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Current Belknap Commission asks Supreme Court to overturn nursing home director decision but new board will take opposite position in just a few weeks

LACONIA — An appeal by the Belknap County Commissioners of the Belknap Convention's Personnel Committee's decision to reinstate Mathew Logue as administrator of the Belknap County Nursing Home has been filed with the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
The appeal, filed on December 11, maintains that the Personnel Committee, which at the time of its decision in October was composed of Rep. Coltette Worsman (R-Meredith), Rep. Robert Greemore (R-Meredith) and Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) ''ignored limits on its statutory authority as well as overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence,'' which the commission had introduced at a hearing held by the committee on Logue's appeal of his dismissal.
The filing took place despite the expressed intention of incoming county commissioners Burchell and Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) to pull the plug on an appeal of the Logue personnel matter. The pair will take office on January 1 and will constitute a new majority.
Logue is currently on administrative leave, with pay, pending the outcome of an appeal of the committee's decision.
''It is counter-productive, in our view, to spend time and the public purse on a course of action which has been repudiated by the voters,'' Burchell and DeVoy said in a letter to the editor published in The Daily Sun shortly after they were elected in November. They will take office early in January.
In late August the commission terminated Logue for what it termed willful insubordination, lack of cooperation and inability to perform his duties in a timely manner, claiming that he was "untruthful and unreliable'' in dealing with county officials. Logue appealed his termination to the Personnel Committee, which held a day-long public hearing on October 6, at which attorney Mark Broth of Manchester presented the case against Logue and Logue spoke in own defense.
Four days later the committee voted unanimously to reinstate Logue, after finding his defense of the charges against him to be "credible and persuasive''.
A motion for a rehearing filed by attorney Broth was denied by the Personnel Committee.
The appeal to the Supreme Court will add to the legal bills faced by the county, which were the subject of much discussion by the county convention's Executive Committee when it met Tuesday night to take up requests for budget transfers and turned down a request by the commission for $33,000 to pay unpaid legal bills.
During that meeting County Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) asked by what authority the commissioners were still committing the county to legal expenses when the funds had not been appropriated and was told by Commssioner Steve Nedeau, who is resigning effective January 1, that the commissioners were relying on state statute — later identified as 29-A:2.
The law describes the process which will be followed in the defense and indemnification of county officers and employees in the event of any claim or civil action against the county and provides that the county ''shall defray all costs of such representation or defense, to be paid from funds not otherwise appropriated.''
The law does not address a procedure which would be followed in the event of legal action taken by the convention against the commissioners, which was the case earlier this year when the convention filed a suit against the commission over budget line item authority, which led to temporary injunction prohibiting commissioners from transferring more than $300 without approval of the convention's Executive Committee.
Tilton says that he thinks the applicable statutes are section 24:15 of state law on counties regarding exceeding appropriations which reads in part, "No county commissioner, or elected or appointed county officer, shall pay, or agree to pay, or incur any liability for the payment of, any sum of money for which the county convention has made no appropriation, or in excess of any appropriation so made except for the payment of judgments rendered against the county.''
He also cited section 28:17-a which deals with claims against counties and reads ''The county commissioners shall have the authority to hire, within the limit of appropriations, legal counsel to advise them on county affairs and to issue opinions relating to county matters, provided that such counsel shall not be employed to defend the commissioners individually or collectively in private legal matters.''
Tilton said that the convention has stopped any spending on its own legal bills and has told its attorney not to file a response to an appeal of the temporary injunction order scheduled in Belknap County Superior Court for Feb. 17 in anticipation of the new commission members also pulling the plug on the current commission's appeal.

Tilton noted that the temporary injunction applied only to the 2014 budget and that the county convention will decide whether to raise or lower the amount of funds which can be transferred without Executive Committee approval when it meets to take up the 2015 budget next month.


Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014 02:02

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'Aladdin' featuring 'Call me maybe'?

MEREDITH — For the holidays, the Winnipesaukee Playhouse has chosen to begin what promises to become a new tradition by staging an original production of the venerable British pantomime "Aladdin."

