New State Laws Signed into Law by Governor Hassan

The good folks at Right to Know NH report that Governor Hassan has signed HB 606 and HB 285 into law:

Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB285, so this bill is now law. The law is chapter 280 of this year’s session and it took effect June 21, 2016, the date it was signed. This law allows non-public meetings to consider verbal or written legal advice. Right to Know NH opposed this bill.

Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB606, so this bill is now law. The law is chapter 283 of this year’s session and it took effect June 21, 2016, the date it was signed. This law clarifies that no fees may be charged to inspect or deliver records when no copies are made. Right to Know NH supported this bill.

As previously reported, while Tuftonboro in practice has been making electronic copies available at no charge, the selectmen still need to revise the official policy.

The Tuftonboro selectmen hastily scheduled a May 13 public meeting in order to consider written legal advice from their attorney, Rick Sager. While they have refused to reveal the content of his memo, the meeting’s minutes state that he advised them to “divorce” themselves from the operation of the town cemeteries. The selectmen required Sager’s legal advice because they broke the law on April 25 by usurping the cemetery trustees’ authority to operate the town cemeteries. The selectmen’s ordinary practice is to send out an email to a list of subscribers giving notice of scheduled meetings. (Anyone can sign up for the list at tuftonboro.org.) However, for this non-regular meeting on May 13, the selectmen did not send out an email. As a result, no member of the public, not even the videographer, attended that meeting. That was undoubtedly the selectmen’s intent in breaking with their normal habit of sending out an email with a meeting agenda. To be clear, the selectmen met the letter of the law by posting a paper notice at the Tuftonboro General Store Post Office. When asked on June 6 if the selectmen had simply forgotten to send out the email notice due to the May 13 meeting being an impromptu, non-regular meeting, chairman Carolyn Sundquist robotically replied multiple times that the meeting had been properly noticed.

With HB 285 now signed into law, the selectmen will be able to hold non-public meetings to review verbal or written legal advice, and will not have to go through the kabuki theater of holding a “public” meeting that they engineer in such a way that no members of the public show up.

Glenn Cordelli Receives 100% Voting Score from Americans for Prosperity

Glenn Cordelli
Glenn Cordelli

Tuftonboro’s own Glenn Cordelli has received a 100% rating in the Americans for Prosperity — New Hampshire 2016 Legislative Score Card. For that A+ rating, AFP-NH dubs Cordelli a “Protector of Prosperity.” The score is based on 12 key votes that took place during the 2016 session. Cordelli, a Republican who represents Tuftonboro, Moultonborough, and Sandwich in New Hampshire’s 4th House District, recently filed to run for re-election.

Reached for comment, Cordelli said, “I am very proud of the recent A+ rating from Americans for Properity for 2016.” He elaborated:

They look at bills based upon limiting the growth of government and creating economic growth — both vital to the future of New Hampshire. As government expands, our liberties and freedoms shrink. As a member of the House Education Committee, I have seen it from the federal and state levels. What we need is more “education freedom” for parents and their children. As our economy grows, opportunities grow — opportunities for employment or to start or expand a business.

Americans for Prosperity’s New Hampshire State Director, Greg More, further explained how the score card is created:

There were a number of key issues before the Legislature this year that will impact economic freedom and growth. From maintaining taxpayer funded ObamaCare coverage to able-bodied adults to continuing e orts to provide tax relief to employers, this was a session replete with important policy matters.

The 4th district elects two state representatives to send to Concord. In comparison with Cordelli, our other representative, Karol Crawford (R-Moultonborough), who is also running for re-election, received an F rating of 40%, or “Opponent of Prosperity.” Her low rating is undoubtedly a direct result of having missed seven of the 12 votes that were scored. However, she also voted against AFP-NH’s position on three of the five votes that she did take. Crawford has not yet responded to an email requesting comment, but this post will be updated when she does.

Cordelli and Crawford are facing off against newcomer Brent Anderson of Moultonborough in the September Republican primary. (The Granite State News failed to include Anderson’s name in an article last week about the candidates.) The top two vote-getters in the primary will go on to the November general election to square off against the two winners of the Democrat primary. Tuftonboro’s Gary Chehames, previously the chairman of the Tuftonboro budget committee, has filed to run for state representative as a Democrat.

AFP-NH also scored the state senate. Tuftonboro’s senator, Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), received a D rating of 67%, or “Neglector of Prosperity.” Bradley serves as the senate majority leader.

