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Selectmen have 'sealed' minutes of meeting made public long ago

To The Daily Sun,

After years of following Gilmanton's town government and how it manages its affairs, I have finally come to the point where I can say, without hesitation, that I have seen it all. In the most ridiculous and unprecedented move imaginable, the three selectmen and town administrator have sealed minutes that were made public over a month ago (Story on May 30, page 16.) Here's why:

Town governments, in this case Gilmanton's three selectmen and town administrator, are governed by statutes. Statutes are laws drawn up by legislative bodies and are designed to preserve our democratic process. These statutes are not guidelines. They are laws. They are not to be ignored or passed over. They are to be followed. According to the public record of the April 4 selectboard's minutes and audio record, not only were they not followed ... they were trampled on.

Consider RSA 91-A:3 ... item B. At the April 4 meeting the selectman went into nonpublic session three times. The only reason given in the minutes that it was to discuss a personal matter. The aforementioned statute reads: "to enter nonpublic session (the governing body) shall state on its face the specific exemption under paragraph II". For those who may not know, there is no such special exemption under article II that reads "a personal matter." To illustrate my point further, I randomly checked minutes from past years and indeed, on every single nonpublic session there was listed a specific exemption under article II.

Then, RSA 91A:3 ... item C: The statute governing reasons to go into nonpublic session reads: "Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely effect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself". Simply put, because of the public account (now, laughingly, "nonpublic" minutes and an audio CD of that April 4 meeting), the selectmen and town administrator demonstrated an unbelievable free-for-all/devil-may-care barrage of negative comments directed at more people than this letter could possibly list. Damaged reputations? Absolutely! Comments that could hurt a person's future as a productive member of our town or an employee of this town? Without question!. Understand this: if you listen to this audio transcript, these are not hapless mistakes or unfortunate indiscretions made in the heat of the moment. They are in fact, in my opinion, deliberate and a demonstration of a total disregard for this town and it's people and for the process of government we rely on.

Finally, at one point in the minutes, one of the selectman is described as "offended by the line of questioning," and that he will listen to "only comments which he considers constructive" and then is later heard to say "let's make sure he gets as little information as possible ... he just wants to stir things up" and then "we feel that it is not something the board has to explain the reasoning for their action" and then there seems to be a deliberate attempt to manipulate minutes to "reflect favorably" on the selectman's conduct. I could go on and demonstrate how these (and other) comments and actions violate every statute under 91-A:2 "Meetings Open To Public", imaginable. Also, how the minutes themselves, eye-popingly skewed and out of sink violated the guidelines under Section 91-A:2 "Minutes" ... but why bother.

Under articles 91-A:7 "Violations" and 91-A:8 "Remedies," this town and the offended members have recourse. They should take it. As for the three selectmen and the town administrator, in my opinion, I would suggest they step down. You do not rule this town — you serve it. You've come to the wrong place to practice your form of government.

This is a Democracy, gentleman .... not a dictatorship!

Al Blake

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Address these issues or a new police building will be uphill fight

To The Daily Sun,

The Bristol Selectboard has recently appointed a committee to study and recommend space needs for our Police Department and Town Office. Here's a surprise; I really don't need to wait for the recommendation to know what the outcome of this study will be, they will say: "we need a new multi-million dollar facility to accommodate future needs."

Before they submit this proposal for approval to the voters and taxpayers of Bristol I hope that this committee has the good sense to study the growth trends of the last 20 years in order to project the needs for the next 20. Issues that need to be considered are the real growth rate of the tax base, the individual tax burden, the expansion or contraction rate of the town population, crime rates and the proper sizing of our current police force. Unless these issues are properly addressed and communicated to the taxpayer a new facility will be an uphill battle.

Paul Simard

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