Pantomime, a species of musical comedy featuring song, dance and slapstick woven into the narrative of a classic fairy tale, has been a staple of the Christmas season in England for some 200 years. But, "Aladdin" is a first for its writer and director, Neal Pankhurst, artistic director of the playhouse, as well as for the theatre company. Not only will "Aladdin" be the first pantomime but it will also be the first time professional players will be on stage outside the summer season and the first time professional and community players will perform together — and with children.

Pankhurst said that the playhouse had aspired to offer a pantomime since it was founded in 2004, but did not have sufficient space until the new theatre opened last year. "This will be a mish-mash of all we've ever done," he remarked, "and a new experience for the performers."

The pantomime follows the familiar story of Aladdin, an impoverished urchin in Peking. Tempted by an Arab sorcerer into a cave to fetch an oil lamp, Aladdin is betrayed, but with a magic ring escapes with the lamp that is home to a genie who does his bidding. The boy becomes rich and powerful, builds a splendid palace and marries the emperor's daughter. But, the sorcerer returns, tricks the princess into swapping the old lamp for a new one and orders the genie to whisk all Aladdin's worldly possessions, his wife among them, to his home in North Africa. With the magic ring Aladdin is transported to the desert where he slays the sorcerer, reclaims the lamp and returns his belongings and wife to China. The sorcerer's brother, disguised as an old woman with healing powers, inveigles his way into the palace, only to be exposed by the genie and slain by Aladdin, who then lives happily ever after.

Pankhurst has embellished the story line with songs, dances and sketches drawn from a variety of sources. "I've stolen ideas from all over the place," he confessed. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" accompanies Aladdin into the cave while Pharrell William's hit "Happy" and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" brighten other scenes. Songs are accompanied by dance, performed by troupes of children and instructors from local dance studios.

Likewise, the tale is punctuated with comedy sketches, full of slapstick, silliness, and word play — including double entendre over the heads of children but on the funny bones of adults. "It's completely anachronistic," Pankhurt explained, "full of contemporary references imposed on the traditional narrative." With men dressed as women and women dressed as men, gender bending heightens the humor.

"The whole thing appears as if you're making it up as it goes along," Pankhurst said, "and there is a lot of audience participation, singing along and shouting out."

Pankhurst said that while there are many performances of "The Nutcracker" and "A Christmas Carol" every year, "we wanted to do something different and new. This is a show for anyone and everyone between the ages of seven or eight and ninety," he continued. "And everyone will be entertained and amused."

"Aladdin" will run from December 19 to January 3 with performances at 2 p.m. on December 20, 21,22 and 28 and January 3 and at 7 p.m. on December 19,20 and 27 and January 2 and 3. There are also performances at 10 a.m. on December 22 and 11 a,m, on December 29. Orchestra tickets are $19 for adults and $16 for youths and balcony seats are $12, Family packages, six tickets for $84, are also available. To purchase tickets visit the website, winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org, or call the box office at 279-0333.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014 01:50

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Judge says Billy Baer's conduct at Gilford School Board meeting was 'impolite' but not 'criminal'

CIRCUIT COURT — Fourth Circuit Court Judge Jim Carroll has dismissed all three criminal charges against a Gilford man who was arrested during a Gilford School Board meeting in May of 2014.

Carroll determined that "there is a paucity of facts from what a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant (William Baer) guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

"The court finds the defendant's actions impolite but not criminal," wrote Carroll.

Baer had been charged with two counts of breaching the peace and one count of disobeying a police officer for his actions at a school board meeting where he went to protest a reading assignment given by the school to his freshman-class daughter.

During the meeting, Baer didn't necessarily abide by the rules set by school board, which were to direct comments only to the board, not to solicit any responses from them and not exceed a two-minute comment rule.

During his two minutes, he requested the board chair to read aloud the passage he found offensive in Jodi Picoult's novel, "Nineteen Minutes." The scene described forced sex involving two teens.

When board Chair Sue Allen refused to honor his request, he sat down but then loudly interrupted after the following speaker referring to an effort at censorship.

