LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners yesterday agreed to pay a $3,640.50 bill from Attorney Paul Fitzgerald for representing Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) in a court case brought by fellow commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) against the other two commissioners challenging their ouster of him as chairman in early March.
The commission also voted to reimburse DeVoy $1,000 for the retainer he had paid to have Fitzgerald represent him in the court case. Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), who is himself an an attorney and was also named as a defendant, represented himself in the case. The total legal expenses for the county amounted to $4,640.50.
Burchell was elected chairman of the commission on January 8 of this year, but soon found himself at odds with his colleagues, who not only questioned his approach to managing the affairs of the county but also said that his temperament crippled the work of the commission. At a stormy meeting on March 2, DeVoy and Taylor voted to reorganize the commission by replacing Burchell as chairman with DeVoy and elected Taylor as vice-chairman and Burchell as clerk. Burchell turned to the court seeking reinstatement.
Burchell's request to remain as chairman was denied by Judge James D. O'Neill III, who ruled in early April that the county commission is bound by majority rule and that the power to appoint carries with it the power to remove, concluding that the election of new officers complied with the law.
DeVoy earlier this year said that it was not his point to have to go to court to defend his action in ousting Burchell as chairman and that it had been brought about by Burchell's own action in refusing to acknowledge the right of the majority of the commission to change chairmen.
During yesterday's meeting at the Belknap County Complex, at which Burchell was not present but participated by speakerphone, Burchell continued to maintain that there was no basis in law for the decision ousting him and said that his legal fees should also be the responsibility of the county.
But Taylor said ''one of these bills is a legitimate'', pointing out that DeVoy's defense was authorized by a majority vote of the commission while Burchell's was the result ''of one commissioner acting alone.''
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