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It should take much more to remove an elected town official

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

In a recent well-written and thoughtful letter to the editor from a fellow Moultonboro Planning Board member, the writer correctly stated that "there was no corruption or fraud" on the part of the two Moultonboro Planning Board members accused of malfeasance and neglect of duty. I concur.
What did occur were procedural errors — mistakes in process.

None of what happened on July 10th 2013 rose anywhere near the level where anyone should be removed from elected office. Many different votes were taken that night and ultimately, the Bears Nest LLC tower Conditional Use Permit was approved. I need to point out to readers that if the issue was indeed the final decision that evening, five members of the Planning Board all voted to approve it, with myself and the acting chair the two dissenters. One of the members who approved it was the selectmen's representative. The real cause(s) then for the removal effort of two members was unrelated to the final outcome of that hearing.
I agree with the writers opinion that the selectmen are legally correct in calling for the public hearings, but strongly disagree that they are duty bound to do so. There is no legal obligation to call for the hearings nor was there any legal obligation to offer the "resign or suffer the indignity of a public hearing" plea bargain. That was simply the sad way we do business here in town of late.
I also do not share the letter writer's embarrassment for the Planning Board actions of that evening. I was disappointed that I could not convince most fellow board members to vote "no", regardless of the consequences. No one should be embarrassed, however. The major mistake we made was unavoidable: we were told to think of this already built structure as being not built and that this request for a conditional use permit was the same as if the nearly one acre of woods was never clear cut. The concern easily seen among the majority of the board was that the damage had already been done and tearing it down would cause more harm to the environment. See where I am going with this? Pretend the structure doesn't exist, but we don't want to tear it down. If it didn't exist there would be nothing to tear down, right? It was an impossible situation that perhaps could have been resolved if King Solomon were a member of the Moultonboro Planning Board.
There is an old saying that if the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The selectmen have a number of tools in their tool box, but chose to use the biggest and most extreme one. Much like using dynamite to plant tulip bulbs. The result is the same, but it leaves an awful mess and people could get hurt.
I wholeheartedly agree that we need to fix our process problems and work diligently on better coordination and cooperation between boards. There is more to be fixed though. We need to stop the favoritism, nepotism, good-ol' boy-network and inner circle manner of getting things done. That applies to all boards.
Most critical, though, are the Board of Selectmen. This same board — where some do not know who the accusers are; some not even sure if there even are any; where some have seen a petition, but others claim they did not or that one even exists — has flagrantly violated the Right-to Know-law and will now act as "grand jury and judge". All this under the guidance of our town counsel and prosecuted by the town administrator. Considering that this Board of Selectmen has never done this before and in fact this has rarely happened anywhere in New Hampshire, the September 9 public hearings have all the makings of an epic disaster movie. The spotlight will be shining brightly on our little town that day. Be sure to not stand in front of any moving fans, because the you know what will be flying through the blades. Doesn't all this make you feel confident that a fair an unbiased hearing will occur? I sure don't.
We need real leadership on the Board of Selectmen that will properly challenge assumptions, vigorously obey the Right-to-Know law, do their homework and go back to directing the town staff as opposed to being led by them. Real leadership from the Board of Selectmen would have the courage to call for a time out and take a step back from these public hearings.
The root cause of these problems can start to be addressed come the second Tuesday of March 2014.
Paul Thomas Punturieri