LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Hunter Taylor, a retired attorney, says the public deserves to know details behind a controversy that has roiled the sheriff’s department for months and that he will sue to get this information if he has to.
He has filed a public records request with the sheriff’s department.
The flap seemed to come to an end with the June 19 retirement of Chief Sheriff’s Deputy David Perkins, who had been on paid administrative leave since January 14 and the subject of three investigations.
But Taylor said Friday commissioners still have not been apprised of what led to the investigations and the extensive leave.
Commissioners agreed to pay an attorney to study the matter. She prepared a 50-page report for Deb Ford, an attorney for the sheriff’s department. County commissioners haven’t been given a copy of the full report.
Ford, who has previously recommended against public release of documents in the case, prepared a two-page executive summary that is being shared with commissioners, but not the public.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said the summary is privileged attorney-client information.
While not providing details of the summary, Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy said it characterizes the sheriff’s department in a positive way.
“I believe it vindicates the sheriff's department is all I want to say,” he said.
He said the sheriff’s department has merely been following attorney advice in not saying more about a personnel matter.
“I feel bad for the sheriff’s department,” DeVoy said. “They’ve been shown in a bad light, unfairly, just because they were following court rules. They were silent because they were asked to be silent. Because of that, people think they were doing it wrong.”
Taylor said the two-page summary is insufficient.
“I can tell you it is totally conclusionary, and makes me even more anxious to see the underlying documents,” he said. “I’m not interested in somebody representing the sheriff and their two-page spin on a 50-page report. I still haven't seen anything that really explains what is going on.”
Perkins became the subject of three personnel investigations after raising questions about the integrity of the Sheriff's Department's Drug Task Force, which is led by Deputy Sgt. William Wright. Perkins’s lawyer said his client was the target of harassment and retaliation by the Sheriff's Department, where Perkins worked for 18 years.
Wright is running unopposed to succeed Sheriff Mike Moyer, who is not seeking re-election. Perkins previously indicated an interest in running, but did not declare his candidacy during the election filing period.