Agreement on Temporary Injunction in Steinman Vs. Tuftonboro

Last week a preliminary hearing in Steinman vs Tuftonboro was cancelled at the 11th hour when the parties came to an agreement for a Stipulation on Preliminary Injunctive Relief. Rick Sager, the selectmen’s attorney, was kind enough to forward the agreement to me yesterday evening.

The Steinmans and the selectman have temporarily agreed to the location of the center line of Brown Road and the location of the Right of Way, without waiving any legal rights, “for the duration of this action or until amended by Court order.”

As long as they don’t encroach on the towns Right of Way, as temporarily agreed to, “the Steinmans may maintain the stonewall in its present location… on a temporary basis during the pendency [sic] of this action.”

Before the final hearing, the Steinmans may “extend the said stonewall along the temporarily stipulated right of way boundary line so as not to encroach the Town’s ROW to the water’s edge in compliance with all Town and State regulations.” However, they acknowledge if they do so the court may later require them to move the rocks.

The town agree to “take reasonable  steps to ensure the stones” (in their present location) are “secured against any third party removing” them.

The two parties acknowledge the Stipulation “does not create, extinguish, or limit any right for any member of the public to use any right of waay which may or may not exist in this location, but reserve the right to “proceed against any person whose actions are in disregard to the several rights of the parties hereto” through civil or criminal charges.

One of the points of agreement in the Stipulation is that the Town will “Notice this Order publicly in Town Records.” So it’s in the Town’s interest to get this information out, and I’m happy to do my small part. Still, Rick didn’t have to send it to me, so I thank him.

Tuftonboro Officials Give False Info About Emails

Selectmen Bill Marcussen and Lloyd Wood appear to be giving false information about having town-business related emails in their possession.

On November 3, 2016, I made a Right to Know request for emails that Carolyn Sundquist, then the chairman of the board of selectmen, had sent or received between January 1, 2016, and February 29, 2016. Instead of complying with the Right to Know law (RSA 91-A), the selectmen tried to charge me an illegal fee to access these public records. When I refused to pay the fee, which could have amounted to thousands of dollars, the selectmen sued me and Bob McWhirter. The selectmen eventually lost their case against me after eight months of litigation.

Nevertheless, the selectmen have refused to provide me with all of the emails I requested. They have sent me only the emails that Carolyn received, but not the emails that she sent. Their attorney, Richard Sager of Sager & Smith in Ossipee, NH, has admitted that the emails were deleted, which is a possible criminal violation of 91-A:9.

Because the selectmen refused to provide me the sent emails from Carolyn, last week I requested emails from Bill and Lloyd for the same months (January and February 2016). I did this because Bill and Lloyd may possess emails that Carolyn sent. Those are the emails that I am looking for and that any member of the public has a right to see.

The selectmen’s secretary, Karen Koch, emailed me yesterday and made the completely unbelievable claim that Bill and Lloyd do not have any emails for the two months in question.

Subject: request for emails
From: Tuftonboro Selectmen <selectmen@tuftonboro.org>
To: maximledoux@gmail.com

Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 3:53 PM

Max,

I have been notified that you requested all town-related emails sent or received by Bill and Lloyd between January 1, 2016 and February 29, 2016.  Bill was not a selectman at this time but did serve on Town committees. He doesn’t believe that he has any emails from this time period.  He will verify this and if he finds anything I will notify you.

Lloyd doesn’t have any emails from this time period.

Karen

Karen Koch
Administrative Secretary
Town of Tuftonboro
240 Middle Road
P.O. Box 98
Ctr. Tuftonboro, NH 03816
(603) 569-4539 X10
selectmen@tuftonboro.org

This is not just unbelievable, it’s verifiably false. Here is an email that Bill sent to Lloyd, Carolyn, and Dan Duffy on Feb. 10, 2016, within the timeframe in question:

Bill and Lloyd are either misleading or forgetful, or they have deleted all of their emails.

Hearing Scheduled in Steinman Vs Tuftonboro

There will be a hearing on Friday, December 1, 2017, at 10:30AM at Carroll County Superior Court for the lawsuit that Dr. Theodore and Carol Steinman have brought against the town of Tuftonboro.

In 2016, Carolyn Sundquist, who was the chairman of the selectmen at the time, told the Steinmans that they could place boulders on their property along the edge of Brown Road. The goal of placing the rocks was to stop people from accessing Lower Beech Pond with boat trailers. Carolyn acted without the approval of the rest of the board of selectmen, but the Steinmans followed her directions anyway and placed boulders in the town’s right of way. The selectmen — included Carolyn — then told the Steinmans to move the boulders. When the Steinmans refused to move them, the selectmen — Carolyn having since left office — instructed the Road Agent to push the boulders farther onto the Steinmans’s property, out of the town’s right of way.

The Steinmans dispute the location of the right of way and allege that the town trespassed on their property.

Richard Sager, of Sager & Smith in Ossipee, is representing the selectmen. A review of his available invoices show he has billed the town at least $3,568.75 for the Steinman lawsuit.

Library Trustees: $1,920,000 Library Addition Warrant Article for Town Meeting 2018

The library trustees sent out the following press release today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TUFTONBORO LIBRARY TRUSTEES ANNOUNCE DECISION ON BUILDING PROJECT

At their regular monthly meeting on November 8th, Tuftonboro Free Library Trustees Gordon Hunt, Paul Matlock, and Mary Ann Murray voted unanimously to put the proposed plan for an addition and renovations to the existing library on the 2018 Town Warrant.  The focus changed from a new building to an addition late this spring, when Tuftonboro resident, Raymond “Skip” Hurt, presented a model to Selectmen and Trustees that he believed would provide the necessary space at a substantially lower cost to taxpayers.

