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Judge orders county attorney to review personnel fire of Tilton police officer

LACONIA — Superior Court Judge James O'Neill ordered the Belknap County Attorney to review the personnel file of a Tilton Police corporal and turn over any exculpatory material to the defendant in a rape case investigated by him.

Det. Cpl. Matt Dawson's personnel file had been turned over to the court and the assistant county attorney interpreted the state law governing police officer's personnel files such that the court would conduct the private review.

O'Neill said his reading of the law is that the prosecutor has to make the determination if there is or isn't exculpatory information in his file and if she is unable to make the determination, then he will.

Exculpatory evidence is anything that is relevant to a case that could prove or disprove an alleged fact or otherwise shine light on a case. In the instance of a police officer, exculpatory evidence can also include anything in the officer's personnel file that could affect his or her credibility, even though by state law, a police officer's personnel file is confidential.

Dawson was one of the investigators in the case of Thomas Gardner who is accused of sexually assaulting a young disabled man who was in his care at the time.

Two weeks ago, Dawson appeared in Superior Court and invoked his right not the testify in the Gardner case for fear he would criminally implicate himself in a different matter.

Gardner is scheduled for trial in early June.

Though he is still being paid by the town of Tilton, Dawson has not been working since November.

Selectman's Chair Pat Consentino said yesterday that Dawson's status with the Tilton Police Department has been resolved in a non-public session of her board but because it is a personnel issue she cannot talk about it.

When asked if he would be returning to work she said she couldn't comment.

Consentino also said that Tilton Selectman Katherine Dawson, who is Matt Dawson's aunt, recused herself from any of the discussion or deliberations.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:40

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GHS student spends 3 months of her senior year working in southern India with members of that country's lowest caste

GILFORD — With its cascading waterfalls, cool temperatures, and botanical gardens, those looking at the Lonely Planet Website would think Kodaikanal in the Tamil Nadu province of India is a paradise.

And it is, said Gilford High School senior Sally Tinkham, unless you're of the lower caste.

After three years of planning, Tinkham spent three weeks in Kodaikanal working with those considered lower caste as part of a mission sponsored by the Congregational Church of Laconia and Help Kids India.

Tinkham's mission was to work with a local teacher who was writing a children's book and teach her new techniques. She was accompanied by another young woman who is a graduate of Gordon College — a Christian College in Massachusetts.

"When I was in eighth grade, Anne Peck came from Health Kids India to talk to our church," she explained. "I started thinking it would be awesome to help and to go over and see for myself."

But in order to get school permission to leave school for three weeks in late January and early February of 2014, she not only had to complete a social studies project on women in India but take all of her Advanced Placement Courses in such a sequence that would ensure she didn't loose any of credits.

Tinkham began planning in 2011. She petitioned the administration for an independent study contract and, with the assistance of a social studies teacher, wrote a plan that would be acceptable to the school and her parents.

After her return, she presented a project on women's rights to her social studies class.

While Tinkham said she saw some extreme poverty and evidence of substantial of wife beating, she said she was amazed to see how upbeat they about life in general.

"During the day they are so positive and loving," she said. "And then sometimes they go home and their husbands come home drunk and beat them."

Tinkham said she didn't see too many men during her work day as most able-bodied men and boys of the lower castes are put to work, but said the women she was with were very loving and caring — especially the teachers in her school, most of whom were trained by similar programs like Health Kids India.

"They have the double stigma of being poor and being women," she said. "The richer kids are in school learning English and Hindi."

While India doesn't officially have a national language, most business and government is conducted in Hindi and English. In Kodaikanal, Tamil is the spoken language.

While strides have been made in the cities regarding the ages-old caste system in India, Tinkham said the caste system is very much alive in this small town in the mountains of India's southern-most province.

She said India's government is trying to broaden education especially in the lower castes but for most women, it often falls by the wayside.

In the villages and among the lower caste, it can be much earlier. Many parents send their children to work to earn money to help support the family.

Tinkham said in her three weeks she learned how important basic literacy is.

"In Kodaikanal, a thumb print is a signature," she said.

Tinkham said she plans on being a early education teacher though she hasn't decided where she wants to go to college.

When asked if she would return to Kodaikanal she said "Absolutely."


