Gilford Budget Committee members storm out of default budget meeting


GILFORD — The two people from the Budget Committee who agreed to meet with two members of the School Board and two members of the general public about the preparation of the school district default budget walked out of their meeting last night.

Budget Committee Chairman Norman Silber left first after asking the school district's lawyer, Gordon Graham, if the administrators sign the default budget preparation form "under the penalties of perjury" and he initially replied no.

"I would have stayed a little longer if their lawyer agreed that the (Department of Revenue Administration) form said 'under penalties of perjury,'" he said later.

"It's like (peeing) on my leg and telling me it's raining," said Silber, who is also an attorney.

Silber added that by actually including members of the Budget Committee into the process of creating the default budget, it had the effect of co-opting the Budget Committee's job of reviewing it before it goes to the people at deliberative session.

"I told the superintendent I would attend a meeting to help better understand the process," he said, adding neither he or Greene knew they had created a committee.

Budget Committee member Sue Greene left shortly after Silber, telling the assembly that she didn't see any need for the Budget Committee's members to be there.

Greene also took note that the School Board hired Graham "at some expense" to come from Derry to the meeting and that the expenditure was "needless."

Meeting Chairman Chris McDonough said they decided to have their attorney there because Silber is an attorney. He said some of their brief conversations hinged on matters of law, so he felt the expense was justified.

"(The preparation of the default budget) can be left in (Assistant Superintendent for Finance) Scott (Isabelle's) capable hands," Greene said as she left.

The Gilford School Board Default Budget Committee was formed by the School Board to ameliorate some of the Budget Committee's and general public's need to understand how the annual default budget is prepared.

By law, the default budget for one year is last year's general budget plus or minus debt service and contractual agreements minus any one-time expenditures as determined by the governing body, which in this case is the School Board.

It is the "one-time expenditures" that riled the Budget Committee last year when $100,000 for the replacement for the "Imagination Station" or the playground at the Gilford Elementary School money wasn't removed from this year's default budget, in effect making the initial default budget higher that the proposed budget.

Budget Committee members considered it a one-time expenditure, meaning it isn't likely to recur in consecutive years, while the School Board considered it part of their ongoing special projects categories that have in the past included items like roofs, carpeting and parking lots repairs that can have a hefty price tag but aren't expensive enough to issue a bond.

Isabelle said Thursday night and has said in the past that he understands some of the misunderstandings and has suggested that the district enact a six-year maintenance plan for these project so taxpayers understand they are part of some of the more expensive maintenance required for school district property.

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Charges fly over County Commission candidate's bankruptcy filing


ALTON — Jonathan Smolin, candidate for the Republican nomination for Belknap County Commissioner for District 3, says claims that he has inflated his resume and failed to take responsibility for multiple bankruptcy filings are unfounded.
But his opponent in that primary contest, current Belknap County District 3 Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), says in a letter published in Saturday's Laconia Daily Sun that Smolin "has some explaining to do" with regard to his bankruptcy and cites a $210,000 judgment against Smolin which was entered in the Cumberland County Maine Probate Court in June of 2007.

09-02 Jonathan Smolin Smolin
In a letter published in the Daily Sun last Saturday, Smolin wrote "My bankruptcy was rooted in severe medical problems affecting my father and my wife.''
On Wednesday, Smolin explained that his wife has suffered from colon cancer in recent years and that his father, who passed away several months ago, was living with him and his family and had a heart transplant and kidney cancer, and that these were what led to his bankruptcy.

"When you go from two paychecks to one paycheck, it really changes your life," said Smolin, who said that he is hoping that his wife, who is a nurse, will be able to return to work by the end of the year.

