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City solicitor has clear conflict of interest in handling mill case

To The Daily Sun,

Regarding the one-sided article by Michael Kitch in The Laconia Daily Sun on Jan. 7 titled, "City says Tardif doesn't realize Right-to Know was re-written in 1991": I've read Thomas Tardif's Petition for Declaratory Judgment and the City of Laconia's answer to the petition, represented by the Walter Mitchell of the Mitchell Municipal Group. The city starts its answer with the title of "background", giving some past history of the Belknap Mill. Then some of present runnings of the mill, "The mill is owned by a non-profit association, which runs and maintains the building as a museum, public gathering and function space, and some office rental space to help support the Mill Society's purposes."

Tardif tried to point out that the Mitchel Group is one of the tenants of the mill. Mitchell objected, and the judge stated that he would ignore the statement. This had nothing to do with the petition but the city raised the question. Does the Mitchel Group have a conflict of interest in who buys the mill?

Mitchell goes on with the history of what happened in non-public session. Some of which isn't reflected by the minutes of the meetings in question. Then explains why some things were done but they were just "oversights." One of the oversights was that the council did not properly preform the roll calls before going into non-public session.

The Right to Know 91-A:3 (b) "The vote on any such motion shall be by Roll Call, and shall require the affirmative vote of the majority of members present." Per 91-A, council rules and Roberts Rules, requires the City Clerk to ask for a Roll Call of Council who answer yes or no, their vote with their name is recorded in the minutes of each meeting. This did not happen and does not happen before any of the council's non-public meetings. The city explains, "by oversight when the minutes of the public portions of those two meetings were prepared many days later, the preparer of the minutes neglected to recite the unanimous votes. The staff person who volunteered to prepare the minutes in the absence of the City Clerk, missed the required recitation of the roll call votes." The staff person did the Roll Call the same way as the City Clerk Mary Reynolds has always done the roll call for all non-public session. Which is not according to RSA 91-A:3 (b).

The city can't defend itself so it makes condescending remarks, "The allegations in paragraph 8 of the petition are both confused and confusing, and are therefore generally denied." The city continues with a statement that is not supported by the City Council minutes. Must be an oversight. "At the non-public session concerning the mill on October 14th, the council decided to hold a continued non-public discussion on the subject, with Mill Society trustees at 6:15 p.m., October 27th, before the start of its normal meeting..." Then goes on to say that, "a special notice was properly posted in two public places." The city did not enter a copy of the notice into the court record. Another oversight.

Were the trustees at the Oct. 14 non-public meeting? In The Laconia Daily Sun an article about the Belknap Mill on Nov. 12 by Michael Kitch: "In October, the council and trustees twice met privately." The city claims they only met once.

The Mitchell Group is a tenant of the Belknap Mill and represents Laconia in most legal matters. The Laconia City Charter Section 4.07. Appointive Officers. "There shall be appointed by the manager, three assessors, a City Clerk, Treasurer, Fire Chief, City Solicitor," "Per RSA 49-C:20, Amended by Referendum 11/2/2010." In the Laconia City Charter, Administration of Government, Article V, Code of Ethics 5-84, Conflict of Interest. "No official or employee shall participate, in any procurement, decision or action when the person knows that: A. The person or any member of the person's immediate family has a personal or financial interest pertaining to the procurement, decision or action; B. A party whose financial interest will be affected by the procurement, decision or action is a business in which the person or any member of the person's immediate family has a present or prospective personal or financial interest, including employment; or C. A party whose financial interest will be affected by the procurement, decision or action is an organization in which the person of any member of the person's immediate family is a member."

David Gammon

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Yellow journalism incites readers with eye-catching headlines

To The Daily Sun,

Just to confirm that the decorum (dignified propriety of behavior) of the two ladies who presented their concerns relative to the "Lucky Charms Under Attack at Gilford School Board Meeting" article was exemplary — very good and deserving to be admired and copied.

The dialogue that ensued was respectful, dignified, well-mannered, and did not exhibit the posturing and lack of politeness of a past incident. Perhaps the word "attack" should have been "discussion" as that was what it was, and that discussion will continue as the two ladies will be involved in the subsequent process in the revision of the School Wellness Policy.

Yellow journalism incites with eye-catching news headlines intended to captivate readers, and somehow the word "attack" seemed to promote the memory of that past event. These two ladies should be complimented on bringing their concerns to the School Board in such a positive and polite manner.

Frank M. Weeks
Gilmanton Iron Works

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