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Democrats still trying to tie Forrester to ethics investigation of former Senate prez

CONCORD — With the decision of the Legislative Ethics Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Senator Peter Bragdon as executive director of the Local Government Center(LGC), Democrats have renewed calls for Senator Jeanie Forrester to clarify her role in the affair.

Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP), said this week that while Bragdon was seeking the position he discussed the prospect with Forrester, who agreed to act as a reference for him, then offered her a seat on a committee charged with reviewing the conduct of the LGC and recommending changes to the statute governing it, which she readily accepted.

Both Bragdon and Forrester have maintained that they discussed the committee assignment the week before Bragdon and Bald first spoke about the position at the LGC on July 11.

The LGC , which has since been reorganized, managed three risk pools — a health care trust, worker's compensation trust and property insurance trust — for member municipalities. It has been embroiled in litigation with state regulators and numerous municipalities about the disposition of more than $36 million in surplus funds it collected.

"I have not seen anything like this," said Buckley of what he called "the collusion between Bragdon and Forrester, his validator." He explained that Bragdon received Forrester's support for a job paying $180,000 a year while appointing her to the committee overseeing his employer. "She was actively engaged in helping him get the job when she knew she was being appointed to a committee overseeing the LGC," Buckley said. "Why would she accept the committee assignment?"

Buckley said that "it is rime for someone to file a complaint against Forrester with the Ethics Committee and I hope someone will. Senator Forrester should be asked the fundamental question," he continued, "'what did she know and when did she know it?'"

The complaint lodged with the Ethics Committee by Representative Richard Watrous (D-Concord) that led to the investigation includes the appointment of Forrester among the violations committed by Bragdon, but levels no charges against her.

According to documents the NHDP obtained from the LGC, Bragdon first expressed interest in the position on July 11 while speaking with George Bald, the interim executive director of the LGC. In an e-mail sent afterwards Bragdon told Bald "it was a pleasure talking with you earlier today . . . quite an unexpected turn the conversation took" and attached his resume. "I'm glad you're giving this some consideration," Bald replied.

On July 16 Bragdon told Forrester he was applying for the job. "Finally, I happened to be on the phone with Senator Forrester a few minutes ago," Bragdon wrote in an e-mail to Bald, "and given her background . . . I thought I'd mention the conversation you and I had. Her reaction could not have been more positive to the idea." By letter, dated three days later, July 19, Bragdon formally appointed Forrester to the committee.

Forrester has insisted that Bragdon asked her to serve on the committee before July 16, when he first told her of his interest in the position with the LGC, although she cannot recall the exact of their conversation. "I can tell you again," she repeated yesterday, "the day he asked me to serve on that committee I had no idea he was considering that job."

Responding to the complaint before the Ethics Committee, attorney Russell Hilliard presented Bragdon's explanation of Forrester's appointment. Bragdon, he wrote, kept a spreadsheet of appointments to study committees created by legislation enacted during the session. As bills came to him for signature, he added his appointees to study committees to the spreadsheet. Once he had signed all bills, the spreadsheet was given to his staff to complete the paperwork, including the formal letter of appointment.

According to the records of the Secretary of State, House Bill 283 establishing the committee on the LGC on July 2 and was signed and returned either the same or next day. "When Senator Bragdon signed the bill, on either July 2 or 3, he added the committee to his spreadsheet, as well as Senator Forrester's name as his appointee," Hilliard wrote, noting that "this was more than a week" before he learned of the opportunity at the LGC.

However, Harrell Kirstein, communications director of the NHDP, who collected the documents and prepared the timeline underlying the complaint, claims that Bragdon could not have appointed Forrester before July 10 as he claims. He refers to an e-mail Bragdon sent to Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), who apparently expressed interest in the LGC committee, which he finds inconsistent with his other statements. On July 8, days after Bragdon says he named Forrester, he told Soucy "I am still waiting on a few more bills to pass by me on the way to the governor — I check each bill for study committees when I sign it . Once the last one passes through here in the next day or two I will have a complete list and start naming people."

"They will do what they will do," Forrester shrugged this week. "There are so many more things we should be focused on." She said that committee has completed its work and filed its report. "We were unanimous, three Democrats and two Republicans," she said. "And we recommended that no member of the Legislature should serve on the board of directors of the LGC or any other risk pool. I don't know what it is they think I've done," she remarked.