Selectmen Pay Rick Sager $210 to Tell Them to Follow the Law

rick sager invoice cemetery authorityThe Tuftonboro selectmen broke state law on April 25th by illegally authorizing a payment to Cory Hunter for maintenance work done in the town cemeteries. By law, only the cemetery trustees have the power to authorize such payments. The selectmen were told by Sue Weeks, who is the chairman of the cemetery trustees, at the April 25 selectmen’s meeting that the cemetery trustees were responsible for maintaining the cemeteries, not the selectmen. The selectmen ignored her and voted to pay Cory Hunter, thus breaking the law.

At the May 9th selectmen’s meeting during public comment I cited the specific state laws that govern the cemeteries, which clearly state that only the cemetery trustees have the authority to maintain the cemeteries.

Rather than simply read the statutes themselves and abide by them, the selectmen chose to seek legal counsel from their attorney, Rick Sager. According to the meeting minutes of a hastily scheduled, non-regular meeting on May 13, Sager sent them a memo advising them too “divorce” themselves from the cemetery operations. In other words, Sager clearly told them to follow the law. The selectmen have refused to make Sager’s memo available to the public, citing client-attorney privilege. They have also refused to allow the cemetery trustees to view the memo, even though Sager’s legal opinion obviously concerns the cemetery trustees in their official capacity as elected town officials.

For his advice to follow the law, Sager charged the tax payers of Tuftonboro at least $210.

His invoice lists .80 hours for “Email to/from Karen [Koch, administrative secretary] re: cemetery trustees, including legal research” for which he charged $140. In addition he charged $17.50 for 0.10 hours for “Email to/from Karen re 91-A issue (cemetery trustees).” As well as $52.50 for 0.30 hours for “E-mail to/from Karen re: how best to deal with legal opinions.” Presumably those last two were in regards to whether the selectmen would be required to share the legal memo with the cemetery trustees.

There is an additional charge of $122.50 on 5/18/16 for 0.70 hours for “E-mail to/from Karen re: 91-A issues.” It’s unclear if this was directly related to the selectmen breaking the law on April 25th. 91-A is the “Right to Know” law. However, I had asked Karen Koch in an email on May 17th to view Sager’s memo.

The taxpayers of Tuftonboro had to pay Rick Sager because the selectmen broke the law. $210 is not large in the grand scheme of things. However, it was entirely unnecessary.

The selectmen should have listened to Sue Weeks on April 25th. Not only did she tell them that the cemetery trustees, not the selectmen, were responsible for the maintenance of the cemeteries, she also told them that the cemetery trustees were meeting the follow week to review Hunter’s invoice. She also informed the selectmen that contrary to Carolyn Sundquist’s claim, there was no written contract between the town and Hunter. Furthermore, she told them that Hunter had down the spring clean up work without first talking to the cemetery trustees. Indeed, the last the trustees had heard from Hunter, last fall, he was not sure if he was going to continue doing the work, and wanted to think about it over the winter. Weeks then said that Hunter submitted an invoice April 8th, after the cemetery trustees’ April 5th meeting. Thus, the cemetery trustees had not even had a chance to review his invoice yet. In fact, the trustees hadn’t found out about it until at least a week later. Knowing that the cemetery trustees were meeting to review the invoice, the selectmen nevertheless chose to step in and pay the invoice to Hunter. By doing so, they broke the law. Rick Sager’s advice that the selectmen “divorce” themselves from the cemeteries proves the point.

At the May 24th budget committee meeting, while discussing whether to allow public comment, Carolyn Sundquist (she is the selectmen’s representative to the budget committee) said, “Could I just ask — what would the public say that would change our minds?” She also reminded the budget committee members that “the public does not have a right to speak.”

If the selectmen had listened to the public, in the person of Sue Weeks, on April 25th, then they might not have broken the law, and they would have saved the tax payer at least $210.

Selectmen’s Meeting, June 20th, 2016

As usual, the meeting started with the pledge of allegiance. Everyone stood and faced the flag, and almost everyone recited the pledge. The selectmen’s first order of business was to meet with the cemetery trustees, Sue Weeks and Peter Slusky (Guy Pike was not present because he’s in Europe).

