To The Daily Sun,
In a letter published in the Oct. 21 Laconia Daily Sun, our Belknap County Commissioners say that my charge that they manufactured the recent budget crisis was based on "half-truths" and "fabrications." The falsity of the commissioners' claimed crisis is revealed by the following 12 facts. Decide for yourself whether it is fair to conclude that the commissioners conjured up an illusion of crisis for their own political purposes:
1. The commissioners directed their attorneys to file a motion for emergency relief in the Belknap County Superior Court, which was heard on Sept. 23, 2014.
2. Paragraph 2 of the motion filed on behalf of the commissioners declared: "The county now finds itself in an emergency situation, wherein several county departments are over-expended without the ability to provide vital county services."
3. Paragraph 7 of the motion stated: "If the Executive Committee is unable to meet within the next forty-eight hours, inmates at the jail will have to be transferred to other facilities."
4. Paragraph 10 of the emergency motion summed up the commissioners' position: "Counsel for the convention has informed the county that the Executive Committee could tentatively schedule a meeting for Monday, September 29, 2014. This proposal is unworkable; in the week that it will take to convene the Executive Committee by their proposed schedule, elderly patients will need to be transferred from the nursing home, inmates will need to be transferred from the jail, and law enforcement personnel will be subject to danger due to insufficient communication."
5. Initially, in oral argument on the commissioners' motion, their attorney represented to the court that the transfer amount needed to sustain county operations was $617,872.20.
6. Judge O'Neill specifically inquired as to the exact dollar amount needed to sustain county operations until the scheduled Executive Committee meeting on Sept. 29.
7. Following a recess, during which time the commissioners conferred with their attorney, the attorney represented to the court that a transfer of $455,500 was needed to sustain county operations until the Sept. 29 meeting of the Executive Committee.
8. The court denied the motion for emergency relief, but urged the Executive Committee to meet on the issue of essential transfer requests that required action before the scheduled Sept. 29 meeting.
9. On Sept. 25, a special meeting of the executive committee of the convention was held to address emergencies that could not wait until the regularly scheduled Sept. 29 meeting.
10. At the Sept. 25 special emergency meeting only one transfer request was presented; the request was for transfer of $10,000 to ensure jail inmates necessary medications through the weekend until the regularly scheduled Sept. 29 meeting of the Executive Committee.
11. On Sept. 29, at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Executive Committee, over $600,000 in line-item transfer requests were approved by the Executive Committee to maintain Belknap County operations.
12. Between Sept. 23, when the commissioners' emergency motion was heard and Sept. 29, when the Executive Committee held its regularly scheduled meeting, not one nursing home patient had to be transferred to another facility and not one jail inmate had to be moved to another jail.
Based on all the available information, I do not believe any of the 12 factual points set out above can truthfully be denied. That said, I stand by my previous accusation that the "crisis" that led to the emergency motion was fabricated and the theatrics surrounding it were purely for show. In this regard, the facts speak for themselves. When the Executive Committee gave the commissioners the special pre-Sept. 29 meeting that the commissioners had argued to be essential to the continued operation of vital county services, all the commissioners could think to ask for was $10,000 for medical supplies to get jail inmates through the weekend. Assuming 100 inmates at the time, the requested transfer number would represent $100 per inmate for medications. One could reasonably be suspicious of that number.
Regardless, $10,000 is a far cry from the $455,500 that the commissioners represented to the court through their attorney as being essential for county operations until the Sept. 29 meeting of the Executive Committee.
Any reasonable person looking at the facts is forced to conclude that the "crisis" was non-existent. One can only speculate as to the reason for the misrepresentation: Was it an effort to embarrass the court by showing that its decision created an unworkable problem for county operations? Was it an effort to embarrass the convention and to try to influence the election of representatives who would rubber-stamp commissioner requests? Was it an effort to embarrass (Executive Committee Chairman) Rep. Tilton by portraying him as insensitive to the nursing home residents and jail inmates who were going to be uprooted and thereby force him to schedule a meeting without ample time to review the transfer requests in advance? Was it simply spiteful behavior by three men who could no longer have their way with the budget? Or was it some combination of these?
Whatever the motive, the attempt to create the appearance of a crisis was not from a mistaken lapse in judgment, but was the product of a purposeful design. The pawns in the game were the nursing home residents, the jail inmates and the county employees, and their peace of mind was the price that the commissioners were willing to pay to create the illusion of "crisis."
We should be able to expect truthfulness from our commissioners, and so should the court and the convention. Ask yourself, in light of the pattern of intentional misrepresentations running through their recent budget crisis story, how much credibility should be given to any statement made by the commissioners?