CAPTION: (Sally Tinkham) Gilford High School senior Sally Tinkham displays books of photography picturing Kodaikanal in southern India where she spend three weeks working as a teachers assistance and completing a project on women's rights. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:21

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Agenda change blocking public comment riles former Newfound chair

By Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — A move by the new chair of the Newfound Area School Board to streamline the meeting agenda met with strong resistance from the former board chair but the other members were unconcerned until those in the audience spoke up.
Ruby Hill of Danbury, who succeeded Vincent Paul Migliore as chair last month, changed the format of the meeting agenda for April 14 to reduce its bulk; but, in doing so, she also eliminated the public's opportunity to offer comment just prior to the board taking any action. Her changes would not have raised an eyebrow in most school districts, which typically limit public comment to the beginning or the end of a meeting, but Newfound for at least the last nine years has given members of the public two chances to voice their opinions.
Under the old procedure, at the beginning of the meeting, those in the audience have been allowed to speak on any issue, whether on the agenda or not. Mid-way through the meeting, after the board has discussed all agenda items, the audience had a second opportunity to speak with the benefit of having learned more about the topics under consideration. The board then could keep that public comment in mind when going back through the agenda items for a vote.
Hill's agenda placed public comment at the beginning, limiting it only to agenda items, and again at the end, after the board has made all its decisions.
Migliore raised an objection at the beginning of the meeting, saying the change had been made unilaterally, without any prior discussion. He also objected to shutting out the public, saying it had been very helpful to him in making decisions to hear what people in the audience had to say.
No one seconded his motion to open a discussion on the matter, and the board went on to other business. At the end of the meeting, though, when the public had a chance for final comment, several spoke up on Migliore's behalf, saying they objected to the new format.
That led the board first to support Migliore's suggestion that the matter be put on next month's agenda for discussion, then to discuss the merits of the change that evening.
Hill said her intention was only to streamline the agenda, not to shut out the public.
Jeff Levesque, the board member from Groton, said he agreed that the public discussion at the beginning should be open to any subject, not just the items on the agenda. Members also considered a compromise that would allow public comment on each item as it was discussed, prior to a vote, eliminating the need to take up each item twice, as in the old procedure.
In the end, the board agreed to take up the agenda format again at next month's meeting.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 11:45

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Federal grant will allow area ambulance crews access to gear to handle obese patients

LACONIA — The city has been chosen as one of 10 municipalities in the state where advanced equipment to enable emergency medical personnel to handle obese (bariatric) patients will be kept.

Bill Wood of the Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services at the N.H. Department of Safety, said that the equipment is being purchased with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and will be housed at one location in each of the 10 counties.

The City Council this week accepted a grant of $25,400 awarded by the Bariatric Grant Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for the purchase of a bariatric loading device, stretcher and lift, which will be stored at the Central Fire Station. The equipment will be for the use of all first responders in Belknap County and the Lakes Region as necessary. Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that the department was chosen because it is staffed and operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A department needing the equipment would be responsible for collecting and returning it with no cost to the city. "We would simply be the storage facility," he said.

Erickson said that the department was contemplating the acquisition of similar equipment with funding from LRGHealthcare, but instead purchased a hydraulic lift for the primary ambulance. He said that equipment will supplement the department's inventory of tools for dealing with obese individuals.

According to data compiled by the state's Trauma and Emergency Medical Information System (TEMSIS), the Fire Department transported 162 patients weighing between 400 and 1,100 pounds between 2010 and 2013, far and away the most reported in the state. Derry transported 82, Manchester 67, Concord 56, Lebanon 47, Rochester 44 and Dover 43. Erickson said that the figures may reflect differences in the collection, recording and reporting of information among departments as well as the numbers of obese patients in various communities.

The other municipalities in the Bariatric Grant Program are Conway in Carroll County,Gorham in Coos County, Keene in Cheshire County, Lebanon in Grafton County, Peterborough in Hillsborough County, Concord in Merrimack County, Hampton in Rockingham County, Dover in Strafford County and Newport in Sullivan County.

Wood said that in addition to the bariatric equipment there was sufficient funding to retrofit three ambulances in each county to accept and accommodate the bariatric stretchers.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 01:37

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