MOULTONBOROUGH — With removal proceedings against two members of the Planning Board scheduled on Monday, the selectmen last week sought but failed to overcome charges that they violated the Right-to-Know law by deciding to begin the process while consulting with town counsel behind closed doors.
A motion intended to legitimize the actions taken at the controversial meeting failed by a vote of three-to-two with selectmen Chris Shipp, Jon Tolman and Ed Charest in the majority and chairman Joel Mudgett and Russ Wakefield in the minority.
Town Administrator Carter Terenzini, who has insisted that claims that the selectboard breached the law are without merit, said yesterday that the vote would have no impact on the hearings, which will be held as scheduled. "There have been a number of questions about whether the process has complied with RSA 91-A (the Right-to-Know law)," he said. "The purpose of the motion was to remove that issue from the table to concentrate on the real issues." He denied that the motion represented an admission that the selectboard's prior actions we're improper. "That's not what we're saying at all," he declared.
On July 18, a week after the Planning Board approved construction of an observation tower on Red Hill, the selectmen held a non-meeting with Town Counsel Peter Minkow to consider information they had received about the conduct of Josh Bartlett and Judy Ryerson in granting the approval. The selectboard agreed to begin removal proceedings and to instruct Town Administrator Carter Terenzini and Minkow to offer the two members the opportunity to resign rather than undergo a public hearing. After both Bartlett and Ryerson refused to resign, the selectmen outlined the charges against them, which bore primarily on their conduct in approving construction of the observation tower, in letters sent to each and subsequently scheduled public hearings to determine if there is cause to remove them.
Both the selectmen and Terenzini have steadfastly refused to disclose what transpired during the consultation with Minkow, which they have variously claimed was a "non-public meeting" or is protected by "attorney-client privilege." Among others Paul Puntunieri, a member of the Planning Board, has countered that the selectboard contravened the Right-to-Know by conducting deliberations and making decisions during the consultation.
According to the Memorandum of the New Hampshire Attorney General on the application of the Right-to-Know law, consultation with legal counsel does not qualify as either a meeting or a non-public meeting, but instead is a "non-meeting." The memorandum continues "consultation with legal counsel should be limited to discussion of legal issues. Deliberation about the matter on which advice is sought may not occur during consultation with legal counsel. The public body must reconvene and, unless a statutory exemption allowing deliberation in non-public session exists, conduct deliberation in public session."
Of the nine matters that may be considered in non-public session, only those that are likely to adversely affect the reputation of any person, other than a member of selectboard itself, applies. However, if the person in question requests an open meeting, if must be granted.
When the selectmen met last week, Terenzini informed them that Minkow recommended that they "ratify" the letters sent to Bartlett and Ryerson as well as the notice of the public hearings. "Why we're doing this at this juncture," asked Shipp, "I don't understand." He was echoed by Charest, who said "I'm not following the reason either."
"There's no new action," Terenzini replied. "You're ratifying what you've already done." He added that "you don't have to do anything" and assured the selectmen that the hearing would proceed if they chose to do nothing.
Tolman wondered "is it that he (Minkow) is uncomfortable with the procedure we've followed to this point?"
Peter Jensen, vice-chair of the Planning Board, which last month recommended against proceedings against two of its members, told the selectmen "I would encourage you not to do this unless you know what you're doing."
Terenzini intervened, saying "there continues to persist a question as to whether or not the board can consult with counsel and give counsel instructions in that meeting. He (Minkow) requests to have you ratify what you have done in an open and public session to remove and put to rest that question."
"Obviously he's telling you you broke the right-to-know law," interrupted Puntunieri, "and now you're going to fix it."
Terenzini reminded the selectmen that similar charges were brought in the past only to be dismissed by the Carroll County Superior Court. "I leave it to you," he said, again telling the selectmen they were not bound to act. "I think he (Minkow) remains comfortable with the advice he's given you."
With that the selectboard voted to reject Minkow's advice.
The public hearings are scheduled to begin on Monday at 1 p.m. in the Town Hall.
Last Updated on Saturday, 07 September 2013 01:16
LACONIA – One business day before scheduled jury selection, the Manchester man accused of providing the heroin that allegedly killed a 22-year-old mother in March of 2011 has filed a motion to dismiss the case against him, claiming city police and the prosecution have been investigating a different person for injecting her.
