To The Daily Sun,
Unfortunately, the recent articles about the Benson incident do not tell the full picture. Although I did nothing wrong, Selectmen Currier and Lavin had a personal agenda to remove me as the chairman of the Planning Board, as they did with Nancy Girard, and were willing to ignore the law and the facts to get it done. Here's what happened.
Benson had violated numerous conditions of his contractor yard permit and failed to remedy the problems after being given many opportunities to do so. Despite the termination of his lease by the owners of the land on which he operated the yard and the revocation of his approval by the Planning Board, he failed to leave the premises. In September 2012, the Planning Board sent a letter to giving him a deadline. The letter warned if he did nothing his personal property would convert to the ownership of the land owners. Its intent was to alert him that he had to act to avoid the consequences. He still did nothing. In January 2013, the land owners made arrangements to remove Benson's property.
Shortly afterward, Benson discovered it was gone and filed a stolen property report with the Gilmanton Police. Sgt. Matt Currier, son of Selectman Currier, investigated the complaint. In the course of his investigation he spoke with the land owners who said they had relied on the board's letter for authority. Sgt. Currier concluded that the September letter was the cause of the problem and that the Planning Board should not have stated that Benson's property would convert to the land owners.
Both Girard and the planning administrator complained that Sgt. Currier did not behave in a professional manner in conducting his investigation. They met with the selectmen and the chief in a nonpublic session to discuss the matter. Because his son was involved, Currier recused himself, but remained to hear the discussions. Subsequently, Girard reported to the Planning Board that she believed that the matter was resolved.
Girard's term as a Planning Board member expired and she was not re-appointed after over 20 years of service. Some members of the Planning Board were concerned that it was connected to the Benson incident. Instead, the selectmen appointed a replacement and an alternate, both relatively new to the town. Together with an appointment last year, Lavin and Currier had three appointments to the board.
I was elected as the new chair of the Planning Board and became aware of a rumor in an e-mail addressed to a number of Gilmanton residents suggesting Girard and the Planning Board acted wrongfully. I sent two e-mails to those persons defending the board's actions. Someone provided them to Chief Collins. Chief Collins was offended in the manner in which I described the incident and complained to the selectmen.
In late April, I was asked to attend a public meeting with the selectmen. Chief Collins said that I had undermined the reputation of his department and Sgt. Currier in my e-mail descriptions of the investigation and wanted the Planning Board to admit its letter to Benson was wrong. Clearly there was a dispute in Sgt. Currier's account and Girard's and the administrator's accounts of their interactions. In an effort to put the matter behind us, I offered to write an apology to the extent I misstated the facts in my e-mails and explained the legal basis for the board's letter to Benson. I also called the chief to set things right. He further complained to the selectmen by letter dated April 29 — calling for my removal as chairman. As promised, I sent a letter to the chief on May 6 and copied the selectmen among other persons.
On May 15, the selectmen approved a letter asking me to resign. Their letter adopted the chief's version of the facts and claim that the Planning Board had acted wrongfully and never referred to my letter which addressed all of those issues — the law and the facts were irrelevant. Currier fully participated despite his conflict of interest and his public statements that he would not have appointed me to the Planning Board. Lavin and Currier saw the controversy as a pretext to get rid of me.
On May 16, in a nonpublic session the planning board thoroughly reviewed the Benson matter and concluded nothing further needed to be done. In that discussion, the selectmen's representative, Guarino, withheld the selectmen's letter because he believe the matter was resolved and the letter was unnecessary. Guarino reported back to Currier and Lavin who were furious. Guarino said he no longer believed the letter was needed and asked to be removed. He was told he could not. Currier and Lavin decided to take matters into their own hands.
The June meeting agenda of the Planning Board listed as a last item a letter from Board of Selectmen. Contrary to the normal practice, the letter was not included in the board materials that were e-mailed to the members in advance so that they can prepare for the meeting nor was it in the packet at the meeting. I asked the administrator for a copy prior to the meeting, but did not get an answer. Just before the meeting, however, Guarino called me to let me know that he would not be attending, Lavin would be filling in for him and alerted me that the letter was asking for my resignation. He said he was against it, considered the matter resolved, but that Currier and Lavin had insisted that it be brought forward.
Regular member Laurie Sanborn was also not present due to a conflict and the alternate was appointed to serve in her place. At the end of the meeting, the letter was presented. I advised the board that I would not resign. Contrary to Guarino's statement, Lavin represented all selectmen were in favor of the letter. Lavin made a motion that I be removed and one of his appointees seconded it. I asked that it be deferred until all of the regular board members could be present. His appointees immediately objected and stated the present board had a right to vote. I explained that I would resign from the board if it was adopted because I didn't want to be associated with a board that acted in this manner. It became clear that all of the Lavin's appointees were in favor. In fact, one said his approval was because the selectmen wanted it. The other long standing members of the board were opposed. I then resigned.
It is clear that some or all of Lavin's appointees knew about the letter in advance and were prepared to act. The other board members were in the dark. Sanborn said if she had known about the letter she would have attended and voted against it. She resigned in protest. Guarino has said he was not in favor. So the motion would have failed had the regular members been in attendance. Ironically it would have also failed at the earlier May meeting if Guarino had presented the letter. Lavin stated publicly at the next selectmen's meeting that his job was to remove me and he got it done. He said that the letter wasn't distributed because he didn't want my friends to attend the meeting.
