Hassan nominates Sanbornton man for judgeship

SANBORNTON — Michael Garner of Sanbornton, who has served as a marital master for the past 15 years — primarily in the Laconia Family Division — has been nominated to serve as a judge on the Circuit Court by Governor Maggie Hassan.
Garner, a graduate of Colgate University who earned his law degree at Cornell Law School, began his career as an assistant district attorney in Rochester, New York. From 1986 until 2000 he operated a private practice in Meredith with family and municipal law his strong suits.
As a marital master, Garner's recommendation that a ten year old daughter of divorced parents attend public school at the wish of her father but over the objections of her mother, who home schooled her child in both academic subjects and religious beliefs, sparked litigation arousing heated controversy about both home schooling and religious freedom that drew national attention. His recommendation included the finding that the girl's "vigorous defense of her religious beliefs . . . suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view." Garner's recommendation was accepted by Justice Lucinda Sadler of the Laconia Family Division and appealed by the girl's mother to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, where it was unanimously upheld. In its opinion, the Supreme Court held the issue was not about either religion or home schooling, but instead strictly about a dispute between parents with equal rights who disagreed about the education of their child. The justices concluded that " the evidence concerning daughter's experiences in her home school and public school settings, along with the evidence demonstrating the impact of her religious convictions upon her interaction with others, including her father, provide an objective basis for the trial court's decision and we cannot say that it is unreasonable."

On standardized science tests, gap between Gilford & average narrows

GILFORD — Fourth grade, eighth grade and eleventh grade students performed above the state average on the science tests administered by the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) in May 2015, but below levels reached by their predecessors in the Gilford school system. Moreover, as results in the Gilford schools have declined the gap between them and the state average has narrowed.

The scores were presented last night to a meeting of the School Board.

More than 40 percent of fourth graders at Gilford Elementary School scored proficient or better to narrowly exceed the percentage achieving this level throughout the state. However, in 2011 more than 70 percent of students at Gilford Elementary School score proficient or better. The 2015 results represent an improvement over 2014 when less than 40 percent fo Gilford fourth graders score proficient or better.

Less than 30 percent of Gilford eighth graders scored proficient or better while less than 25 percent of their counterparts throughout the state achieved that level. But, in 2010, 40 percent of Gilford eighth graders reached proficient or better.

While 40-percent of eleventh graders scored proficient or better, compared to 32 percent through the state, more than 50-percent of Gilford students did so in 2014 and 2012.

The Gilford School District is in the process of transitioning to the "Next Generation science standards" (NGSS) based on a framework for science education developed by the National Research Council. As a result, the science curriculum will be marked more by relatively more depth and relatively less breadth and some redundancies, such as teaching the earth's systems in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, will be eliminated, School Board members were told.

Laconia man guility of Social Security fraud

CONCORD — Walter Morton, 50, of Laconia, who pleaded guilty to three counts of Social Security Fraud on June 29, was sentenced on Monday to 15 months in prison and one year of supervised release, and he was ordered to make full restitution to the Social Security Administration, announced Acting United States Attorney Donald Feith.

From June 2009 through July 2013, Morton received over $55,000 in Child's Insurance Benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of two minor children, his biological daughter and his former stepson, serving as their representative payee. Morton was responsible for using the benefits he received on behalf of the children for their current needs, such as food, clothing, housing, and medical care. Although Morton informed SSA on three separate occasions between August 2010 and December 2012 that the children resided with him and that he used the benefit payments he received as their representative payee for the children's care and support, the children had not lived with Morton since 2003 and he had not used their benefits for their current needs. Instead, Morton had diverted all but $2,500 of the benefit payments to his own use.

"Individuals who use their children to commit fraud against the benefits programs provided by Social Security merit special investigative and prosecutorial attention," said Feith. "These individuals have accepted the role of a fiduciary and have a special obligation to ensure that benefits paid by SSA are used for the care and well-being of these minors. Parents who abuse that position can expect to be prosecuted for their thefts."

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General and prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Karen Burzycki.