09-02 Hunter TaylorTaylor
Taylor charged that the judgment against Smolin was based on misappropriating funds from the bank account of an elderly and ailing man and defrauding him into transferring title to certain real estate to Smolin is not recent development.
He said that Smolin has filed for bankruptcy three times in the last eight years.
Asked to respond to Taylor's statements, Smolin said he believes his letter has explained his personal situation. "If people do their homework, they will find the accusations against me aren't credible. I have not cheated anyone."
Taylor wrote that the Smolin accepted all of the allegations made against him in a 2005 filing on behalf of the estate of his wife's grandfather, Frederick Espeaignette, and agreed to have a judgment entered against him rather than defend himself at trial. The 2007 consent order and judgment found for the estate on all counts and ordered Smolin to pay $210,000, plus interest.
The 2005 filing said that Espeaignette had entered a last will and testament leaving all of his assets in equal shares to his six children. Espeaignette had operated a junkyard on Route 302 in Windham, Maine, where he also had a home, which was destroyed by fire in July of 2003. At the time, Espeaignette was 86 years old, legally blind and in poor health.
He later moved in with the Smolins in New Gloucester, Maine, and transferred title to his property to the Smolins, who, according to the filing, had falsely represented to him and his children that a clean-up order existed for the property and that transferring the title to the Smolins would extend the time within which the premises would have to be cleaned up.
Espeaignette and his children agreed to the transfer, which involved no money, with the understanding that the Smolins would hold the property in trust for the estate, clean it up, and sell it with the profits from the sale divided in seven equal shares between the family members and the Smolins.
Following Espeaignette's death in February of 2005, the Smolins are alleged to have breached their agreement with the family members by claiming that they owned the premises free and clear of any claims or interest held by the estate or family members and refused to allow the family members to enter the property.
The filing also says that the Smolins took out three mortgages on the property which totaled $150,000, the first of which was taken out in January 2004, just weeks after the title had been transferred to them, and the last of which was taken out in July 2005, after they had notice beyond doubt that the estate claimed an interest in the property.
The Smolins also claimed that they were entitled to be compensated for the 15 months Espeaignette had lived with them and filed a claim against the estate for $100,000.
The filing charged the Smolins with fraud, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty for mortgaging the property for their own benefit.
The June 15, 2007, consent order and judgment prohibited the Smolins from fling any petition for bankruptcy within 105 days of the entry and consent order.
A memorandum issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Court for New Hampshire in March of 2014 says that Smolin and his wife filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in Maine on Feb. 14, 2008, which was dismissed on Dec. 17, 2008, with a provision that the debtor would not file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy for two years. On Dec. 5, 2011, Smolin filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, which was closed on Aug. 3, 2012.
In January of 2013 Belknap County Superior Court entered a payment order of $2,000 a month against Smolin with regard to the $210,000 Espeaignette judgment, and on Feb. 27, 2013, Smolin filed for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manchester. No payments had been made at that time with regard to the county court's payment order. Because the filing came within four years of the discharge of the 2011 bankruptcy, Smolin was not eligible for a discharge from the debt.
The Espeaignette estate objected to the Chapter 13 filing made by Smolin, maintaining that the plan he had submitted was filed in bad faith and was not an honest effort to repay creditors. The court agreed that Smolin had failed to establish that his plan was filed in good faith and on March 17, 2014 denied the plan he had proposed.

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Man sleeping in parking lot arrested for meth possession

SANBORNTON — An Alexandria man who police found sleeping at the General Store on Route 127 after it has closed has been charged with possession of methamphetamine.

09-02 Justin Blais

Police on routine patrol saw Justin Blais, 36, of 532 Cass Mill Road in Alexandria in a 2008 Subaru that was parked near the diesel pumps.

Affidavits said that when the officer woke him, Blais couldn't say where he came from but knew he had driven there.

The officer learned Blais's driving privileges were suspended and asked him to get out of his car for a field sobriety test.

During a weapons search, the officer found a pocket knife and what felt like a small pouch with a pipe in it. He asked Blais if he knew what it was and Blais said he didn't know but then said it could be methamphetamine.

The officer arrested him for driving after revocation and read him his rights. Blais gave him permission to open the bag, in which the officer found the pipe and a substance that was later field tested for methamphetamine.

Blais is charged with transporting drugs in a motor vehicle, possession of methamphetamine, and offering a police officer an expired driver's license.

After his appearance in the Belknap County Superior Court Thursday, he was released on $15,000 personal recognizance bail and order to report to Belknap County Restorative Justice for bail supervision.

– Gail Ober

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