City tax rate set, goes down a bit

LACONIA — The city’s tax rate has been set at $22.20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation by the state Department of Revenue Administration, down from last year’s rate of $22.40.
City Manager Scott Myers told members of the Laconia City Council Monday night that the tax rate is 38 cents per $1,000 lower than anticipated when this year’s budget was finalized in June, having originally been estimated at $22.58.
He said that the city’s valuation rose by $34 million over the original estimate of $1.849 billion to $1.883 billion, which helped lower the final rate.
City tax bills will be mailed out Friday and payments are due by Dec. 28.

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Baer loses suit against Gilford Police lieutenant

CONCORD — A judge in the U.S. District Court District of New Hampshire determined that the Gilford police officer who arrested parent William Baer during a school board meeting in 2014 did not violate the man's rights when he arrested him.
Lt. James Leach has been granted summary judgment by the court meaning he cannot be held civilly liable for arresting Baer.
Baer had filed suit against Leach saying his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested without a warrant for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following a brief outburst at a school board meeting on May 5, 2014. Leach filed for summary judgment – meaning he asked the case against him be dismissed on legal grounds because there were no true objections over the facts surrounding his arrest.
In Baer's opinion, the book, "Nineteen Minutes" by Jody Picoult, assigned to his ninth-grade daughter as mandatory reading, contained a sexually explicit section that he believed was inappropriate.
Baer argued his arrest caused him embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish. Specifically, he said his arrest was broadcast widely on YouTube, that he was detained while crossing the Canadian border, and that his license to carry a firearm was delayed in the state of Maine.
Although the resisting arrest charge was dropped by the prosecution and the state's 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll dismissed the disorderly conduct charge on a First Amendment argument, Baer proceeded to sue Leach civilly in a federal court.
Judge Joseph A DiClerico determined that Leach had probable cause to arrest Baer during his outburst, saying that Board Chairman Sue Allen had repeatedly tried to get Baer to stop interrupting the meeting and then signaled to Leach to remove him. He determined Leach had no way of knowing if Baer's outbursts would continue, which gave him probable cause to arrest him. Probable cause that a crime has been committed and/or the imminent commission of a crime is forthcoming is the only way police can arrest someone in the U.S. absent a warrant.
DeClerico added that the length of the action, which was about 30 seconds, was not relevant to the action itself, dismissing a previous suit cited by Baer's attorney regarding a different and settled case. He said that twice Baer violated the proceedings – once by asking the board questions, which was not allowed, and the second time by interrupting.

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City holds off on accepting untracked money

LACONIA — The City Council voted Monday night to table adoption of a state law which would allow the city to accept and expend sums of less than $10,000 in unanticipated revenues or gifts outside of the normal appropriation process.
Citing litigation filed by former Mayor Tom Tardif which claims the provision violates state law as well as the city charter, the council voted unanimously to wait until that case is resolved before taking action.
Tardif claims the council violated the city charter when it voted 5-0 on Oct. 26 to allow two separate expenditures for a total of $17,891.82 after posted public hearings were held where no one spoke.
In addition, the suit claims that City Manager Scott Myers did not comply to Tardif's Right-To-Know request for information about drug forfeiture money in a timely fashion.
According to an attachment provided in the pleadings, which are now at the Carroll County Superior Court, Myers received an opinion from an attorney at the New Hampshire Municipal Association who advised that the city could use the provisions of RSA 32:95-b — which dictates how towns can spend unanticipated revenues that come after the budget is approved — as long as council authorizes the expenditure vote by a two-thirds majority vote.
Tardif said he disagrees with the advice given by the attorney at the New Hampshire Municipal Association and said giving the manager free reign to spend federal civil forfeiture drug money would be like creating a stream of money flowing through the city for which no one could account.
He has asked the court to stop the expenditure of $8,000 for drug surveillance equipment and $9,891.82 for items not specified. He also wants the court to stop the City Council from taking any action authorized by its October votes.
RSA 31:95-b allows any town or village district to accept and expend, without further action by the town or village district meeting money from state, federal or other governmental unit or private source which becomes available during the fiscal year. It requires public hearings for expenditures of $10,000 or more. It does not specifically mention city councils.
The resolution which was tabled cites RSA 47:1 which provides that all powers vested in towns shall be exercised by city councils and would require public hearings for all expenditures of more than $10,000 in unanticipated funds.
The council did vote Monday night to accept and expend $3,000 in donations made to the city ,$1,000 from New Futures Inc. for use in drug prevention and $2,000 from the Lake Winnipesaukee Association for the removal of milfoil in Black Brook.

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