Burchell will consider appeal of judge's ruling

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Richard Burchell said yesterday while he was not thoroughly familiar with the ruling of Justice James D. O'Neill, III of Belknap County Superior Court upholding the vote of his fellow commissioners David DeVoy and Hunter Taylor to oust him from the chair. "If there is a sound basis to appeal, I will, but I will not appeal for no reason," he said.

Burchell was elected chairman of the commission on January 8, but soon found himself at odds with his colleagues, who not only questioned his approach to managing the affairs of the county but also found his temperament crippled the work of the commission. At a stormy meeting on March 2, the two voted to reorganize the commission by replacing Burchell as chairman with DeVoy and electing Taylor as vice-chairman and Burchell as clerk. Burchell turned to the court seeking reinstatement.

Earlier this week O'Neill found 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.

Burchell questioned O'Neill's reasoning, which he suggested appeared to rest on "pretty ancient court case", but said he was consult with his attorney, David Horan of Manchester, before deciding how to respond to the decision.

However, Burchell insisted that whatever the outcome, "I'm going to stay the course and pursue what I believe are reasonable policies." He emphasized that tensions among the commissioners should not overshadow or obscure the differences over public policy at stake.

Commission can elect new chair when it wants

LACONIA — Justice James D. O'Neill, III of the Belknap County Superior Court this week dismissed the complaint brought by Belknap County Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) that he was wrongfully ousted as chairman of the commission by his fellow commissioners, David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Hunter Taylor (R-Alton).

"I'm very happy and it's a relief," said DeVoy, who succeeded Burchell as chairman. "Hopefully all three commissioners will get along and we'll move forward with the business of the county."

"I'm glad we have this behind us," echoed Taylor, "and hopefully we can all go forward together for the good of the county."

Burchell could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Burchell was elected chairman of the commission on January 8, but soon found himself at odds with his colleagues, who not only questioned his approach to managing the affairs of the county but also found his temperament crippled the work of the commission. At a loud, stormy meeting on March 2, the two voted to reorganize the commission by replacing Burchell as chairman with DeVoy and electing Taylor as vice-chairman and Burchell as clerk.

Burchell turned to the court, first seeking an injunction to forestall the reorganization of the commission and then a declaratory judgment restoring his chairmanship. DeVoy and Taylor filed separate motions asking the court to dismiss Burchell's complaint.

Burchell, represented by attorney David Horan, claimed that when the board convened on January 8 it not only elected him chairman but also agreed to require 14 days advanced notice to place an item on the agenda of commission meetings and to adopt "Simplified Roberts' Rules of Order" to govern the procedure of commission meetings. He noted that reorganization of the commission was not included on the original agenda for the meeting on March 2, but did appear on an agenda issued on February 27, contrary to the rule requiring 14 days notice. Furthermore, Burchell argued that there was no authority in either state law of Roberts' Rules to reorganize the commission.

In his order O'Neill cited the state statute bearing on county commissions (RSA 28:1-b) stipulating that "all rights, authority and powers of the county commissioners shall be exercised only by a vote of a majority of the county commissioners." Since the commission must elect officers, he held that it authority to do so "must be and can only be exercised by majority vote." The New Hampshire Supreme Court, the justice continued, has recognized that "the power to appoint inferentially carried with it the power to remove" and concluded that "the Court is compelled to conclude that the election of new officers on March 2, 2015 fully complied with the statutory requirements."

All three commissioners are new to the job. Burchell and DeVoy were elected in November and took office at the first of the year. Taylor was appointed by Burchell and DeVoy to fill a vacancy left by the post-election resignation of Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith).

Belknap reps unite to help pass House budget

CONCORD — The Belknap County Delegation — all Republicans — voted unanimously with the GOP majority yesterday when the New Hampshire House of Representatives adopted its 2016-2017 biennial budget.,

House Bill 1, the budget, carried the House by a party-line vote of 212 to 161 and House Bill 2, the so-called companion bill, passed by the narrower margin of 194 to 179.

All 15 members of the 18 member county delegation who were present voted in the majority for both bills. Those present and voting were: Glen Aldrich, Russ Dumais and George Hurt of Gilford, Dennis Fields and Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, Robert Fisher, Bob Luther, Peter Spanos and Frank Tilton of Laconia, Valerie Fraser of New Hampton, Ray Hpward and Peter Varney of Alton, Shari LeBreche and Michael Sylvia of Belmont, and Herb Vadney of Meredith.

Two members, Gallagher and Spanos, parted company with the rest on an amendment to HB-2 to introduce Keno, which carried with 206 votes in favor and 176 against. Keno, an electronic game of chance played in bars and restaurants by wagering that a series numbers will appear an screen, is estimated to generate between $8 million and $12 million in revenue for the state, which would be applied to the education trust fund. The House voted for Keno last year, but the Senate scuttled it. Governor Maggie Hassan included Keno in her budget this year.

Fields was the lone member of the delegation to vote in favor of an amendment to HB-2, sponsored by Democratic representatives, that would have raised the cigarette tax and closed offshore loopholes to businesses seeking to shed tax liabilities. Fields also alone voted for an amendment, also sponsored by Democrats, that would have funded a pay increase for state employees.