LACONIA — The appearance of the Belknap County Commission before the City Council this week led to a sharp exchange between Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Commissioner Ed Philpot over how to address the problems arising from the rising population and deteriorating condition of the county jail.
Philpot defended the commission's determination to persevere with the process of planning a new jail. He said that complying with new federal standards, including the separation of inmates by age, gender and class of offenders, would be very difficult in light of the configuration and condition of the existing facility. He explained that while there is no funding in the proposed 2014 county budget, the commission will request a supplemental appropriation in the form of a $3.5 million bond issue to the convention early next year. The borrowing would provide $500,000 for a schematic design for a new facility, as well $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.8 million for the three-year rental of 48-bed temporary housing facility.
In light of the commission's frayed relationship with the Belknap County Convention, Lipman questioned the decision to seek funding to design a new facility. He suggested instead that the commissioners request sufficient funds to ensure "minimal compliance" and shelve plan to build a new jail until the political situation becomes more favorable.
Philpot reminded Lipman that the commissioners have already invested significant time and resources in the planning process only to meet with resistance from the convention. He declared that he would continued to advocate for a new facility. Stressing the need for a new jail, he said "I don't want to be the guy on the lawn telling parents I'm sorry your son burned to death."
Lipman countered that there is a time for advocacy and a time for governance. He urged the commission to drop its request to fund a schematic design and pursue a compromise with the convention and "take whatever you can get" to correct the most immediate issues with the existing facility. Otherwise, he said that county taxpayers could find themselves faced with the rising costs of deferred maintenance and potential litigation.
Philpot conceded that "if I thought we could have a reasonable conversation, I would do it." But, he said that when the commission has sought to open a dialogue the only response from the convention has been "thank you for your input."
"For us it's a lose-lose," Lipman said. "My plea to you and the convention is to put funding for maintenance in the budget and not put ourselves in the position to be sued."
"I hope you will express the same thought to you representatives," Philpot replied, adding "we are at a stalemate in governing. There is nothing we can do. We are talking to ourselves."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 12:33
LACONIA — On Christmas Eve, Justice James D. O'Neill,III denied the request of attorney Mark Sisti, who is defending Amy Lafond against charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide, to delay her trail for 90 days and reaffirmed that the final pre-trial conference will be held on January 13 and the jury will be selected on February 3, all as originally scheduled.
In seeking the postponement, Sisti told the court he was scheduled to try criminal cases in Merrimack County County Superior Court beginning on January 13 and in Rockingham County Superior Court on February 3. In denying the request, O'Neill held that the schedule for Lafond's trial was set on October 3 and took precedent over Sisiti's other appearances. Originally Lafond was represented by the New Hampshire Public Defenders office and retained Sisti on November 22, well after the trial was scheduled.
The charges against Lafond, 52, arose from an incident on April 19 when she allegedly drove into two teenage girls on Messer Street, killing Lilyanna Johnson and seriously injuring Allyssa Miner.
In a separate ruling, O'Neill granted the request of Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen to consolidate all the charges against Lafond into a single trial. In charging manslaughter the state alleges that LaFond recklessly caused the death of Johnson by driving while distracted at an excessive speed after consuming drugs. She was also indicted on two alternative theories of negligent homicide one for "failing to maintain a proper lookout" and the other for "failing to pay due attention while operating a motor vehicle after having consumed drugs." Lafond is also charged with second-degree assault for injuring Miner. In addition, Lafond is charged with possession of a narcotic drug and possession of a controlled drug without a valid prescription as well as traffic violations.
Gulbrandsen claimed that it would be appropriate to consolidate all the charges since they stem from the same alleged circumstances and investigation. The defense did not object to her request.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 11:20
GILFORD — A hat with a Ford Motor Co. symbol and a distinctive chest of drawers were two of the key clues that led police on Wednesday to a convicted sex offender who is being held on $250,000 for the felonious sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl he arranged to meet behind the local movie theater complex in October.
Police affidavits released yesterday regarding the investigation and arrest into David Ferland, 37, of 686 Union Ave. in Laconia said he sent photos of his genitalia to the victim using Kik — an instant messaging Internet service. The victim also told police she had contact with him using Instagram.
The victim's father contacted police when he found an unauthorized cell phone in his daughter's possession that had some disturbing images and content.
Investigators realized the two user photos on Instagram and Kik were similar. The man in the photo — later identified as Ferland — was allegedly wearing the same Ford hat. A similar photo was found on Facebook registered to "Eric Clog."
Further investigation led Gilford Police to Laconia where a city detective was working with middle school administrators about some photographs sent in November to two students over Facebook, also by "Eric Clog," that were deemed inappropriate by school administrators.
