To The Daily Sun,
At the Belknap County's Executive Committee (EC) meeting of March 9, an agenda item forthe transfer of $4,000 from a $350,000 grant line item in the 2016 county budget for the Sheriff's Department budget was necessary for the purchase of two radar detectors.
When this item was put forth, the commission chair stated he did not believe a transfer was necessary, which gave rise to deliberations between the members of the committee with the commission and Sheriff Wiggin regarding this 2015 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program award. Not one document was available that supported the source of revenues specifically related to the JAG grant. However, as the deliberations occurred, it was revealed that the actual award amount was $3,000. The amount was summarily corrected absent a recorded vote to do so. There were no questions, and no justification given as to why or how such an error could have taken place.
During ongoing deliberations, Representative Tilton alluded to the fact that some time in the past the specific appropriation problem had been sufficiently corrected to make the money available for transfer. He offered no meeting date. (Note: Representative G. Hurt, on September 28,2015 states; "Moreover, the delegation has not, that I am aware of, given any authority to acquire additional equipment with the line items of the department's budget."
Sheriff Wiggin's was consulted several times.
When the chairman solicited public comment, I was the only member of the public to address the issues with supportive information and the lack thereof.
When I questioned the lack of any documentation re: memorandum of understanding (MOU), the county administrator left the commission and returned with an unsigned MOU. Following my public comments, Sheriff Wiggin spoke again, stating "the grant application was handled "in complete and full compliance with law" and has been approved by federal auditors. The sheriff did not offer one record to support his statement or personal attack regarding JAG grants.
After the Executive Committee meeting was adjourned, I had a factual discussion with Mr. DeVoy, commission chairman about this particular JAG Grant. He produce the unsigned MOU and I pointed out the GMS Application number (2015-H3078- NH-DJ) was incorrect. I presented the actual JAG Gant, 2015-DJ- BX-0691 in the amount of $14,641, which was verifiable by the letter of Sept. 1, 2015.
Additionally, I pointed out that the signatories have no authority to sign this document. The authority to appropriate resides with the City Council and the Belknap County Delegation regarding disparate grants. I reminded the commission that the Superior Court (14-CV- 141,9/24/2014) made clear that the county commission was the administrator of the delegation's approved annual budget — the power to tax and appropriate. The same applies to the City of Laconia. The Council appropriates and the city manager administer the annual budget. Also, no department head of the county or city is a local governmental body with appropriation powers and therefore cannot sign a JAG application. Additionally, the Laconia Police Commission is not able to authenticate an MOU for an appropriation or supplemental appropriation.
List of JAG MOUs for Belknap County Radar Units
GMS APPLICATION NUMBER 2013-H5791- NH-DJ $2,000 hand-held radar units
GMS APPLICATION NUMBER 2014-H1852- NH-DJ $2,000 hand-held radars and cruise radars
GMS APPLICATION NUMBER 2015-H3078- NH-GJ $3,000 speed enforcement radar project
GMS APPLICATION NUMBER 2015-DJ- BX-0691 $3,000 speed enforcement radar project
Sheriff Wiggin, in response to a representative's question, said he estimated that 200 speeding tickets issued by deputy sheriffs are incidental. The obvious question is, how is using a hand-held radar unit incidental?
Voters should be asking city councilors and state representatives how they vote on items where they have no required supporting documents in hand.
Thomas A. Tardif