Sue Weeks requested to see the memo from attorney Rick Sager advising the selectmen to “divorce” themselves from the cemetery operations. She stated that she thought the trustees were entitled to see it since it had to do with them and that she had spoken to attorneys at a cemetery trustees workshop that she and Pike attended earlier this month who told her that the trustees should be entitled to see it. Carolyn Sundquist refused, stating that there was no public benefit to letting the trustees see it. Sue Weeks stated that in that case it was evident that Rick Sager is the selectmen’s attorney, not the town’s attorney. The trustees have therefore hired their own attorney. Sue Weeks said that the selectmen and the cemetery trustees should work together and not be at odds. Carolyn Sundquist stated that the only reason for the recent acrimony is that “Mr. Ledoux wrote a letter alleging we broke the law.” That elides the fact that the selectmen did break state law by voting to make a payment on April 25 that they did not have the authority to make.

Discussion then turned to the procedure for when someone comes in to the town office to enquire about purchasing a cemetery lot. The trustees think that the town employees should continue to process the paperwork. At the next trustees meeting, after Guy Pike has returned, the trustees will formalize a procedure for the employees to follow.

There is confusion as to where the monies are to be kept that are collected when a lot is sold. The cemetery trustees were informed at the trustees workshop they attended that lots are considered town property. Both the trustees and the selectmen were surprised by this. In addition, a part of the fee for perpetual care of a lot is supposed to be accounted for each individual grave site. The money in the perpetual care account is supposed to be used for the lots that purchased perpetual care. Some lots, especially those in old cemeteries or old parts of the Town House cemetery, for instance, do not have perpetual care funds allocated to them. For accounting purposes their care is paid for out of the general fund. In addition, a certain percentage of the interest from the cemetery trusts is supposed to be reinvested each year into the principle in order to keep up with inflation. The trustees will do more research on all these matters. The trustees would also like an additional fire-proof filing cabinet for records. The selectmen pledged they will authorize the purchase of that and any other office equipment that the trustees need. Discussion also ensued about declaring some of the cemeteries in town that are on private property to be “abandoned.” This is a legal procedure that will give the town the same rights as descendants of those who are buried in the cemeteries. The descendants will not lose any rights. It will merely allow the town legally to repair grave stones and walls. By state law, the town needs to list the cemeteries in a reputable paper (so not the Granite State News) and then the selectmen must hold a public hearing, which can be at their normal public meeting.

After speaking with the trustees the selectmen turned to the signature file. There was a request, I believe it was to log (I will confirm from the official meeting minutes and update), notice of intent to excavate for a property that is owned by a Trust. Only one of the trustees has signed the request. Selectman Lloyd Wood asked Chairman Sundquist to read into the record a statement the selectman had received (from whom, I’m not sure) via email that all members of a trust do not have to sign and that the selectmen can take a trustee’s  word that they are actually a trustee. If the person misrepresents that they are a trustee then they are liable, not the selectmen, for legal repercussions. Selectmen Sundquist and Bill Marcussen then voted to approve the request (to log?) to excavate and selectman Wood voted against.

Elissa Paquette asked a question about one of the items the selectmen were signing, and Carolyn Sundquist answered. I then asked why Paquette is allowed to ask questions during meetings but the rest of those who attend are asked to wait until the end of the meeting for the public comment period. Carolyn Sundquist replied “because she’s the reporter.” I asked if there was a special exception for Paquette, and Carolyn Sundquist said “Yes.” I asked if the selectmen had voted on that, and she said, “Yes.” I then apologized for breaking the rules (more on that in a later post).

The selectmen reviewed a large amount of correspondence.

Administrative Secretary Karen Koch forwarded the selectmen with a preliminary $5,000 estimate from a company to revamp the town’s sadly out-of-date web site.

Nancy Randlov has resigned as chair of the recycling committee. Lloyd Wood made a motion to accept the resignation and to send Randlov a thank you card. Betsy Frago is resigning from the ZBA board. Lloyd Wood made a motion to accept the resignation and to send Frago a thank you card. Since Frago was also present at the meeting, Wood turned and thanked her personally, echoed by Sundquist and Marcussen.

Administrative Secretary Karen Koch forwarded the selectmen with a preliminary estimate from a company to revamp the town’s sadly out-of-date web site. The estimate is for $5,000.

Another letter informed the town that Time Warner Cable has been bought by Charter Communications. Carolyn Sundquist stated she had also received a letter from TWC/Charter and assumed most other resident in town who are TWC customers will have received the same letter.

