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N.H. Humane Society vet says former director’s claims are false

LACONIA – The veterinarian included in the lawsuit filed by the former director of the N.H. Humane Society has filed an affirmative defense in a case filed against her.

In her response filed last month, Dr. Brenda Stowe denied that Mary Di Maria made any complaints to her face about the way she treated animals during the two years the two worked together. Stowe said Di Maria only made what she says are false claims against her after the N.H. Humane Society investigated Di Maria and fired her.

In a suit filed in September in the Belknap County Superior Court, Di Maria is claiming she was wrongfully terminated from her position after she reported that animals were being euthanized without approval, that surgery was being performed on animals that were not property anesthetized, and that some sick kittens were not attended to in a timely matter.

Stowe has denied all of the specific allegations regarding her level of care, saying animals were euthanized "only as necessary and consistent with the NHHS Euthanasia Policy and her sound professional judgment."

Some of Di Maria's claims centered around a dog named Sinatra that Stowe determined had some temperament problems and was overly aggressive. Di Maria claims Sinatra was sent to a different shelter and later successfully adopted.

Stowe's rebuttal claims Sinatra had cornered and attacked a previous owner and that "there was a high level of concern among staff about this animal's temperament." Stowe said she had no knowledge of what happened to the dog after it was taken to a different shelter.

Di Maria also accused Stowe of denying pain medication to a stray Chow dog. Stowe denied the accusation, saying the pain medication was administered to the dog immediately, and after the seven-day waiting period expired and the dog showed no signs of improvement, it was euthanized.

Stowe noted that Di Marie agreed with her about the decision to put the dog down.

Stowe admitted that on or about Oct. 13, 2013, she wrote to the board of directors to express her concerns about Di Maria.

Di Maria was fired by the board of directors on Dec. 11, 2013. Within weeks of the vote to fire her, former Board President Bill Phenix and Vice President Joseph Thornton resigned. Both declined to speak about their resignations to the Daily Sun.

Stowe has also denied committing any unlawful acts or engaging in any improprieties as was claimed by Di Maria.

In asserting her affirmative defense, Stowe claimed five affirmative defenses – that Di Maria failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, that there is no cause of action for an at-will employee, that there is no cause of action within the scope of employment, that Di Maria is barred from bringing a claim because of her own inequitable conduct, and that Di Maria is barred from suing her because her own actions, and not Stowe's actions, are what caused Di Maria's dismissal.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 01:40

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Alton property tax rate rises by 3%

ALTON — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2014 tax rate at $13.85 per $1,000 of assessed value, 41 cents -- or 3 percent higher than the 2013 rate of $13.44.

The total assessed valuation rose by $65,708,875, or 4.5 percent, from $1,453,281,942 to $1,518,990,817, and the amount to be raised by property taxes increased by $1,512,833, or 7.8 percent, from $19,296,558 to $20,809,391.

The town portion of tax rate rose from $3.68 to $3.85 and the school portion from $5.86 to $6.28, while the state education tax dropped from $2.50 to $2.35 and the county tax from $1.40 to $1.37.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 02:19

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County Commission to recommend 6.8% budget increase

