LACONIA — Attorney Paul Fitzgerald of the Wescott Law office was named as legal counsel for the Belknap County Commissioners when they met Wednesday morning at the Belknap County Complex.
Fitzgerald, a former mayor of Laconia, has served in the same capacity in recent years for Belknap County and was named by a 2-1 vote.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), commission vice chairman, voted for Fitzgerald and Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who said he wanted to interview other people first, voted no.
Burchell said that one of he reasons he wouldn't support Fitzgerald is because he drafted the employment contract that former commissioners approved for County Administrator Debra Shackett, which he maintained was not in the public's interest.
But Commissioner Taylor said that it should be remembered that an attorney works for his clients, in that case the commissioners, and shouldn't be held responsible for the details of the contract.
He also said hat he had seen Fitzgerald work and that he is highly competent and knows county law. He said he worked in cooperation with Fitzgerald when the lawyer represented Commissioner Dave DeVoy and himself in defending Burchell's early 2015 lawsuit to overturn the action of his fellow commissioners in ousting Burchell as chairman of the commission. The request was denied and DeVoy remained as the new chairman.
Gordon Blais of Meredith asked if he could provide public input on the nomination and said that he believed ''you people are not interested in the best interests of the county''and maintained that the contract ''pretty much guaranteed employment for life".'
Burchell was also on the short end of another vote when commissioners DeVoy and Taylor voted to add Shackett to the county's collective bargaining negotiating team.
Taylor, who is a member of the negotiating team, said that there was movement in talks with all four unions representing county employees, but the team needed someone with experience in previous negotiations.
Burchell said he was disappointed by her nomination but DeVoy said ''we need her insight".
Commissioners approved a request from Brian Loanes of the Restorative Justice Department to hire a case manager to replace Katie Laux, who will be leaving June 1 to start an internship for her Master's degree. He said that Laux will be available for 8-10 hours a week in the coming months.
The commission also approved a request from Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward to apply for a grant which would provide up to $55,000 for training programs for inmates at the Belknap County House of Corrections.
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