County leaks? Burchell says man should never have been target of closed-door meeting

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who was censured by his fellow commissioners at a meeting in early June for allegedly leaking information from a non-public session in February to a county employee, has defended his actions in a second incident of alleged leaks of information, which led to the commission majority to call for a legal investigation.
In a letter published in Saturday's edition of The Daily Sun, Burchell maintained that the second incident involved a non-public session at which complaints by a county employee that he/she felt threatened by the remarks of a private citizen of the county were discussed.
He maintained that the meeting, which in addition to commissioners also involved Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin and Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen, was an improper use of the law permitting non-public sessions.

Burchell says that after he asked the county attorney if the citizen in question had committed a chargeable offense and she answered "no", that he then said that the board ''had nothing before it''. He said he also defended the free speech rights of the individual.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) have said that Wiggin later received a phone call from the person who was the subject of the second meeting and they concluded that Burchell had informed the man that his comments had been the subject of the closed-door meeting of the commission.
Burchell said that he wrote the letter to the newspaper after waiting in vain for some time for either the Belknap County Attorney's office or the N.H. Attorney General's Office to contact him as part of an investigation and decided that it was time for him to publicly answer the charges.
Burchell declined to say whether he had provided the subject of the second meeting with information but did say that his fellow commissioners ''know bloody well who told him.''

DeVoy defended the non-public meeting as being permitted by state law.
DeVoy said that his recollection of the second meeting differs sharply with Burchell's and maintains that the objections Burchell claims to have made at the closed-door proceedings are not accurate.
''He never said that during the meeting,'' said DeVoy, who says that he's embarrassed by ''all the drama happening in the county.''
He said that as far as he's concerned when it comes to non-public sessions ''there should be enough trust and respect so that's what said during the meeting stays in the room. These leaks are designed to produce drama, which hurts the county."
DeVoy also takes issue with Burchell's account of the February meeting which is discussed in his letter.
The meeting took place while Burchell was still chairman of the commission.
Burchell wrote that he left the meeting which was called to discuss a grievance filed by a county department head after he determined that the other commissioners had reached a conclusion with which he did not agree. He claimed to have filed a minority report with the county employee and told him that he would submit it in writing and did so the next day both with the county administrative assistant and the employee.
DeVoy said at no time during the February meeting did Burchell ever say that he was going to write a report and that when he spoke with the department head immediately after the meeting that Burchell had already relayed the commission's decision to that person.
'You left the meeting and went right to the employee, where sensitive information was leaked out,'' DeVoy said to Burchell at the June 18 meeting of the commissioners.
DeVoy said that it was Burchell's behavior at the February meeting that marked ''the beginning of the end for him as chairman".'
Burchell was replaced as chairman of the commission at a March 2 meeting at which he presided and tried to block motions made by DeVoy and Taylor by repeatedly rapping the gavel and declaring that they were out of order.
He filed a lawsuit in Belknap County Superior Court in an attempt to overturn his ouster but that move was denied by Judge James O'Neill III.
Burchell said in his letter that that he disagrees with the decision in the case, calling it ''an egregious example of judicial activism''.
DeVoy said Burchell's comment on the ruling shows how difficult it is for his fellow commissioners to deal with a person who won't accept a view that differs from his own.

Alton students have raised $9,500 toward D.C. trip so far; July 12 auction is next

ALTON — The 23 members of the eighth grade at Alton Central School who have signed up to go on a field trip to Washington D.C. in May of 2016 will be holding a benefit auction on July 12 at the school at 5 p.m.

The student have been holding fundraisers for the trip since sixth grade, said parent Judy Ingoldsby, and have raised about $9,500 to date.

"We recently had a dance and raised $800 and a Red Sox ticket raffle that raised $4,000," said Ingoldsby.

The trip to the nation's capital was canceled by last year's school administration and resurrected by the School Board after four of the students appealed the decision to the board.

The cancellation came after a teacher gave the seventh-grade students a confidential questionnaire asking them about the school trip and reporting that only four students wanted to go to Washington and the rest wanted to go camping.

After considerable discussion, the board voted 4 to 0 with one abstention to allow interested students to continue fund-raising for the trip. Board members assured the many people who came to the meeting that it would not cost taxpayer dollars.

Ingoldsby said the parent organizers have picked an education company that gives grants to students whose parents income is less than $85,000 annually. She said the parent organizers are planning to return to the School Board in September with an update on the fund-raising and the specifics about the company and the trip.