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2013 12:46

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Jury selection for trial of band leader Eric Grant will begin on Monday

LACONIA — Jury selection for the aggravated felonious sexual assault trial of the lead singer and namesake of the Eric Grant Band is scheduled to begin Monday morning. The trial is scheduled to being on November 11.

Grant is being tried for an alleged 2006 New Years Eve digital penetration of a girl who 10-years-old at the time. He was indicted by a Belknap County grand jury in December of 2012 and has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence.

According to paperwork filed with the court, the alleged victim reported the incident to a therapist in California in 2012, who in turn reported it to police. Locally, the case was investigated by the Belknap County Sheriff's Department and allegedly happened in Gilford.

Grant, through his attorney Emily McLaughlin, had asked the court for permission to present a video-tape of the therapist's deposition or interview by attorneys while under oath as evidence on his innocence, arguing that the expense and timing difficulties involved in the out-of-state subpoena process are prohibitive.

Assistant Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern objected to the video disposition, saying she would be unable to effectively cross examine any testimony offered by the therapist and Judge James O'Neill agreed, ruling that if the defense wants her to testify she must be in the court room because the defense hasn't shown that the deposition video-tape is anything but hearsay or that it meets the exceptions under the hearsay rule.

The therapist is not one of the people Ahern plans to call to the stand, although McLaughlin argued at a hearing earlier this week that her statements to California police triggered the entire investigation.

McLaughlin has said she will show the jury evidence that the girl's statement to the California investigating officer about that night differed significantly from what she told other people.

McLaughlin said Grant has contended all along that girl exaggerated a story about him allegedly giving her a "wedgie" in a room full of people because she was mad at her mother, who was allegedly in the room but supposedly didn't nothing to stop Grant.

"That's why she hated her mother," said McLaughlin, making her argument earlier in week to allow the deposition of the therapist to be entered as a defense exhibit and played for the jury.

O'Neill also ruled that the defense may not call a Gilford Police officer to testify that Grant — who is related to him by marriage — is of good character. He agreed with Ahern who said that in order for someone to testify about a defendant's "good character" the evidence must be relevant or the prosecution must have challenged Grant's ability to be truthful, which it has not.

The jury can expect to hear from the alleged victim, her mother, and other relatives who were at the 2006 New Year's Eve party.

McLaughlin also submitted questions she would like O'Neill to ask potential jurors during Monday's "voir dire" or jury selection. He had previously denied her request to ask the questions herself.

Included in her proposed questions for the prospective jurors include whether or not he or she has ever been the victim of a sexual assault or knows someone who has, if they have young children, and whether or not he or she believes a child who has told someone about an alleged sexual assault should automatically be believe.

O'Neill has previously said he would take lists of suggested juror questions from the prosecution and the defense and take them into consideration when he conducts "voir dire."

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2013 12:33

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Ward 2: Voters will replace Lahey with either Beaudoin or Bownes

LACONIA — The contest for the City Council in Ward 2 features two unique candidates, Richard Beaudoin, who over the course of 35 years has acquired a reputation of being able to fix virtually anything electrical in the shop behind his home on Manchester Street, and David Bownes, an attorney and actor as well known for his performances in front of the footlights as in front of the bench.

Bownes served as a councilor at-large in from 1986 to 1988, when the council had nine members. He said that with no children still living at home, "It's about time I did something around here except go to meetings and complain." A mainstay of the Streetcar Company and Winnipesaukee Playhouse, he has been long been active in the cultural community and in 2011 was a member of the committee convened to explore acquiring and reopening the Colonial Theater.

In light of its central position and deteriorating condition, the theater, Bownes said, "is a problem in and of itself." He said that purchasing, restoring and operating the venue is "almost cost prohibitive," while suggesting that steps might be taken to improve the commercial and residential spaces attached to the auditorium.