The Planning Board is intended to be an independent, nonpolitical board which administers the town's planning laws and regulations. Currier and Lavin saw the Benson incident as an opportunity to remove me and used the chief and their appointees to carry out their plan. What's next?
W. John Funk
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:40
To The Daily Sun,
I have heard enough about the race card. Blacks were dancing in the streets all over the country the day O.J. was found not guilty. His ex and her friend, BOTH WHITE were brutally murdered. I did not hear the out cry from our black leaders back then as I do now. I guess two white crackers, butchered by a black man FOUND NOT GUILTY does't fall under a RACIST CRIME. Obama, Sharpton and our attorney general are a disgrace to the legacy of Martin, John and Bobby — three true pioneers, who did not politicize civil rights for all.
It won't be long before whites are the minority in the USA, it's only a matter of time. Look at the bright side, it won't be long till the white man can open casinos in Conn. and if we're lucky, Obana will give us a loan. Think of it, solar powerd slot machines.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:32
To The Daily Sun,
I'm glad that the Belknap County Delegation understands that the three commissioners advise, request funding their proposed budget and department administrators answer to the county administrator AND commissioners. Our state representatives establish the final budget. Many of us here in Belknap County have waited for some time to have a group who places the taxpayer first, especially in the present and future when folks in the private sector may be working 60 hours a week — 20 hours at each of their three jobs!
Then to read that the City Council has FOUND nearly $400,000 to promote the entrance to the downtown mall leaves me with one question: what line item in the '13-'14 city budget did you take that money from?
Question for the three commissioners: Do each of you really have a private office built for one?
One remark re: "The Gateway" brought a call during program from Charlie St. Clair (Laconia Antiques). I asked Charlie what new visitors entering downtown through The Gateway would see? I had suggested to business folks in '93 that remaining open later on summer days would be helpful. The hours have not changed. NO, this is not a request. I have some of the same advertisers from the day I started. In nearly 17 years my ads come from around Union Avenue, Gilford, Belmont, and Meredith.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:29
To The Daily Sun,
Are you aware of the massive planning initiative called the Granite State Future? It's currently being developed by the Lakes Region Planning Commission and the other eight regional planning commissions in New Hampshire. The plan will have far-reaching impacts about how you will be able to use your land, who will live in your neighborhood, who can drive where, what you can do with the water on your land, etc.
My guess is you probably have questions about all these things. Based on a letter I received on Thursday, July 18 from Mr. Kimon Koulet and Mr. Jerry Coogan, unelected employees of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, it's far easier to push a boulder up the Mt. Washington Auto Road than it is to get an answer from the Lakes Region Planning Commission in a public forum about this giant state-wide planning project.
In fact, if you want recorded answers to your questions, there's only one guaranteed method. You have to submit your question in writing to them.
If you attend a public meeting about Granite State Future, Mr. Coogan said in his letter to me, " ...the public has no guaranteed right to speak at a public meeting...."
How does that sit with you? I know what you're thinking, that you have First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. Apparently those rights don't exist in a public meeting hosted by the Lakes Region Planning Commission.
Are you shocked that you can't ask questions of your public servants at public meetings about issues that affect your land and your life? I know I was stunned.
If you attend a public hearing, a hearing is different than a meeting, about Granite State Future and have a question about any aspect of the plan, the unelected members of the Lakes Region Planning Commission are not required to answer it. You're allowed to make a comment at a public hearing, but Mr. Koulet and Mr. Coogan don't have to answer any question you may ask.
If you go to their offices to meet with them to ask questions, they forbid you to record the meeting in case you want to re-listen to what they said.
Is this the way you feel your public servants should respond to your concerns about your land and what you can do with it in the future?
Do you feel Mr. Koulet and Mr. Coogan are trying to hide something? Why do they make it nearly impossible for the general public to hear answers to important questions?
Do you want to read the letter Mr. Koulet and Mr. Coogan sent to me? Go here to download it:
If you're not happy with this state of affairs, I suggest you get in touch with me. We'll then, as a group, meet with our N.H. House Representatives and our State Senator Jeanie Forrester to see about making changes that require the planning officials to answer our questions in public and allow all meetings with unelected planning officials to be recorded.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:26
To The Daily Sun,
It is difficult to determine which of the recent statements made by Belknap County Commissioner Edward Philpot is the more disturbing and offensive, his diatribe about the "bad people" in county government who hold political views different to his, or Philpot's declination to retract, or at least moderate, his earlier remarks upon reflection. Instead, Philpot chose to reinforce his attack upon fellow officials with a whiny list of grievances e-mailed to the Republican county chairman.
As noted by other letter writers, reasonable minds can disagree about disbursement of county revenues, the efficacy of new jail construction, and the like. But Philpot appears to equate disagreement with his views on these matters with a character flaw. Officials who disagree with Philpot are not merely ill-informed or mistaken. They are malevolent, and in need of public condemnation and swift removal from office. While such a mindset might befit a speechwriter for Stalin, its expression is unseemly here in New Hampshire, where the positions deplored by Philpot presumably represent the views of the thousands of county residents who elected these "bad people" to office.
Up until a week ago, Edward Philpot gave the impression of a thoughtful, well-informed public servant. But the insulting and antagonistic nature of his recent outbursts makes it unlikely that Philpot can play a constructive role in resolving the many problems currently confronting the county delegation. Given that, his resignation from office is probably in the public interest.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:23