A resident of Eaglemere Road wrote to the selectmen to express her desire that the town not pave that road. Lloyd Wood asked if Jim Bean had completed an analysis of the relative costs of maintaining a dirt road versus a paved road, which the selectmen had requested during their roads tour in April. At that time the selectmen had indicated that if they thought paving the road was a good idea then they would put it to Town Meeting for a vote.

The selectmen reported on the various other committee meetings they have attended in recent weeks. Bill Marcussen says there isn’t a lot of milfoil on the lake this year.

Lloyd Wood asked if Jim Bean had filled in the void on Sodom Road at the Melvin River Bridge. Karen Koch said she had not heard from him. However, after the meeting I drove up Sodom Road and saw that the hole had been filled in earlier Monday.

At the previous meeting the selectmen had decided to ask the town employees if they wanted to include benefits as base pay for the sake of retirement contributions. Karen Koch and Clay Gallagher, the transfer station director, both receive lump payments in lieu of health insurance. They have both said that they would like the payment in lieu of health insurance to be counted as base pay. That would increase the retirement contribution. Sundquist asked if the board wanted to make a decision. Marcussen and Wood both said they wanted more information.

The official public comment period was next, then the public meeting ended. The selectmen had a non-public meeting directly after.

Carolyn Sundquist on Public Questions During Meetings

At Monday’s meeting of the selectmen, Carolyn Sundquist stated when asked that Elissa Paquette of the Granite State News is allowed to ask questions during selectmen’s meetings because she’s “the reporter.” From March, 2015, to March, 2016, the selectmen did not allow public input during their meetings. After former selectman Dan Duffy’s term ended and he was replaced by newly elected Bill Marcussen, the selectmen decided on March 14th, 2016, to allow public input, but frown on public questions during the meetings, preferring to hear comments at the end. However, they allow Paquette to ask questions at any point during the meetings.

Carolyn Sundquist: A leader who listens
Carolyn Sundquist Campaign Mailer

On May 24 at the budget committee’s meeting  Sundquist stated that “the public does not have a right to speak.” (She is the selectmen’s representative to that committee.) This is accurate in that while the public has a right to attend meetings, municipal bodies are not required by law to allow the public to speak. However, Sundquist’s antipathy toward the public stands in stark contrast to her campaign slogan when she first ran for selectman: “A leader who listens.” Sundquist also promised “open and honest government” and to “respect[] the will of the voters.” At the May 24th budget meeting, though, when discussing whether that body should allow public comment during their meeting, Sundquist said, “Could I just ask — what would come from the public that would make us change our minds on something?

In a February, 2008, letter mailed to Tuftonboro, Sundquist promised “I will listen and evaluate your input and will respect your opinions. I am an attentive listener and believe in open government and understand that the selectmen serve the voters and citizens of Tuftonboro.”

Carolyn Sundquist campaign letter

Police Department Assists in Filling Sink Hole on Mountain Road

Last week a local bicyclist notice a sink hole on Mountain Road (otherwise known as Route 171, a state road), very close to Canaan Road. There happened to be a Tuftonboro Police cruiser passing by at the moment and the bicyclist waved the officer over. Within a very short amount of time that same afternoon the sink hole was being patched while Chief Andy Shagoury and Officer Tom LaFavre directed traffic.

IMG_6748

Here it is after being patched, looking in the opposite direction of the previous photo:

sink hole route 171 mountain road at canaan road

According to a resident who spoke to Officer LaFavre afterward, the visible hole in the roadway was just the tip of the iceberg, and there was a much larger hole underneath that could have caused the road to cave in.

The good news is that the hole was filled in immediately and also that the state had already informed the selectmen that all of Route 171 will be repaved this summer, from the Ossipee line to the Moultonborough line.

Thank you to the Tuftonboro PD for their prompt attention to this matter!

Selectmen Meet with Rick Sager about Auctioning of Town Property

Rick Sager is the town of Tuftonboro’s attorney. The board of selectmen (Chair Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen) met with him on June 6, 2016, to discuss whether to also use his services as an auctioneer to sell properties that the town owns due tax deeding (i.e. the previous owners failed to pay property taxes). During public comment afterward, Bob McWhirter asked if the selectmen thought it might be a conflict of interest for Rick Sager to both be the attorney for the town as well as the auctioneer who then sells the properties. Carolyn Sundquist said that no, it is not a conflict of interest.

[Post updated: See Bob McWhirter’s comment below.]