She said the students have been really impressed with the outpouring of community support and noted that there are 57 donated auction items that range from tickets to Bank of New Hampshire Meadowbrook Pavilion and the Boston Symphony Orchestra to stays are area resorts to paintball for four and Harley-Davidson T-shirts and a hat.

Man charged with Gilford burglary facing bail revocation hearing today

SUPERIOR COURT — The Belknap County Attorney's Office has filed a motion to revoke the bail of an area man who allegedly burglarized a home on Cherry Valley Road in Gilford in December of 2014.

Kenneth Blankenship, 33, whose last known address was 17 Orchard Street in Belmont had been free on bail since his arrest the same night by Gilford Police.

A Belknap County grand jury indicted Blankenship in February for one count of burglary and one count of resisting arrest for allegedly running from the Gilford Police Officer who arrested him.

According to paperwork filed in the Belknap County Superior Court, Blankenship was arrested by Belmont Police on March 26 for domestic violence. Asst. County Attorney Roni Karnis said not only was Blankenship arrested while he was on bail but left his address on Elm Street in Laconia and moved to Belmont to allegedly hide from the police.

Blankenship was arrested by Belmont Police on June 16 for allegedly threatening his girlfriend for allegedly telling her he would "cut her finger off" if she left. Police allege he also kept "picking" at her legs with a knife and eventually hit her in the face. Affidavits submitted by Belmont police said when they spoke with her both of her eyes were blackened. He was charged with one count of domestic violence criminal threatening and two counts of domestic violence simple assault.

On June 20, he was arrested a second time by Belmont police for one count of felony witness tampering for allegedly asking the assault victim to "help him out" after he learned she had spoken with police.

She told police he sent her repeated text messages asking her to come to his house. She said she relented, went to his house and that's when they had the conversation.

As his latest arraignment for the new Belmont charge, Judge Jim Carroll ordered Blankenship held on 2,000 cash bail — $1,000 for witness tampering and $1,000 for the assaults.

He posted bail on June 29 and is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. today in Superior Court to argue the bail revocation motion.

Organic farm stand 'pops up' at child care center

LACONIA — A collaborative effort involving the Lakes Region Child Care Center and the Lakes Region Food Network (LRFN) has brought the "pop-up" Busy Corner Farm Stand to the parking lot at the giant Normandin Square apartment building where the center is located.
''The idea is to try and bring fresh local produce to the center so that the parents of children can find some healthy, locally-grown food readily available when they pick up their children at the end of the day.'' says Karen Barker of the Lakes Region Food Network.
The fresh vegetables; lettuce, radishes, beets, swiss chard, kale, broccoli, carrots, summer squash and swiss chard, are from the Red Manse Farm, an organic farm in Loudon, which is also supplying produce to Laconia's Got Lunch! Program.
The center currently cares for about 100 children a day, according to Jana Mills, who cooks for the center and had prepared several food items for customers to sample, carrot and kohlrabi fritters and summer squash and zucchini fritters, both served with an avocado yogurt sauce as well as braised cabbage with apples and onions.
Among those taking advantage of the chance to shop was Shari Lancaster of Gilford, director of the Early Learning Center at Lakes Region Child Care, who brought along her five-year-old son, Weston.
''I'm trying to broaden his horizons when it comes to food.'' said Lancaster, who offered him a snap pea to taste. Weston said that he liked it and that his favorite vegetables are carrots.
Earl Tuson said that he and his wife, Alice, were both engineers who took up farming in 2005 when they bought the former Batchelder Farm at the junction of Rte. 129 and Pittsfield Road in 2005.
They were certified as organic in 2007 and have carved out their own market by supplying organic grocers across the state as well as restaurants and schools. They run a community-supported agriculture program and have reduced their management burden in recent years by limiting themselves to 35 different crops.
"Red Manse Farm grows high quality produce, and offers a wide array of veggies to satisfy anyone's needs," says Barker. "One of the neat aspects of the Busy Corner Farm Stand is that LRFN has some funds to subsidize it, so we can bring in this first quality organic produce at more affordable prices. LRFN will make up the difference for the farm, so it is a win-win situation for both the farm and the customers."
The farm stand will operate again on August 11, and September 8, and will again be open to the entire community.

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Shari Lancaster of Gilford and her five-year-old son, Weston, shop for local produce at the Busy Corner farm stand next to the Lakes Region Child Care Center in Laconia on Tuesday. Earl Tuson from Red Manse Farm in Loudon is operating the stand, which will be open monthly and was started in cooperation with the Lakes Region Food Network. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)