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Former cop who failed fitness test sues Barnstead for gender & age discrimination

BARNSTEAD — A former full-time police officer who was discharged because he couldn't pass the physical fitness test filed a civil suit on July 26 in Belknap County Superior Court against the town, the state, and the state of New Hampshire.

David Scott has asked for his reinstatement as a full-time police officer, for back-pay with interest, for his certification as a full-time police officer, and for pain and suffering. The amount is unspecified.

He has also asked a court to order the all of the defendants to create and enforce policies and practices that provide equal opportunity for all potential police officers.

His primary argument for the lawsuit is that N.H. Police Standards and Training established basic minimum physical standards for men that differ from those of women — or, reverse discrimination — and he claims he was fired from his full-time position because of those standards.

This is Scott's second lawsuit concerning his dismissal from the Barnstead Police Department for being unable to pass the running portion of the fitness test. His first suit, filed in U.S. District Court, District of New Hampshire against N.H. Police Standards and Training, or the police academy, was dismissed in March of 2013 by a Judge Paul Barbadoro who ruled that Scott was suing the wrong party because he was not employed by them.

In his ruling Barbadoro agreed with the Police Academy who successfully argued that Scott's claim should be against his employer — the town of Barnstead — and not them. Barbadoro did not address the merits of Scott's suit.

Scott failed the running portion of his test by 11 seconds and claims that women have two minutes longer to complete the same test. His full-time employment in Barnstead was conditional upon his certification from N.H.P.S.T., which is the only police certification agency in New Hampshire. On May 5, 2011 N.H. P.S.T ordered Barnstead Police Chief Kenneth Borgia to reduce Scott's status from full to part-time.

Scott appealed to the N.H.P.S.T. Commission for a waiver in December of 2011 but it was denied.

According to his pleadings, Scott attended the full-time academy in late 2009 after being employed as a part-time officer in Barnstead for about two years. He said he tried 10 times to complete the 1 1/2 mile run in under 14 minutes and 44 seconds but his best time was 11 seconds off the mark. His status as a full-time officer was reduced back to part-time and part-time police officers are limited by statute and state rules to working no more than 1,300 hours annually.

His latest suit claims the standards set by New Hampshire are arbitrary and discriminatory based on age — Scott is 52 — and gender.

Police standards and training adheres to the physical standards established by Cooper Institute of Aerobics and has done so since 1992. In their motion to dismiss Scott's federal suit, N.H.P.T.S. said Scott is one of four officers who has failed the test in the past five years.

Scott is representing himself.

None of the respondents have yet filed responses to the Belknap County suit.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 03:12

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At Loon Center, Hassan signs lead sinker ban into law

MOULTONBOROUGH — Nearly 100 people crowded the Loon Center yesterday when the Loon Preservation Committee celebrated a victory ending a legislative struggle lasting two decades by hosting Governor Maggie Hassan, who signed a bill prohibiting the use and sale of lead sinkers and jigs in the fresh waters of the state.

Sponsored by Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), Senate Bill 89 closed the remaining loophole in the law prohibiting the use of lead tackle by including jigs weighing less than an ounce. The prohibition, which takes effect on June 1, 2016, does not extend to other fishing gear like lines, spoons, poppers, plugs or flies.

"We have accomplished a great thing," declared Harry Vogel, executive director of the Loon Preservation Committee. Lead fishing tackle, he said, is by far the leading cause of loon deaths and lead jigs have been found in more than half the adult birds killed by ingesting lead. Vogel explained that although long-lived, loons do not begin reproducing until they are six and then breeding pairs raise on average half-a-chick a year. To sustain a robust population, he stressed,"we must keep adults alive."

The first bill to ban lead tackle was introduced in 1994 and six years later New Hampshire became the first state to restrict, but not entirely forbid, the use of lead tackle. "Twenty years is not that long for legislation," Hassan remarked. "Well, a little long."

She thanked all those from the Loon Preservation Committee and New Hampshire Lakes Association as well as the bill's sponsors and advocates for shepherding the legislation through the process and ensuring a unanimous vote in the Senate and convincing majority in the House.

