LACONA — Belknap County Commissioners clashed again over non-public meeting minutes when they met Wednesday morning with Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) maintaining that the minutes recently released of non-public meetings on July 1, July 15 July 27 are not accurate and are being used to editorialize .
Commissioners Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) and Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) maintained that the minutes, which Taylor keeps, are accurate and said that that it is Burchell's own unwillingness to keep conversations at the meetings confidential which is causing controversies for the county.
Burchell said that he takes issue with the release of the minutes of the July 27 non-public meeting which were still in a draft form and said that he thinks they failed to include information he thought was important and that he should have had the opportunity to challenge before they were released.
He also said that the very detailed minutes of non-public meetings which have been produced lately, including vulgarity, have been described to him by a local political observer as ''laughable".
''There's a reason for that. What is being said is laughable,'' replied Taylor
Commissioners DeVoy and Taylor voted to censure Burchell at a June 4 meeting for leaking information from a non-public meeting held in February while Burchell was serving as chairman of the commission, to Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue regarding Logue's grievance complaint. At that same meeting they also called for an investigation of an alleged leak from a second non-public meeting by a county official to a private citizen who was a topic of at discussion at a non-public meeting.
The identity of the person who had been discussed behind closed doors was revealed yesterday by Gordon Blais of Meredith, who said that it was he who was discussed at that meeting.
He did not say who had told him that he had been the subject of the meeting but Burchell, who has not said explicitly that it was him who told Blais about the meeting, has said that his fellow commissioners 'know bloody well'' who it is.
Blais spoke at Monday's meeting and slammed DeVoy and Taylor for not taking action to oust County Administrator Debra Shackett, whom he said was unqualified and only appointed to the post for her ''political connections".
He told DeVoy he was ''utterly disappointed in you. I feel we have been betrayed'' and said that Taylor, who had authored a long series of letters critical of the previous county commissioners and of Shackett last year before he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the committee, ''has played voters for a bunch of patsies.''
DeVoy said that he had ''never campaigned to get rid of anybody'' and that progress was being made by having commissioners and the Belknap County Convention work together rather than being at odds.
Blais said ''you had a non-public session to talk about me. You can't have non-public sessions about people of the county.''
Burchell said that as far as he was concerned the non-public meeting at which Blais was discussed was not a legal meeting and should not have been held.
The meeting was called to discuss what County Administrator Shackett had said was a real physical threat to county employees which had been made by Blais in a letter and was attended by County Sheriff Craig Wiggin and County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen. Burchell said the alleged threat was ''a red herring'' designed to draw attention away from the charges against Shackett and said that he had protested during the meeting that it was being held in violation of the Right-to-Know law.
Both DeVoy and Taylor disputed Burchell's account of the meeting and Taylor said that Burchell's attitude towards who would determine what should remain confidential was at the heart of the dispute over minutes of closed-door meetings,
DeVoy said that he had defended Blais at the closed door meeting by saying that that he didn't pose a threat and said to Burchell, ''this is happening because you can't keep your mouth shut.''
Taylor said that Blais had a financial interest in what he was he doing. ''You want your wife's job back. You go around and attack us and do not tell the public that your wife resigned from the nursing home under pressure. Why don't you make public both sides of this?''
Blais replied that his wife was a long-time geriatric nurse who had been placed in a position by management in which she was set up for failure.
Taylor asked if it was true that the incident for which she resigned could have led to a criminal prosecution but Blais was stopped short of answering by Burchell, who said that the meeting in question had nothing to do with Blais and was orchestrated by the county sheriff and county administrator.
Blais continued to question Shackett's education and leadership credentials, asking who had paid for her to earn a college degree, to which Shackett replied forcefully, ''I paid it. Every cent.''
In a letter to the editor published in today's Daily Sun, Shackett defends herself against charges made by Blais in a letter from him published Tuesday and says that in a letter sent to the county by Blais he was ''threatening to take up his musket to continue his fight.'' He has been directed by my attorney to stop his slanderous writing. He has been told by two Boards of Commissioners that they find no merit to his accusations. His continued yelling in anger at public meetings is very distracting, rude, and yes, personally scary.''
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 663