To The Daily Sun,
Our recent county "crisis" has proven to have been a fabrication. On Sept. 15, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Executive Committee of the Belknap County Convention, there was no request from the commissioners for any budget transfer. Three days later, on Sept. 18, the Belknap County Commissioners announced that the county was faced with an immediate crisis if the commissioners were not allowed to make a number of significant money transfers from various budget lines to other lines. They demanded that the executive committee meet again and immediately approve the needed transfers. The commissioners emphasized that the immediate situation was so serious that the transfers could not wait until the executive committee's next scheduled meeting on Sept. 29.
When the executive committee refused to hold another meeting immediately to approve the claimed emergency transfers, the commissioners on Sept. 23 again sent their lawyers from Exeter into court. This time the lawyers made an emergency motion to either compel an immediate meeting of the executive committee to approve the needed transfers or, in the alternative, to obtain court approval for the claimed emergency transfers.
Specifically, the commissioners represented to the court through their attorneys that "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." To address this urgent situation, the commissioners initially told the court that $617,872.20 was needed. After questioning by the court, the commissioners then reduced the figure to $455,500.
The court rejected both requests, refusing to order an emergency meeting and also refusing to grant approval of the transfer of the money said to be immediately needed. The judge did make it clear that he would like to see a meeting of the executive committee take place before the scheduled Sept. 29 meeting.
A meeting was scheduled by the executive committee for Sept. 26 to hear the commissioners' request for emergency transfers that could not wait until the Sept. 29 meeting. At that meeting, the prior requests of $617,872 and then later $455,500 became a request for transfer of $10,000. The "crisis" that was going to shut down the county if $455,500 in transfers were not immediately made turned out to be a $10,000 need.
It is abundantly clear from this that the original representations were patently false. It is obvious that the commissioners knowingly misrepresented the "crisis" to the convention, the public and the court. In addition to conveying knowingly false facts to the court, the commissioners also expended public funds to pay for lawyers to convey the misrepresentations to the court.
When public officials lie to the public and to other public officials, that is wrong. Intentional misrepresentations to a court in the course of a public officer's official business is totally unacceptable.
Our state does not have a recall procedure. Instead RSA 64:7 provides that "any officer of a county may be removed from office by the superior court for official misconduct." The case law under this statute is clear that the misconduct need not rise to the level of a crime but must be more than a mere lapse in judgment. Intentional lying to a court about matters of county business definitely cannot be dismissed as a mere lapse in judgment. Whether or not it rises to the level of perjury, the effect is the same.