In response to this citizen initiative, the Trustees directed SMP Architecture to review Hurt’s plan for feasibility, provide additional options for expansion, refine and develop the approved plan to the Schematic Design phase, and work with Bauen Corporation, the project’s construction management firm, to provide a preliminary cost estimate.  SMP also provided a new topographical map overlay demonstrating that wetlands areas delineated by the original survey in 2006 were inexactly located, and so clearing the way for an addition.

The preliminary cost estimate for the 5,000 square foot addition plus all necessary renovations to the existing building is $1.92 million.  Considering that the projected cost for a new building is $2.65 million, the Trustees believe that their decision to support the proposed addition is in the best interest of the town.  There is currently a combined total of just under $700,000 in cash on hand in the established Library Capital Reserve Fund and the privately supported Library Building Fund, and just under $100,000 in additional private pledges, contingent upon approval of the project at Town Meeting on March 14th.  The TFL Capital Campaign Committee and the Friends of the Library will continue with fundraising, in an effort to reduce taxpayer costs even further.

Plans for the proposed addition can be viewed at the library, and on the library website, tuftonborolibrary.org, where there is also an animated “fly-around” view of the exterior.

The fly around video is here:

Here is the interior floor plan (click to make larger):

And here is the site plan (click to make larger):

 

Paul Zimmerman Implies He May File Suit Against Tuftonboro Over Decision by Zoning Board

In a letter to Mark Howard, chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, local developer Paul Zimmerman today* implied if the town does not reimburse him for $22,586.00 in expenses he may sue the town. Zimmerman incurred the expenses developing site plans to build a self-storage facility on the property next to the fire station at 181 Middle Road (Route 109A). Continue reading “Paul Zimmerman Implies He May File Suit Against Tuftonboro Over Decision by Zoning Board”

Taxpayers’ Bill for Selectmen’s Folly Climbs to $20,930.87

The selectmen lost their lawsuit against Bob McWhirter and me but they’re still paying their attorney, Richard Sager for it using taxpayer money. Sager’s invoice from September includes $1,884.75 for services related to the selectmen’s lawsuit. This brings the total that the selectmen have paid to Sager for the lawsuit to $18,649.62. The selectmen also paid $2,281.25 to Patrick Harvie to give “expert testimony” at the court hearing in June.

That brings the total amount of taxpayer money that the selectmen have spent trying to make it more difficult for the public to access public documents to $20,930.87.

The selectmen have spent such a large amount of money on their failed lawsuit that even Sager seems to think it’s too much. Starting in September, Sager reduced his rate and his paralegal’s rate — for the services related to the Right to Know case only — to 60% of his regular fee, which is $175 per hour. (That is the prevailing municipal rate for attorneys in this area.) [See update below.] Sager’s regular rate for his paralegal is $100 per hour. He reduced those rates to $105 and $60.

If Sager had charged his regular fees for the work related to the lawsuit in September then his invoice for those services would have been $3,141.25 not $1,884.75.

I appreciate that Sager reduced his rates (for work related to the lawsuit) in September. However, the bulk of the work his office performed in that month was redacting of emails. Even at his reduced rates, that’s an incredible waste of taxpayer money considering the selectmen could have had the town office staff, who we already pay, do that work at no extra cost. Instead they chose to have Sager do the redaction work.

If the selectmen are going to continue to waste taxpayer money, I suggest Sager revert to his normal rates. Why should he take less than his normal fee? I don’t blame him for charging for his services.

Update: The post originally states “That is the prevailing rate for attorneys in this area.” But I updated it to include be the municipal rate after Sager had this to say on Facebook in response to this post:

Oh, Max. More complaining. Much Ledoux about nothing. And not accurate once again. So here goes. (1) I reduced my rate by 40% for the purpose of redacting emails because the Town didn’t have the resources available to do it. My rate for municipalities is $175/hour. (2) You are incorrect (again) when you say $175/hour “is the prevailing rate for attorneys in this area.” Wrong. That’s a prevailing rate (or even a little low) for attorneys doing municipal work. Call around and you will see the prevailing hourly rate in this area for non-municipal work ranges around $275-$300/hour. Head south and it’s in the $350-450 range. (3) I didn’t just decide to charge a lower rate for email redaction in September 2017. I offered that to the selectmen in 2016 when you made your request for 13,000 emails. So, when are you going to inform me and the folks on this Forum about your decision whether you agree to sit down and meet? Just don’t ignore the invitation, man up! If you don’t want to participate, say so (and why would be interesting). If your answer is yes, let’s set it up.

Sager has never substantiated the “13,000” emails claim, although he throws it at me often as if it’s a lot of emails (it’s not). In court documents, the selectmen’s administrative secretary, Karen Koch, stated there were between 740 and 760 emails responsive to Bob McWhirter’s Right to Know request. My Right to Know request has so far produced a few hundred emails, at most. (However, the selectmen are refusing to provide me all of the emails that were the subject of the lawsuit.) Further, Karen stated in the documents that were filed with the court that the selectmen’s counsel (Sager) had informed her that the number of emails was not relevant.