LACONIA — The two Belknap County Commissioners who voted Monday to oust Richard Burchell of Gilmanton as chairman have defended themselves against charges made in a written statement he distributed to members of the Belknap County Convention last month.
Both Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton and Hunter Taylor of Alton took issue with Burchell's characterization of them as ''apologists for a failed system'' because they had not endorsed his plan to restructure county government by eliminating the positions of county administrator, finance director and director of Human Resources.
''Dick Burchell has no education or experience in organizational change. I'm not going to come in and try and start changing everything after just two months on the job," said DeVoy. "When it comes to that kind of change we need to think about it and study it before deciding it's the right thing for the county.''
DeVoy was selected as the new chairman on Monday in an election that Burchell disputes.
Taylor said that Burchell's characterization of him as an apologist is simply wrong. ''No one was more of an outspoken critic of the previous regime than I was,'' he said, pointing out his strong opposition a costly jail plan proposed by the former commissioners as well as his criticisms of them for not following the budget transfer law and not doing something to curtail rising health insurance costs for the county.
''I've learned that if you disagree with Mr. Burchell you better be ready to be criticized,'' said Taylor, who said that the criticism comes in the form of exaggerations of an opponent's positions.
Burchell's statement was distributed to convention members at their Feb. 17 meeting.
Frank Tilton, chairman of the convention, said that he recalled reading it and said it lacked specific recommendations that could be considered during the 2015 county budget process, as did a brief one page description of Burchell's budget plan which was distributed a week later to the Laconia City Council.
The written statement was distributed to the convention four days after Burchell refused to participate with his fellow commissioners and county officials in a day-long meeting to address the budget and come up with an additional $400,000 in budget changes to meet Tilton's target of a $1.1 million cut in the amount to be raised by property taxes.
It cited ''the divisive personalities which were rife in the two years I served as a member of the delegation'' and claimed that not making the changes he recommended would ''leave the same personalities in place which helped to create a distrustful and punitive work environment,'' an apparent reference to Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett and Finance Director Glen Waring.
DeVoy has said that Burchell is using the prospect of diminished revenues as leverage to shrink and restructure the county administration, an agenda he nurtured as a member of the convention for the two years before his election to the commission. Alluding to the tension between Burchell and county officials whose positions he would eliminate, DeVoy suggested his plan smacks of "retribution".
Taylor has said that Burchell lacks the temperament to be chairman and can't deal with differences of opinion.
Burchell was apparently ousted as chairman in a chaotic meeting of the commissioners Monday morning in which he tried to prevent them from removing him by constantly rapping a gavel and declaring loudly that they were "out of order. DeVoy and Taylor continued to make and pass motions to overrule the chairman and, after they replaced him, adjourned the meeting.
Burchell later in the day filed a motion in Belknap County Superior Court seeking ex parte relief from the action of the other two commissioners, claiming that there is no statutory basis for his removal as chairman, which he maintains will be ''an invitation to chaos". He had unsuccessfully sought an injunction before the meeting to prevent the other commissioners from taking action. He says he still considers himself chairman and will only step aside if ordered to do so by a judge.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for March 11 at 1:30 p.m.
DeVoy will be represented by Attorney Paul Fitzgerald at the hearing while Taylor, who is a lawyer, will represent himself.
All three commissioners are Republicans, as are all members of the current convention.
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