Bownes said that "there are no looming issues facing the city," though he expected the pace of improving roads to continue and the central fire station to be renovated and expanded. Echoing other candidates, he expressed concern about the city's aging population and stressed the need to draw young families to the communities. To that end he said, "There are lots reasons to be optimistic about what we've done with the schools," referring to the renovation of the elementary schools, construction of the Middle School and expansion of the Huot Regional Technical Education Center. "That is going to make a huge difference." With the buildings in sound condition, Bownes said that "doing something to improve the performance of the schools" should be a priority.

"The most pressing issue," Bownes said, "is economic development. There really is a need to provide opportunities for employment." At the same time, he asked "how are we going to deal with it? We have to ask what do we want Laconia to be in 20 years," he remarked. He noted that the redevelopment of the Allen-Rogers property and the opening of several new restaurants downtown is promising, but confessed "I'm still looking for solutions. We need to think outside the box in terms of downtown."

"I've always enjoyed politics," Bownes remarked. "I think I can offer a reasonably intelligent voice and contribute, add to the discussion about where Laconia is going."

Beaudoin, with three write-in votes in the primary, earned a spot on the ballot in 2011, but lost in the general election to Matt Lahey, whose retirement prompted him to run again this year. "I think the city needs help," he said flatly. "We keep going over the same things again and again and coming up with the same answers."

'We've got to get industry back here," Beaudoin declared, observing that although his business is small, he regularly receives e-mails encouraging him to move his operation to another state or city. "We should advertise," he said. He found the recent investments in the Huot Center and Lakes Region Community College encouraging. "90-percent of what goes on at the industrial park is basically machining or advanced manufacturing," he said. "You've got to have bodies, skilled bodies."

Beaudoin said that the revitalization of downtown depends on attracting industry and increasing employment. "Get the factories, get the people and then get retail stores," he said, describing the mix of downtown retailers as tilted toward second-hand and consignment shops and "not really very attractive."

The Weirs, Beaudoin said, should become a year around destination in order to put waterfront property to its highest and best use. "There's a big difference between a two-a-half month bump in the economy and 12 months," he said. "The state is looking for a place to put a casino. That would bring the people in."

Beaudoin is opposed to a "Pay-As-You-Throw" program of trash collection and prefers the mandatory recycling program that began in July. "People are doing their best," he said, adding that the city should have provided toters free of charge. While he would like to see the city acquire the former Laconia State School property, he said "we shouldn't pay more than $1," explaining that the cost of addressing contamination on the site will run into the millions.

Bownes said that he has distributed signs and knocked on doors, but Beaudoin admitted "I haven't been doing a heck of a lot. I thought about signs, but being very frugal, or just plain cheap, and most people feel the same way I do about people knocking on their doors."

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2013 12:27

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Gilmanton Fire officer charged with theft of town gasoline

GILMANTON — A lieutenant with the town Fire Department has been charged with theft for allegedly using the town gas pump to fill the tank of a personal vehicle..

Paperwork obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said the Bryon McSharry of Halls Hill Road in Gilmanton Iron Works is scheduled to be arraigned for the Class B misdemeanor on November 21.

According to police affidavits, the theft was reported to police by a different firefighter who watched McSharry enter the Iron Works Station at 4:30 a.m. on October 22 and go to the forestry truck and then leave the building.

The firefighter checked the forestry truck and noticed the key to the fuel pump was missing. He told police he went outside and witnessed McSharry standing next to his personal vehicle which was parked at the municipal pump, "standing as if he were pumping gas."

The unnamed firefighter went back in to the Iron Works station and allegedly saw McSharry return to the forestry truck, open the cab door and then close it, after which he went into the office.

Affidavits said McSharry went upstairs to the living quarters of some student firefighters and asked the unnamed firefighter why he was there, to which the firefighters responded with the same question.

The firefighter reported to police that McSharry told him he was replacing a clogged floor drain and the battery in his portable radio.

The firefighter said he returned to the forestry unit and noticed the key had been returned. He also said told police he never saw McSharry replace any storm drain.

McSharry was arrested on October 27 by Gilmanton Police Officer Maxwell Hodgdon and released on personal recognizance bail. The case is being prosecuted by the Belmont Police prosecutor, who does all of Gilmanton's adult police prosecuting at the circuit court level.

Town Administrator Arthur Capello said yesterday that McSharry was a call firefighter and is no longer employed by Gilmanton. Beyond that he said he couldn't comment.

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2013 12:23

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