LACONIA — When the Belknap County Convention meets on Monday, Dec. 8, the Belknap County Commission will recommend a $27.3-million budget for 2015, which represents a 6.8 percent increase in expenditures and a 10 percent increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes,
The proposed increase in expenditures is the first since 2009, when the budget rose by 3.7 percent, before decreasing every year since. Likewise, the amount to be raised by property taxes has also fallen every year since 2009, when it grew by 0.9 percent.
The budget proposes expenditures of $27,330,778, which less revenues from sources other than property taxes of $12,296,021, leaves $15,034,757 to be raised by property taxes -- or $1,371,443 more than the $13,663,314 raised this year.
Despite the increase, County Administrator Debra Shackett described the commission's proposal as "a very lean budget." She said that "the commissioners are maintaining the services that the county provides" and stressed that "there are no new projects in this budget."
Personnel costs account for the largest share of the increased expenditures. The budget includes a 3 percent step increase for eligible employees, that is, those not at the top of their pay scale, based on their job performance as well as a 1.4 percent cost-of-living allowance (COLA) for all employees. This would be the first pay raise since 2012. The cost of the health insurance plan in which most employees are enrolled is budgeted to rise by 6.4 percent, and the less popular plan by 4.9 percent.
The budget for the Corrections Department funds the benefits of two positions created in the 2014 budget that were not filled this year because funding for the benefits was withheld. It also includes funding for the compensation and benefits of one additional officer. There is also funding for the compensation and benefits of a human resource director, a position that has been vacant for about six months, in the administrative budget.
Only two capital projects are funded by the budget — replacement of windows at the Belknap County Courthouse and a time and attendance system. The commission stripped funding for schematic design of an expanded, renovated or rebuilt county jail along with improvement of the HVAC system at the existing facility. However, the commissioners provided funding for the purchase of four cruisers in the Sheriff Department's budget.
The commission recommends drawing $1,775,000 from the fund balance to offset property taxes in 2015, The fund balance is estimated to have a balance of about $2.6 million at the end of 2014. The budget projects that $500,000 in excess revenue and $300,000 in operational savings will accrue to the fund balance in 2015. Withdrawing $1,775,000 would leave an estimated balance of $1.7 million at the end of 2015..
In 2013, when Moody's Investor Service reaffirmed the county's Aa2 bond rating, it noted that "sizeable fund balance growth" could raise that rating while "draw down of reserves" could lower it. The rating affects the county's cost of borrowing.
Two of the three commissioners who prepared the budget — John Thomas, a Belmont Republican, and Ed Philpot, a Laconia Democrat — will be succeeded by Republicans Richard Burchell of Gilmanton and David DeVoy of Sanbornton in the new year. The newly elected Belknap County Convention, which must adopt a budget within 90 days of Jan. 1, consists of the 18 Republican state representatives elected in the county earlier this month, seven of whom will be serving their first term.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Fla. man indicted for allegedly stealing school’s truck

LACONIA – A Belknap County grand jury has indicted a Florida man with local ties for allegedly breaking into Laconia High School and stealing the white Ford F-350 used by the School District for plowing.

Dennis LeFebvre, 34, was also indicted for one count of receiving stolen property for being in possession of and crashing the truck in Belmont on or about Aug. 4 near Mile Hill Road.

Also indicted for the burglary is Tyler Marchand, age and address unknown, who was with LeFebvre in Belmont when police apprehended him after the truck crash.

Marchand has said he was walking down Union Avenue when LeFebvre allegedly stopped and picked him up.

In a related matter, the truck has been sitting at a private impound lot in Tilton since the night it was recovered. The district is being charged $75 a day for storage and has had to pay for a lawyer to petition the court for its return.

On behalf of the school district, Attorney Paul Fitzgerald filed a motion on Oct. 22 petitioning for the return of the truck. However, because LeFebvre had not been indicted, action on the motion was postponed.

LeFebvre’s attorney, John Bresaw, filed a objection to releasing the truck arguing he had not been provided with any discovery about the burglary or been appraised of any evidence against his client.

Bresaw said he had gotten some discovery from the Belmont Police regarding the receiving stolen property charge as well as some other misdemeanor charges LeFebvre faces, but nothing at this point for the Laconia burglary charge.

He said LeFebvre’s defense may dispute Marchand’s assertion that LeFebvre picked him up on Union Avenue and argue that Marchand or another had possession of the truck.

Bresaw said he doesn’t know what forensic tests need to be done on the truck, such as fingerprints or other evidence that might need to be collected from it.

“Therefore, the truck and the integrity of any and all physical evidence within should be preserved,” wrote Bresaw.

A hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday on the motion.

The truck is the School District’s only plowing vehicle. It is also used for salting, sanding, and other maintenance jobs around the city’s school buildings.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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