To The Daily Sun,
A month ago, the Belknap County Commission, of which I am a member, voted 2-1 to censure me for violating the provisions of 91-A-3; 2c (subsection of the Public Right-to-Know law) on two counts.
The first count was that I had verbally disclosed information from a non-public session regarding the grievance of a county employee.
The second count was that I had revealed the nature of a non-public meeting to a member of the body politic.
Since the vote of censure included referral to the Belknap County Attorney and to the N.H. Attorney General for investigation, I decided not to answer these charges publicly until I had first answered to the county attorney and/or the state attorney general. Since I have been contacted by neither official, it is now time to put the facts before the public.
When a grievance was filed by a county department head after the current county commissioners were sworn in, I participated in a non-public session to hear this employee's case. Soon after the beginning of the hearing, I determined that the other two commissioners had reached a conclusion with which I did not agree. I decided that they were unreceptive to a scenario at variance with their conclusions, which seemed to have been arrived at in summary fashion and without regard for evidence to the contrary.
At this point, I left what I considered to be a biased and unfair hearing and filed a minority report with the employee and further advised him that I would commit this report to writing. The following day, I submitted that report in a sealed letter to the county administrative assistant as well as to the employee. A fellow commissioner followed this same procedure in submitting a report of the majority of the Belknap County Commission.
The second complaint of the majority of the commission is more troubling. While the majority of the Belknap County Commission is on record as stating that it is county policy to have matters put on the agenda prior to a meeting and to have the subject matter for non-public sessions agreed to before a meeting takes place, this protocol was not adhered to in subject instance. This is a fair example of the ad hoc quality of the current constitution of the Belknap Board of Commissioners.
This non-public session having been convened for undisclosed reasons, I noted the presence of the county attorney and of the county sheriff. I was quite surprised that the reason for the meeting was a complaint by a county employee who felt threatened by the comments of a county citizen. I immediately asked the county attorney if this citizen had committed a chargeable offense. The answer was no, he had not. I then stated that the board had nothing before it.
To attempt to improperly use the provisions of 91-A-3; 2c to malign a private citizen who was not present to defend himself struck me as improper. Our society should not be a party to star-chamber tactics. Transparency in government must be a primary goal of anyone who purports to serve his fellow citizens.
When I defended the free speech rights of the party who was being maligned in this allegedly non-public session, a senior county official stated that the person in question had utilized his free speech and that it was time for him to move on. Really? Government officials should quantify how much free speech is acceptable and what the point of terminus should be? The proceeding which I describe was not a legitimate non-public session.
If the county wants to convene a dangerousness hearing for the citizen in question, let it so do. That the sheriff and county attorney would be a party to this meeting is very troubling.
Finally, many people have sent me messages, e-mails and made telephone calls regarding the change in the organization of the Board of Commissioners. I thank them and state that I will continue to advocate for the positions on which I ran for District 2 commissioner.
I stated in March that there was no statute or precedent for unseating an elected chair of the Belknap County Commission. Despite a ruling from Belknap Superior Court to the contrary, I want to state to my supporters that I was elected to be a commissioner and elected to be county chair. I have never, to my best recollection, been appointed to anything. For a judge to rule that the power of appointment implies the power of removal is a non-sequitur as well as an egregious example of judicial activism.