To The Daily Sun,
Yesterday, a good friend of mine told me that he could not vote for me for county commissioner. "It's too ugly," he said. "Do you really want to work in such a toxic environment?" He was reacting to a particularly venomous letter to the editor that accused our county commissioners of illegal activity and questioned their personal integrity.
The budget argument between the commissioners and the executive committee of the delegation (state reps elected from Belknap County) is over the authority to move money from account to account as budgetary needs change during the year. For years, these commissioners have transferred up to $10,000 between departmental accounts (sometimes called line items) without asking for permission from the executive committee of the delegation. For amounts of $10,000 and over, they did ask. Each month, the commissioners compared their actual expenses against budget predictions and transferred money from accounts with extra funds to those without so they can pay their (our) bills. This has been standard operating procedure for decades.
In December 2012, the Republican majority of the delegation began requiring the commissioners to ask for permission from the executive committee, made up of only Republicans, for every transfer reducing the limit from $10,000 to zero. (They have since raised that limit up to $300.) Since then, the commissioners have been requesting authorization for all transfers between departments but felt, based on a legal opinion from the county's attorney, that they had the managerial right to continue to transfer money within departments. The executive committee disagreed.
The commissioners requested a copy of the legal authority on which the executive committee was relying but no answer was provided. Instead, two members of the executive committee authored bills in the Statehouse to give them that authority but a bi-partisan committee of reps unanimously declined to allow either bill to be considered. Then, those same two committee members filed a lawsuit to have the matter resolved. The judge issued a temporary injunction ruling that the committee members would probably win when the suit comes to trial.
However, the commissioners believe they will prevail when the matter goes to trial and have asked the judge to reconsider. In the meantime they are complying with his order.
The commissioners are not flouting the will of the voters. They were elected by the voters of Belknap County to manage the county (reps are mainly elected to represent our interests in Concord). One of the committee members who filed the suit ran against Ed Philpot in his first race for commissioner in 2008. Ed won that race and he was re-elected in 2012 over an ally of the committee members. There is no evidence that the commissioners are acting to benefit themselves financially. To suggest that their motivation is for personal gain without any evidence is irresponsible and uncalled for.
Remember, there are two Republicans and one Democrat on the commission, acting as checks and balances against financial shenanigans.
These commissioners have substantially improved the operation of county government, they have reorganized departments, improved efficiency, adopted a variety of best operating practices, eliminated 39 positions, and have reduced the county tax rate each year for the past five years. The fact is, the commissioners started reducing the tax rate three years before the current delegation leadership came to power. They deserve our appreciation for their efforts on our behalf.
If you don't like what the commissioners are doing, vote them out. There is absolutely no cause for the poisonous language. They are simply civil servants acting in good faith and using their best judgement to do what they were elected to do. Disagreement is fine. It's good, in fact. They aren't always right. Who is?
Don't we want good citizens to be eager to serve? It's time for the voters of Belknap County to say, "Enough." A vote for me is a vote for civility, respect, and a belief in the value of listening to and learning from differing opinions.
Candidate for Belknap County Commission
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