Pataki a no-show at Laconia Rotary meeting

LACONIA —Rotarians  hoping to hear from Republican presidential candidate George Pataki yesterday were left disappointed when the candidate failed to show up at the appointed hour.

Pataki, who has never lost an election and served as governor of New York for three terms, the former three-term, was not invited to the GOP debate in Milwaukee this week. Despite his lackluster showing in the opinion polls, Pataki was booked by the Laconia Rotary Club to speak at the weekly luncheon meeting yesterday.

As the noon hour passed, Pataki's advance team stationed at the Belknap Mill began tracking the candidate on their cell phones. "He's 20 minutes away," one said around 12:20 p.m., shortly before he was expected to begin speaking. By 12:45 p.m. Rotarians began trickling out the door. Soon afterwards Pataki was reported just a mile away. But, when the clock struck 1, the remaining Rotarians left.

"We'll be behind 30 minutes the rest of the day," remarked one campaign staffer, who knows what it is like to be running behind.

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Pair wearing bandannas rob woman of purse, fail to get man's wallet (175).

LACONIA — Police are investigating one robbery and a second attempted robbery, both committed by two suspects wearing bandannas, which took place two-and-a-half hours and approximately a mile apart on Wednesday night.

The first incident occurred near where Bisson Avenue turns into Strafford Street, around 7 p.m., when a woman who was walking was approached by two people, who she thought were a man and a woman, whose faces were covered by bandannas. One of the two demanded her purse, which she gave them, and the pair fled in a maroon four-door sedan.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m., a man walking his dog on Lincoln Street near Union Cemetery was approached by two people, one of whom he described as a man, who asked for his wallet. He refused, went into his home and called the police.

Police Capt. Bill Clary said yesterday that "persons of interest" have been interviewed, but officers are pursuing their investigation. Anyone with information about either or both of the incident should contact the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

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Judge wins First Amendment award but can’t accept it - Award honors James Carroll for decisions defending right of public to speak at meetings

CONCORD — Although Judge James Carroll of the fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division was honored with a Quill & Ink Award by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, on the strength of an opinion of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, he was not at the Capitol Center for the Arts when the award was presented last night.
Carroll was recognized for his staunch defense of the right to freedom of speech as reflected by his decision to dismiss charges against two citizens who were arrested while speaking at public meetings.
However, after reviewing the circumstances, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, found that although the Code of Judicial Conduct permits Carroll to accept the award, it "prohibits the judge from accepting the award at or participating in the public event at which it will be presented."
Joseph McQuaid, president and publisher of New Hampshire Union Leader and is president and chairman of the trustees of the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, said yesterday that former New Hampshire Attorney General Phil McLaughlin will accept the award on Carroll's behalf.
"I don't know exactly what I will say," he added, "other than explain why he got the award and quote from his decisions."
McQuaid expressed his disdain for the committee's decision, noting that another judge who began a charity to support members of the armed forces overseas, was also told to abandon the project because it represented a conflict of interest.
An editorial in yesterday's edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader described the committee's reasoning as "tortuous."
Since the award is sponsored by a nonprofit educational institution and bestowed in association with the law, legal system or administration of justice, Carroll is entitled to accept it.
However, the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from taking part in "activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge's independence, integrity, or impartiality." The committee noted that because the award ceremony will be well attended and newsworthy, it "will be a very public recognition of the judge for his rulings in two specific cases" and may appear "to be an endorsement of the judge's particular viewpoint."
The committee expressed concern that the litigants who failed to prevail in the two cases might take the judges participation in the ceremony "as a public celebration of rulings that were adverse to them" that could "undermine their confidence in the judge's independence and impartiality." Likewise, there is a risk that future litigants raising similar issues could question the judge's independence and impartiality.
Finally, the committee referred to the rule forbidding judges from "abusing the prestige of judicial office or allowing others to do so." By appearing in photographs or videotapes alongside sponsors of the awards ceremony — especially political candidates — the committee held that "the risks of exploitation are many."
Carroll was honored for his decisions in the cases of William Baer, charged with breaching the peace in Gilford and Jeffrey Clay in Alton, charged with disorderly conduct in Alton, both while speaking in public meetings.
Police removed William Baer from a meeting of the Gilford School Board when, after challenging a teacher's decision to assign ninth grade students a book he deemed inappropriate, he continued speaking after being ruled out of order. Baer was charged with two counts of breaching the peace and one count of disobeying a police officer.
In dismissing the charges, Carroll described Baer's behavior as "impolite but not criminal." The case, he wrote offers "an excellent civics lesson, a perfect case for modeling free speech guarantees." Baer's arrest, the judge ruled "cause pause by the court as to the chilling, if not silencing, of a citizen by the state for actions which do not warrant a criminal arrest or conviction."
In Alton, Jeffrey Clay began claiming that the Board of Selectmen regularly flouted the Right to Know law in December 2013 and obeyed when asked to leave a meeting a year later. In January 2015, the selectmen adopted rules for for members of the public to follow when commenting at meetings. A month later, when Clay repeated his charges against the selectboard, he was ruled out of order. When he continued to speak, he was removed from the room, placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct by the police.
In dismissing the charges against Clay, Carroll found that "the silencing is nothing less than censorship of the defendant's criticism given at a time and place designated by the board itself for public input." Furthermore, the judge noted that Clay "was acting within the very rules promulgated by the board as well as within his constitutional rights."
Carroll said it was "unusual" for a district court judge to have an opportunity to rule on a constitutional issue, let alone "to have lightning strike twice in the same place." He said that in both cases he considered the circumstances of the defendants before the court and the interests of the state and wrote orders protecting the right of individuals to speak freely before public bodies.

