Hosmer & Democrat leaders questoining validity of Senate 7 recount

CONCORD — Following a recount Republican Harold French has been certified the winner of the state senate seat in District 7, but Democrat Andrew Hosmer has questioned the whereabouts of 31 ballots and refused to concede the election.

On election night French was declared the winner by a margin of just 13 votes, 13,865 to 13,852, and Hosmer requested a recount, which confirmed the original outcome by the wider margin of 17 votes, 13,880 to 13,863.

The ballots Hosmer says are still an issue were cast in Laconia, Ward 5 where 1,031 of the 1,528 registered voters cast ballots. When the polls closed on election day, the tally recorded by the election officials showed that Hosmer carried Ward 5 by 64 votes, 523 to 459. The result showed that 982 of the 1,031 voters who cast ballots in Ward 5 voted in the state Senate race.

However, when the ballots this week were counted by hand, both candidates polled fewer votes. Hosmer's vote fell by 18 to 505 while French's vote fell by 13 to 446 and the total number of ballots cast in the race shrank by 31, from 982 to 951. In other words, the officials at the polling station, largely relying of a voting machine court, reported 31 more ballots in the race than were counted by hand in the course of the recount, 18 fewer for Hosmer and 13 fewer for French.

Despite the discrepancy, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner certified the result of the recount to confirm French as the winner of the election.

Meanwhile, Hosmer, represented by legal counsel, Paul Twomey and Bill Christie, said he has refused to concede the election and prepared to challenge the result for the "integrity of the electoral process." Lucas Meyer, of the New Hampshire Democratic Party staff, said that Twomey will come to Laconia on Monday to review the checklist of registered voters in an effort to resolve the discrepancy and that the party may appeal the result to the Ballot Law Commission. .

City Clerk Mary Reynolds insisted on Friday that "there is nothing missing." She said that after the polls were closed and the ballots were counted, election officials at Ward 5 placed the ballots in a box, which was sealed and labelled as bearing the 1,031 ballots cast. The ballots were secured in the City Clerk's office and on Monday, November 14 collected by an official of the Secretary of State, who delivered them to Concord. Reynolds said that she has spoken with Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan, who told her there are no missing ballots and suspected the discrepancy arose from a reporting error. "There is nothing missing," Reynolds repeated. "We have looked high and low. Everything we have, they have."

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LPD is again CALFA certified

Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams congratulates information systems and accreditation coordinator Robin Moyer on the work she did over the past years for helping the department become certified by the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agency. This is the third time the department has been CALEA Certified and the second time while Adams has been chief. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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School bus showdown - Injunction sought to stop bus drivers from striking

11-18 First Student School Buses

A potential strike by bus drivers with Teamsters Union Local 633 has many school officials planning ahead just in case buses don't show up to bring students to school at some point in the coming days. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

 

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — Two school districts have launched legal action to halt the Teamsters Local No. 633 union from engaging in a labor strike of school bus drivers, a move that could benefit Lakes Region students.

On Thursday, the Timberlane Regional School District and the Hampstead School District filed a petition for a temporary restraining order, and for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, prohibiting First Student Inc. from breaching its contract for student transportation services.

Timberlane is a cooperative district that serves the towns of Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown. It operates seven schools that serve some 3,500 students. Hampstead has two schools that serve more than 900 students in grades pre-K through eighth grade. Students in grades 9 to 12 attend Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

The petition, initially filed in Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood, was removed to U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire on Thursday. Attorney James O'Shaughnessy of Manchester, acting on behalf of the plaintiff districts, wrote that the labor dispute between First Student and its New Hampshire employees arose over retirement plan funding.

The dispute came to a head in September when the New England Savings and Investment Plan filed a lawsuit against First Student claiming the company had failed to pay contributions as required under the various collective bargaining agreements.

In the meantime, several collective bargaining agreements between the union and the busing company have expired, and the retirement dispute coupled with another suit claiming pay wage violations have hindered efforts to reach terms on a successor contract.

Timberland Superintendent Dr. Earl Metzler, received a warning letter from the union secretary/treasurer dated Nov. 7, advising of a potential "work stoppage" or strike by Teamsters as a result of the dispute.

The petition says Metzler worked to develop a contingency plan and sought the assistance of other school districts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. All either contract with First Student or lack enough buses and drivers to help Timberlane or Hampstead.

"A strike and work stoppage will be a crisis not only for the districts for which I am responsible, but for all of the school
districts in the state that are served by First Student. The Department of Education, the state Attorney General's Office and the Governor's Office convened a Homeland Security conference call on Nov. 15 to address the impact such a strike would have on school districts throughout the state," said Dr. Metzler, who heads SAU 55.

During the call, the Commissioner of Education announced that if pupil attendance drops below 85 percent, those days will not be counted toward the 180 days of school pupils are mandated to attend yearly.

Neither the union nor First Student have made any assurances to the districts that a strike won't occur, that First Students locations won't be picketed, that those picket lines won't be crossed, or that either party will meet its contractual obligations to bus students to school and extracurricular activities.

In support of the requested injunction, Shaughnessy argued that the state Constitution mandates the districts to provide transportation to eligible students, and that with few exceptions school attendance is compulsory for 180 days a year.

The districts cannot replace buses and driver on an emergency basis, as each is heavily regulated and the pool of eligible vehicles and operators is limited.

Given its market share, First Student, Shaughnessy said, controls the vast majority of buses and drivers in the region.

An injunction is needed to ensure adequate transportation services so that the district can fulfill its constitutional obligation to students and a strike would cause the districts, its students and the public "irreparable harm."

If a strike occurs, Metzler said, the districts will be forced to either completely close the schools, rely on parents to transport their kids, or students will have to walk to make it to class.

Multiple cars arriving en masse to drop off and pick up students will cause safety problems and traffic flow may increase to the point where police will have to be called in to control it, he fears.

Unless the court takes immediate action to prevent the disruption of vital and essential government functions, hundreds of students may be without the ability to travel to and from school or may be stranded on roadsides or at school, Shaughnessy said.

While the bus drivers are private employees of First Students, the districts argue that their work is integral to the carrying out of a vital government function, and as such the bus drivers' positions are similar to that of all other public employees.

Copies of the petition have been sent to David Fairweather, area general manager for First Student Inc.; the company's general counsel, attorney Michael Petrucci; and to Jeff Padellaro, business agent for Teamsters Local 633.

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