To The Daily Sun,
State law, RSA 659:44-a Electioneering by Public Employees states:
I. No public employee, as defined in RSA 273-A:1, IX, shall electioneer while in the performance of his or her official duties.
II. No public employee shall use government property or equipment, including, but not limited to, telephones, facsimile machines, vehicles, and computers, for electioneering.
III. For the purposes of this section, "electioneer'' means to act in any way specifically designed to influence the vote of a voter on any question or office.
IV. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Why is this important? Because, this is the law that Gilford Superintendent Kurt Beitler has been consistently and knowingly violating. During the Gilford School Deliberative Session Mr. Beitler made several public comments designed to "to influence the vote of a voter on a question."
While speaking on the petitioned warrant article that seeks to shift the development of default budget to the Budget Committee rather than the School Board, Mr. Beitler stated, "in my opinion this petitioned warrant article would remove much need checks and balances." Yeah, that was stepping over the line into the very definition of electioneering by public employees as he made these statements publicly and in his official capacity as Superintendent of Schools.
I made Mr. Beitler aware of this statute during a phone conversation we had approximately a week prior. I warned him to stay professional and not to sway into the politics. He ignored my request. Immediately upon the conclusion of the Deliberative Session I approached him and showed him the text of the law that he just violated. He spoke with the district's attorney Gordon Graham who told me that Mr. Beitler is not a public employee by the definition of the law as he was appointed to his position by the School Board. RSA 273-A:1 defines what is a public employee. It exempts employees appointed by the "Chief Executive" (a mayor or governor). The same statute states that a School Board is an "executive Body" not a "Chief Executive."
Kurt Beitler is indeed a public employee as defined by RSA 273-A:2 and he is subject to the Electioneering by Public Employee laws. Gordon Graham is known for his creative, yet faulty interpretations of the law, and he is wrong again.
The day following the Deliberative Session, State Rep. and Budget Committee Chair Norm Silber, himself a very accomplished attorney, wrote to Mr. Beitler explaining that he violated this statute and requested the he cease and desist such activity. Mr. Beitler has now doubled down, making his same misguided opinion part of a public document that was passed out during the Public Hearing on the Citizens Petitioned Warrant Article, and posted on SAU 73's website. Using government assets to publicize this opinion, even at the request of the School Board is a direct violation of the Statute.
The School Board should immediately censure Mr. Beitler and these repeated infractions of the law should affect his future employment. But the real problem is that the School Board approves of all of this. It is time for real leadership at the School Board!