Alfredo Gonzales, 46, of Center Street in Manchester is accused of selling the heroin to Karen Mikkelson who in turn sold it to Ashley Denty.
Three others, Karen Mikkelson, Steven Marando, and Amanda Kelly have all pleaded guilty to their roles in Denty's death and are serving or have served sentences in jail or prison.
The crux of Gonzales's motion lies in what attorney Mark Sisti said was an investigation into an alternative theory of Denty's death and, though he just learned of it on August 29, it was information he said the Laconia Police had in April and the County Attorney's Office had in July.
The final pretrial was August 8, and Sisti argued he should have had the information before they agreed on a date to go to trial.
According to Sisti, a different man allegedly said on his Facebook page that he was the one who injected Denty with the heroin. He said Laconia Police applied for and got a warrant for this man's electronic records of which there are 2,000 pages that he hasn't had a chance to read.
"The court deserves an explanation that the state is sitting on exculpatory information" he said. "Now there is an alternative suspect who admits on Facebook he killed the victim."
Assistant County Prosecutor Carley Ahern said she needed until Monday to respond to Sisti's motion. She briefly countered that even if someone else actually stuck the needle in Denty's arm, it doesn't change the case against Gonzales – who is charged with providing the heroin not personally injecting it.
Sisti also filed a motion for discovery, a motion to personally interview the potential jurors, and a motion for Gonzales to be released on personal recognizance bail.
Gonzales has been incarcerated for two years and would agree to wear a bracelet or comply with whatever the court orders if he is freed on bail. He was found not guilty of selling heroin to a confidential informant after a three-day jury trial earlier this year. In an unrelated case, he pleaded guilty to assault on prisoners.
Ahern said he has a previous conviction from Texas for sales of a controlled drug.
Judge James O'Neill said he would give all both parties until Monday at 2:30 p.m. to respond to the motions.
Last Updated on Saturday, 07 September 2013 03:50
LACONIA — The Eastern Junior Hockey League announced this week that it has re-worked its 2013-14 regular season schedule to accommodate the revocation of the New Hampshire Lakers franchise for one season. The club was previously knows as the Laconia Leafs.
The league said that the Lakers requested the revocation for the 2013-14 season two weeks ago, as is permitted by league bylaws, and the EHL quickly adopted the revised schedule.
The Daily Sun reported last week that it had learned from multiple sources that the Lakers were planning to take a year off from competing in the newly-formed Eastern Hockey League, which starts play in September, and plan to field a team for the 2014-2015 season.
The Lakers had been looking for a new head coach to replace Joe Cardarelli, who resigned last month, and earlier this month had announced the hiring of Rocky Romanella as an assistant coach who also serve as recruiting coordinator.
The Lakers have played their home games at the Laconia Ice Arena.
Teams in the Eastern League consists of amateur athletes recruited from around the country and world who largely hope to catch the eyes of college scouts.
Last Updated on Friday, 06 September 2013 03:59
LACONIA — A Jackson Street man charged Wednesday with breaking into the Opechee Trading Post and stealing the owner's gun was ordered held on $20,000 cash-only bail yesterday.
Henry A. Rogers, 40, is charged with one count of burglary and one count of theft. In an unrelated incident, he is also charged with simple assault for slapping woman on June 1.
Affidavits said police were able to identify Rogers after his picture ran in local media and police received multiple calls from people who recognized him. At least one police officer also recognized Rogers.
Although Rogers allegedly cut the wires to a surveillance camera and removed the DVD, camera technicians were able to recover a photo of him and broadcast it on television and in a local newspaper.
Should he post bail, Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division ordered he have no contact with the victim of the alleged assault unless it is at the jail and is related to information she needs regarding her pregnancy.
He is also ordered to stay off Opechee Street, where the store is located.
Affidavits said once police identified him, they went to his home on Wednesday and initially arrested him for not appearing in court to answer to the simple assault charge. Later that day he was also charged for the burglary and theft.
Police said they asked him where he put the stolen gun and he told them. Affidavits said he told police it was loaded. Another resident of the house told police that he just found out about the burglary and that Rogers had allegedly told him he did it but the resident didn't believe him.
Affidavits said the serial number on the gun matched the one provided by the the gun owner.
Last Updated on Friday, 06 September 2013 03:55
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