The governor recalled that when she was first elected to the State Senate she served on the Environment Committee, chaired by the late Carl Johnson of Meredith, a mainstay of the Loon Preservation Committee who pressed to close the loophole throughout his seven terms in the Senate. "What Carl taught me, among other things," said Hassan, "was that it's not just about the loons, but about the health of our natural environment." She said that he also led her to understand that protecting the loons was essential to the state's character as a tourist destination and venue for outdoor recreation. "Senate Bill 89," she said, "is the culmination of that work."

Representative Ben Lefebvre (D-Grantham), who steered the bill through the House, said to the roomful of volunteers and well-wishers "the real thanks should go to you folks — the boots on the ground — who sat there for five or six hours and listened to some crazy stuff."

That, Hassan noted, was "democracy, regular citizens letting their voices be heard."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 03:09

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Governor greets Laconia students on first day back

LACONIA — New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan dropped by Pleasant Street Elementary School Tuesday afternoon where she welcomed students on their first day of the new school year and took questions from them about her job.
Hassan was introduced to the students by Principal Dave Levesque, who said that it was his first day as principal at the school with students in their classrooms, his first school assembly and also his birthday.
The governor asked students a series of questions and found out that computers, art and music, along with lunch and recess, were the things they liked most about school.
She urged students to seek help from their teachers and friends when a subject seemed difficult and to ''keep at it and work hard'' to improve their understanding of subject matter, telling them that by applying themselves they were preparing themselves for good jobs and being able to make a difference in their community.
Students ventured their own descriptions of the governor's job, which ranged from ''helping people'' to ''running the state'' and questioned Hassan on how much paperwork was involved in her job.
''There's a lot of paperwork but most of my job is working with people. I have the best job in the world because I get to talk with people from all over and work with them to solve problems,'' said Hassan.
Her visit to Laconia followed one earlier in the day at Nashua High School South where she greeted incoming freshman and was billed by her office as part of an effort to highlight the need for a strong public education system in New Hampshire.


CAPTIONS: pix slugged Maggie

Governor Maggie Hassan fields questions from students at Pleasant Street Elementary School on Tuesday morning as new Principal David Levesque looks on. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 03:08

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M'borough officials propose steep hikes in fines for violating construction protocols

MOULTONBOROUGH — At a workshop last week, the Board of Selectmen considered a proposal prepared by Code Enforcement Office Don Cahoon and Planning Director Bruce Woodruff that would stiffen the penalties on those who build without the requisite permits and approvals.

The proposal follows on the heels of the construction of an observation tower on Red Hill, which was approved after the fact by the Planning Board in a controversial decision that prompted the selectmen to initiate removal proceedings against two members of the Planning Board.

Earlier this year Bob and Cathy Williams, doing business as Bear's Nest Trail, LLC. built the 900-square foot lookout tower, with an average height of 27 feet, around 1,200 feet up the east flank of Red Hill without obtaining a building permit, variance from the Zoning board of Adjustment (ZBA) and conditional use permit from the Planning Board.

Cahoon told the selectmen that along with two decks, it was the third case of its kind this year, compared to four or five during his first 14 years on the job.
Cahoon and Woodruff proposed a schedule of escalating fines. The current penalty for building without a permit is a fine equal to twice the permit fee plus the fee. The draft would raise the fine to five times the permit fee plus the fee itself. In addition, the fine would double for each subsequent violation of the zoning ordinance.
For example, the 30-foot by 30-foot observation tower would be liable for a fine of $2,970, calculated as follows. At 11 cents per-square-foot for an unheated structure of that size, the building permit fee would by $99 and the fine $495 for a total of $594. The fine would double for each further violation. Thus, the failure to obtain a variance and a conditional use permit would each result in fines of $1,188. Altogether the three violations would incur a total fine of $2,970. Moreover, the application fee would be tripled for violators seeking approvals for project after they were constructed.
Town Administrator Carter Terenzini said that the selectmen asked Cahoon and Woodruff to draft a formal ordinance which would be presented to the Selectboard along with the ZBA and Planning Board. The selectmen will meet with the land use boards in workshop, perhaps as early as next month, to agree on a proposal that would be presented to a public hearing. Terenzini said that the Selectboard can adopt an ordinance by majority vote.
Meanwhile, despite the controversy aroused by the decision of the selectmen to hold a public hearing to determine of there is cause to remove there Josh Bartlett and Judy Ryerson from the Planning Board for "inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office," there is no indication that they intend to halt the proceedings. The public hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 9, beginning at 1 p.m.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 03:00

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