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Pay now or later? - Belknap County commissioners debate options on financing new corrections center, renovations

LACONIA — Belknap County commissioners were split on whether the current generation of taxpayers should foot the bill for a new community corrections center and renovations to the current county jail, or if the youngsters of today will have to shoulder the burden in the future.
Commissioners are continuing to examine their options on structuring an $8 million bond issue for the work, with an eye to lowering the impact of payments, especially during the early years of the bond issue while the county is still paying off $1.4 million in current debt obligations.
Among the options under consideration are a bond anticipation note in which money would be borrowed as needed rather than in a lump sum, interest-only payments for the first few years of the bond issue until old debt is retired and using the county's fund balance to retire old debt while floating a 20-year bond with level payments.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) put a new option on the table during a budget work session Thursday in which he suggested bonding only $7,171,928 for the 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed community corrections center and paying for the $1.1 million in renovations to existing county jail out of general funds.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said a bond anticipation note would allow the county to borrow $5 million and $3 million later so that it wouldn't be paying as much interest.
''We don't need all that money now. It makes more sense to borrow what you need when you need it.''
He has also said he thinks that the interest-only payments for a short period of time with a 25-year bond is a good option.
When the County Convention approved the bond issue on Nov. 2, it also passed by a 12-3 vote a nonbinding recommendation introduced by Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) which called for using the county's fund balance to pay off the county's current $1.4 million in debt obligations over the next three years and having a 20-year bond issue with level payments of $530,000 per year over the life of the bond, which he said would save $1 million in interest costs.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) has pointed out that Gallagher's proposal would mean that the county would be obligated to $60,000 more in debt service payments per year ($530,000) than the level suggested by commissioners ($470,000), which would mean that the county would have $1.2 million less over those 20 years for funding other programs.
Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) opposed Gallagher's plan, saying that he favors a 25-year bond because it spreads the costs over a longer period of time and to future generations of taxpayers.
The same issue over the length of the bond issue came up Thursday with Taylor saying he favors a longer period of time.
"Spread it out and let the youngsters pay it," he said in reply to Burchell's comment that a shorter period where ''we feel some pain right now" is better.
Taylor said the elderly taxpayers of the county should not be seeing tax hikes to pay for a facility which will provide services to future generations, to which Burchell replied that future taxpayers might be in worse financial straits then today's elderly.
Commissioners are expected to review scenarios of what would happen under the competing plans when they meet Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Belknap County Complex.

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