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Judge says Alton was wrong to arrest man for having his say before board

LACONIA — After a month of deliberation, Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division has dismissed the disorderly conduct charge lodged against Alton resident Jeffrey T. Clay by the Alton Police.

In his six-page ruling, Carroll said Clay's February 3 arrest by Chief Ryan Heath for telling members of the board of selectmen that were violating the state's Right To Know laws was unlawful.

"The silencing is nothing less that censorship of the defendant's criticisms given at a time and place designated by the board itself for public input," Carroll wrote.

Carroll also paraphrased the 6th U.S. President and framer of the Constitution James Madison, who said the censorial power is in the people over the government and not in the government over the people.

The historic roots of the disorderly conduct case against Clay stem from a series of Alton Selectboard meetings beginning in December of 2013 where Clay was a vocal critic of the board — mostly because he felt they were violating the state's Right-To-Know Laws. He was constantly demanding they resign.

Heath testified in the hearing for dismissal in May that during the December 15, 2014 meeting he asked Clay to leave the room, that Clay obeyed him and the two spoke outside. Heath said he told Clay to be professional and to not mention family members of the members family or threaten the board members.

On January 15, 2015 the board adopted rules for conduct during public comment that forbade obscene, libelous, defamatory, or violent statements from public comment. It also gave the board chair the power to terminate a speaker's privilege to address the board if the speaker doesn't follow those rules of order. The policy also states that the person may be removed from the meeting.

That policy is still in place today, said the executive secretary to the town administrator yesterday.

On February 3, Clay brought a timer in the form of a cell phone to ensure he didn't extend beyond his five-minute time allotment and again told the board member he felt they were not following open meetings laws and should resign.

A member of the board called for a point of order saying Clay's statements were character assassination and Chair Loring Carr began banging his gavel and asked Clay to take his seat in the audience. When Clay continued to speak, the chair requested Heath's intervention and Clay was removed from the room by Heath using an arm hold, charged outside of the meeting room, and put into the custody of a different Alton police officer who processed him.

Carroll said that whether or not Heath's actions were taken independently of the board or in conjunction with it, his actions in arresting Clay "were content-based censorship and the defendant was acting within the very rules promulgated by the board as well within his constitutional rights under the U.S. and N.H. Constitutions."

Clay's attorney Jared Bedrick said, "Judge Carroll used the words censorship a lot."

Bedrick said that the Clay's case was a simple one of freedom of speech while the state "was doing legal gymnastics to make it fit the facts."

"Jeff is thrilled," said Bedrick of his client.

In an earlier interview with The Daily Sun, Clay had noted that his elderly mother was worried that he was going to be a "criminal" and he said now he could call her and tell her he isn't one.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 12:29

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National Guard planes becoming familiar site in sky around Laconia Airport

GILFORD — With the advent of summer residents of the Lakes Region can expect to see more military aircraft flying in and out of the Laconia Airport as national guard units in the northeast use the relatively uncongested air space for training missions.

Last weekend a pair of Black Hawk helicopters and a C-130 "Hercules", a four-engine turboprop transport aircraft, landed at the airfield. John Leahy of SkyBright, which is one of two companies providing aviation services at the airport, said that the helicopters came and left the same day while the C-130, which is capable of fueling the Black Hawks, spent the night at the field before leaving the next day. Leahy said that military personnel practice instrument approaches and support training exercises, sometimes conducted in a military fly zone in the White Mountains, and use the airport rather than add to the air traffic at busier airports.

Leahy said that earlier this summer Black Hawk helicopters based in Concord refueled at Laconia Airport while ferrying water to fight a brush fire in the Ossipee Mountains.

The C-130 is 98 feet long and has a wingspan of 132 feet. Empty, it weighs 75,800 pounds and can carry again as much weight in cargo. The plane is said to 3,586 feet of runway to take off at full weight. The Laconia Airport runway(s) is nearly 6,000 feet long.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 12:22

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Belmont Police introduce 'drop box' for discarding unwanted prescription drugs

BELMONT — The Police Department is a one of growing number of that have added a prescription drug drop-off box to allow people to safely and properly dispose of expired or unneeded drugs.

Through a donation from CVS, the drop off box was made available to the Police Department at no cost.

Lt. Richard Mann said pharmacies are not allowed to take back certain drugs, such as pain relievers and stimulants, because they are controlled substances. Take-back days hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration are held occasionally and were only on a certain day within the year.

Our major concern, said Mann, was that our residents felt they only had one of two options for medication disposal, throwing them away or flushing them down the toilet.

Mann said a common concern with people flushing old prescriptions down the toilet that some of those drugs could eventually end up back in the water supply. Throwing a bottle away in the trash does not always mean it won't end up in the wrong hands.

A situation in Belmont earlier this year drew our attention to this issue when drugs left in a home ended up in hands of a child who, after ingesting them, was rushed to Lakes Region General Hospital and later transferred to Dartmouth Hitchcock for complications from the overdose. The child eventually recovered but it was a long and stressful event for the family.

The Belmont Police Department already has a drug collection program in place but it was coordinated with the national Drug Enforcement Agency collection effort and only saw the department doing a collection of unwanted drugs one designated day a year. That meant that in some cases residents were holding dangerous drugs in their homes for up to eleven months before they could dispose of them.

The Belmont Police Department met the multi-pronged requirements to apply for a prescription drop off box: The location must be accessible to the public; the agency must already have had the means of disposing of drugs and the box must be kept in a secure area, which is our lobby, said Mann.

Now that we have a permanent collection box our residents have the ability to dispose of medications locally as the need arises.

Residents can drop off unwanted medications without question in the lobby of the police station Monday thru Friday 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

No liquid medications or needles can be accepted in the drop off box.

The Belmont Fire Department can assist with needle collection and disposal if necessary.

If you have any questions about medication disposal please feel free to call us at the Belmont Police Department 267-8350.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 01:35

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City Council approves final union contract

LACONIA — The City Council this week ratified a collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the State Employees Association (SEA), which represents 32 administrative, technical and clerical employees in a number of municipal departments.

City Manager Scott Myers said the agreement is the last of four to reached with unions — SEA, Laconia Professional Firefighters and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — representing city employees and was concluded after months of negotiations and mediation as well as a factfinding report, which recommended the city's proposals on the major issues of wage increases and health insurance.

The terms of the two-year agreement, backdated one year and beginning on July 1, mirror those negotiated with the other three unions. It includes cost-of-living (COLAs) of 2 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.50 percent, less than the annual 3-percent Colas sought by the union.. By failing to ratify the agreement sooner, employees will forego the 2-percent COLA in the first year, which instead will be added to their base pay in the second year, on which the 2.25-percent COLA is calculated., resulting in a COLA of approximately 4 percent.

Employees will contribute 9 percent and 10 percent to the cost of their health insurance in the second and third years together with an annual contribution of $1,000 to a health reimbursement account to defray the cost of co-pays and deductibles.. Any unexpended balance in the account may be carried forward to the following year.

Neil Smith, who negotiated for the SEA on behalf of its members, said that the membership ratified the contract by a vote of 19 to 3. "I'm happy to have this contract resolved," he said.

All four city-employee labor agreements now in force will expire at the end of June 2017.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 01:31

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