At the point where he kept speaking as the chair attempted to recognize someone else, Gilford Police Lt. Jim Leach asked Baer to leave the room. When he declined the invitation, Lynch made it clear he had no choice and Baer followed the officer out, was handcuffed in the hallway and taken to the Gilford Police Station for processing.

His arrest was recorded by the school and at least one independent videographer. At last four members of the main-stream print media also witnessed the arrest.

For a brief period of time immediately following his arrest, Baer became a media sensation, drawing the attention of news outlets as diverse as the Huffington Post and Fox News. A number of independent local venues like Granite Grok and local radio show The Advocates rallied audiences in Baer's defense.

During his arrest, Baer, himself a retired attorney, noted the irony of his situation in light of a students civics project that was being presented in Washington later that year by saying local law enforcement was being used to silence him. Baer called it a "opposite" civics lesson.

The irony of Baer's situation was not lost on Judge Carroll.

"The court finds that this case is, notwithstanding the cynicism of the defendant, an excellent "civics" lesson, a perfect case for modeling free speech guarantees," Carroll wrote.

Carroll wrote that the state may, under a variety of situations, restrict an individual citizen's freedom of expression and the courts have maintained that "time, place, and manner" restrictions are valid.

He wrote that the courts have held that "fighting words" are not an acceptable exercise of free speech, "but the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done."

He noted that in school board Chair Sue Allen's deposition, she said she desired Leach's intervention but her goal was not Baer's arrest. She also said that the meeting was not disrupted and there were no citizens complaints about him at the meeting.

Carroll also noted that in Leach's deposition, he said Baer allowed himself to be arrested leading Carroll to conclude there wasn't any breach of the peace. He also said there was insufficient evidence that Baer knowingly refused to comply with Leach.

Carroll said that from time to time, in meetings and in court for that matter, people will occasionally be disruptive but the disruptiveness should not be cause for an arrest in the first place.

"The sequence of the arrest actions 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."

Baer was represented by attorney Mark Sisti, who said yesterday that Carroll's ruling was exactly what they requested in their motions to dismiss the charges.

"I'm not surprised but I certainly am grateful," he said.

"We're happy. We're glad it's over and it was a long, strange trip," Sisti said.



Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014 02:51

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Gilford Selectboard raises fee charged to private trash haulers from $30 to $45 per ton

GILFORD — Following a public hearing that no one attended, selectmen voted unanimously last night to raise the disposal fees collected for solid waste from $30 per ton to $45 per ton.

The new rate affects the price private trash haulers will pay for bringing Gilford generated household refuse to the Laconia Transfer Station.

The town of Gilford does not have a transfer station and does not provide municipal pickup for household waste. Residents either take their own trash to Laconia or pay a private hauler to take it for them.

The cost for individual residents to take their own trash to Laconia remains unchanged at $5 per load that is 100 pounds or less.

Scott Dunn said the uptick in the disposal fee should save about $75,000 annually from the municipal budget which offsets a portion of the tipping fees charged by Waste Management to transport it and incinerate it.

Right now, tipping fees — or the cost of transporting household waste from Laconia and incinerating it in Penacook — is $66.80 per ton. Dunn said he expects the tipping fees to increase to at least $70 in 2015.

The increase approved last night represents a shift in the municipal cost of subsidizing trash disposal.

A similar measure met with strong resistance in 2013 from some residents who said household waste collection is a function of government and should be paid for through taxation.

Their fear was that the private haulers would use the rate increase to increase the rates they charge individual residents that would ultimately cost residents more money in the long run.

In other action, selectmen voted to add stop signs at three intersections in Gunstock Acres. The stop signs will be added to  the intersection of Sagamore Road and Silver Street and at both of the intersections where Ryswick Street intersects Sagamore Road.

Two residents spoke at the public hearing held before the vote and both agreed with the signs. Both residents also said there were other places in Gunstock Acres that could use stop and yield signs and selectmen said the Police and Public Works Departments would be looking into it further.


Last Updated on Thursday, 18 December 2014 02:47

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