local elections that are not overshadowed by a divisive issue the engaged segment of the electorate weighs the candidates then chooses the one with whom they feel most comfortable. Although he purchased print advertising and distributed yard signs, Engler sensed that his success owed much to word of mouth, noting that people both inside and outside the city promoted his candidacy.

Engler said that he intended "to start getting engaged from a conversation standpoint immediately," adding that he has been approached by some and will approach others. Economic development, the primary theme of his campaign, he indicated would be a priority, beginning with how to apply the funds accrued by the downtown tax increment financing (TIF), a question currently before the City Council. "I intend to participate in that conversation," Engler said.

Mitchell, in his first bid for major office, said "it was a great campaign, a really good race. I put my heart and soul into it. The people had a really tough choice," he continued, noting that there was little difference between the candidates on many issues. "The subtleties made the difference," he said.

In the most hotly contested of the council elections, Bolduc polled 282 votes to Felch's 170 to keep his seat in Ward 6. In the strongest turnout among the six wards, nearly one of every four registered voters cast ballots in a tribute to the energy of the campaigns waged by both candidates. Bolduc said that he walked the entire ward and phoned most voters while Felch spent his spare moments going door-to-door throughout the ward.

Felch, who challenged Bolduc for the second time, doubted he would do so again. "I'm glad I put my name out there and gave people the opportunity to choose," he said, "but the people have spoken and they like things the way they are." Felch called for eliminating the primary election during his campaign and vowed to pursue the issue. "He's my councilor," he said of Bolduc, "and he'll be hearing from me."

In the closest of the contested races, Bownes edged Beaudoin by 123 to 88 to succeed the retiring Matt Lahey in Ward 2. Bownes congratulated Beaudoin, who he said ran a good race. "I'm happy to win," said Bownes, who will be returning to the council after last serving between 1986 and 1988, when Bolduc was among his colleagues..

In Ward 5, where Tardif won his place on the ballot with three write-in votes after a recount, Hamel won re-election to a fifth term, 135 to 67.

Altogether 1,660 voters went to the polls, representing 17-percent of the 9,653 registered voters in the city. However, discounting the 463 votes cast in Ward 6, the turnout was just 12-percent.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 03:58

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Woman who pleaded guilty to selling heroin that resulted in fatal overdose asks for new trial

LACONIA — A woman who is serving a 15- to 30-year sentence for her role in supplying a 22-year-old woman with the heroin that killed her is petitioning the court for a new trial. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for tomorrow in Belknap County Superior Court.

Karen Mekkelsen, 29, formerly of North Main Street, pleaded guilty in March 2012 in Belknap County Superior Court to conspiracy to distribute heroin with a death resulting. She also pleaded guilty to a different charge of possession of heroin with intent to distribute.

Mekkelsen, who is represented by Atty. Matt Lahey, said evidence discovered during the investigation and trial of one of her alleged con-conspirators revealed that a man who was not identified in the initial investigation posted on Facebook that he was the one who gave Ashley Denty the fatal dose.

"I killed her, I shot her up and it's my fault and innocent people went to prison because of me, she was my best friend," wrote the Plymouth man on his Facebook page.

Ashely Denty, 22, formerly of Union Avenue was found dead by her neighbors on April 1, 2011, after they heard her 2-year-old son crying and convinced him to open the door and let them in. The N.H. State Medical Examiner said her death was caused by a heroin overdose.

Mekkelsen claims the Belknap County Attorney's Office had the information from Laconia Police in transcripts taken on April 24, 2013, and had forwarded them to the prosecution on July 9. At the time, the county was prosecuting Alfredo Gonzales, 48, for his alleged role in supplying the heroin to Mekkelsen. He was charged with one count of distributing heroin with death resulting.

In the wake of this new information, charges against Gonzalez were dropped in August.

Mekkelsen asked the court in September to grant her motion for a new trial, appoint a new lawyer for her, and schedule an emergency hearing. In October, Judge James O'Neill granted her request for a new court-appointed lawyer, Lahey.

Asst. County Prosecutor Carley Ahern has objected to Mekkelsen's request for a new trial by saying Mekkelson also pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a controlled drug with the intent to distribute it, which is a separate and distinct event from the sale of the heroin that killed Denty.

As to the possession charge, affidavits at the time of her arrest said Laconia Police found 26 bags of heroin on her and that she told them Gonzalez was allegedly providing her with 600 bags weekly to sell, or $2,000 daily.

Ahern, in her motion objecting to a new trial, said Mekkelson has failed to show why the recently unearthed and, in her opinion, exculpatory evidence would lead to a verdict in her favor.

Ahern also said that in order to grant a new trial the laws says the evidence must not have been discovered by the moving party, that the evidence is admissible, and that it is of such a character that a different result would be reached — standards she said haven't been met.

"However, the third party's statements are unreliable, contrary to statements by all other witnesses and are inconsistent with the physical evidence including the medical examiner's report and the reported time of death," Ahern wrote.

The motion hearing for a new trial is scheduled for tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 03:28

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Merchant spots break-in; Tilton police make arrest

TILTON — Police have charged a Manchester woman with burglary after she was allegedly spotted by a pawnshop employee breaking into the house across the street.

Police said the employee noticed the woman around 9:30 a.m. trying all of the windows to see if one was open.

The Fast Cash employee said he knew the woman trying to get into the house was not the woman who lived there and called the police, giving them the a description of the car — with the plate number — and the direction it was headed.

A Tilton police officer responding to the call spotted the silver Nissan near Valvoline and tried to stop it. He said the driver went behind Valvoline before she stopped and allegedly gave him a a false name.

She was identified by police as Jessie Connelly, 25, of Rochelle St. in Manchester. They said the car she was driving was not hers.

Police recovered cash, some jewelry and a priceless coin with the victim's name on it. She is also charged with disobeying an officer and driving after her license was suspended.

Connelly was held on cash bail over the weekend and was schedule to appear in the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division yesterday afternoon.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 03:34

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