Through search warrants, Gilford Police got information from Instagram about Ferland and were able to learn the number of the pre-paid cell phone he was allegedly using. Detectives said using the phone number and the fake name they found a number of X-rated website where Ferland had allegedly posted the cell phone number while in search of young boys for sexual encounters. Some genitalia photos found on Craig's List showed the same chest of drawers that were in the photos Gilford Police got from the victim.
The photos were distributed by Gilford Police to area police departments and officers from the Division of Probation and Parole in the hopes that one of them would recognize the bedroom as that of someone who was under their jurisdiction.
Ferland's probation officer recognized the chest of drawers and said he knew the place where the photo had been taken.
He went there, made contact with Ferland, and charged him with a parole violation for possessing computer equipment. Gilford Police got a search warrant and seized photographs, computers, and the Ford hat seen in the photographs from Ferland's bedroom.
During an interview at the Belknap County Jail, police said Ferland admitted purchasing alcohol for the victim and one of her friends and then leaving it at drop point where she could pick it up. He also admitted that he met the two girls behind the Gilford Cinema where he digitally penetrated one of the them and said the other touched him.
Ferland appeared by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday morning. His lawyer made no bail argument and notified the court that Ferland would likely be returning to the N.H. State Prison for the parole violation and, should he choose to appear for his probable cause hearing on the latest charge, he would have to be transported from there.
Ferland is a registered sex offender who had been reporting regularly to the Laconia Police. He has nine conviction for felonious sexual assault as well and 21 convictions for possession of child pornography most of which are out of Rockingham County.
Gilford Police said Wednesday that the investigation into Ferland's alleged activities continues and he could face more charges.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 11:13
LACONIA — The dispute over the future ownership of Briarcrest Estates moved closer to trial this week when Justice James D. O'Neill , III of Belknap County Superior Court denied the motion of the Lakemont Cooperative to dismiss the petition of Mark and Ruth Mooney, owners of the manufactured housing park, asking the court to approve their sale of the park to Hometown America Corporation. In the process, O'Neill clearly signaled that the case will turn on what it means to negotiate in "good faith".
The dispute hinges on a statute that requires park owners, upon receiving an offer to purchase their park, to "consider any offer received from the tenants or a tenants' association" and to "negotiate in good faith with the tenants concerning a potential purchase." Failure to comply carries a liability to the tenants of $10,000 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater.
In July the Mooneys accepted a $10-million offer from Hometown America. Tenants representing a minority of the 241 units in the park incorporated as the Lakemont Cooperative and matched the $10 million offer.
In response, the Mooneys asked the court to approve the sale to Hometown America, claiming that since a majority of tenants preferred commercial to cooperative ownership of the park, approving the transaction would be in keeping with the intent of the statute to safeguard the best interests of tenants. Subsequently a majority of tenants petitioned the court opposing a sale to the cooperative and asking to intervene on behalf of the Mooneys.
The Lakemont Cooperative, represented by attorney Robert Shepherd, asked the court to dismiss the Mooneys' petition, arguing that as the owners of the park they were in no position to represent the interests of its residents. Moreover, Shepherd reminded the court that the law does not prescribe that the cooperative include a specific number, let alone the majority, of tenants to make an offer and pursue the transaction.
In objecting to the cooperative's petition to dismiss, Fitzgerald argued that the term "tenants" and "tenants association," which are nowhere defined, are ambiguous, but can only reasonably be taken to refer to a majority of the tenants. Consequently, he concluded that the Mooneys "owe conflicting duties of good faith" to both the cooperative and the majority and could face a liability of $1 million for failing to bargain in good faith with either. He asked the court to resolve the ambiguity of the statute.
At a hearing in November, Shepherd insisted that the law is not at all ambiguous and that Fitzgerald, by reading tenants to mean majority, was seeking to add words to it that amounted to "a distortion of the plain meaning of the statute." He said that since the majority of tenants have not tendered an offer for the park, there was nothing to negotiate with them.
In declining to dismiss the Mooney's petition O'Neill found that the issues it raised did not qualify for dismissal proceedings. At the same time, he held that the court need not find the statute ambiguous. Instead, he ruled that the essence of the Mooney's claim is by choosing to sell to Hometown America because a majority of the tenants do not want the park to be owned by a cooperative they have met the requirement to negotiate in good faith. "Thus," he concluded, "the crux of this matter is what constitutes 'negotiate in good faith,' not what constitutes tenants or tenants association."
The case is expected to be tried on March 22.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 10:59
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- 30-year-old man found dead at Laconia hotel
- 2 key March votes would put construction of Belmont's Winnisquam Scenic Trail on front burner for 2014
- City Council finally approves TIF projects
- Laconia car wash burglarized on Sunday night
- Union Ave. convenience store robbed at gunpoint