Union Leader: “Four Planning Board Members Quit in Tuftonboro”

Using tuftonboro.net as a source, the Union Leader reported Thursday:

TUFTONBORO — Four members of the Planning Board have resigned in the wake of the selectmen’s decision not to reappoint their chairman.

Following a 1-2 vote on July 24, veteran land use board member Fenton Varney announced his resignation and fellow members John Lapolla, Steve Brinser and Tony Triolo subsequently notified the town that they too were stepping down.

The issue came to a head after Chris Sawyer, who has served on the land use board since 2008 and most recently as chairman, received a letter from selectmen on July 11 thanking her for her service to the town as her term had expired.

She subsequently sent a written request to the board asking to be appointed to the Planning Board detailing her years of service, the benefits of continuity and her accomplishments, including streamlining the application process, making it more user-friendly and most recently spearheading the update of the town’s master plan.

During the July 24 meeting, a recording of which is posted on Youtube, both Varney and Triolo praised Sawyer’s leadership and work ethic on the board and urged selectmen to reappoint her. According to Triolo, Sawyer has always had the best interest of the town at heart.

The video of the meeting on YouTube was recorded by me and is available here:

Bill Marcussen and Lloyd Wood Vote Chris Sawyer Off Planning Board

0:36:05 CHRIS SAWYER
Requests reappointment to board
0:38:32 Fenton Varney speaks
0:41:25 Tony Triolo speaks
0:42:30 Lee Ann Hendrickson speaks
0:43:10 Tony & Fenton again
0:44:30 Steve Brinser: Why’d this happen?
0:45:42 Chip: “Tension great enough that previous vote happened.”
0:46:20 Guy Pike: Did you at any point in past year attempt to deal with this tension?
0:46:49 Sue Weeks: When did you make the decision?
0:48:00 Fenton: I never filled out a paper to be reappointed
0:48:28 Lee Ann: in the past I have prepared a memo on behalf of members who express a desire to be reappointed.
Lee Ann: Did you send a letter to John Cameron?
0:51:20 Lloyd: “in the lack of a motion let’s move on.”
0:52:35 Chip: we have to have a vote
0:54:39 Bill: Planning Board mishandled Master Plan survey mailing by sending it from General Store post office instead of using town office postage meter from Melvin Village
0:57:57 Chip: motion to reappoint Chris to Planning Board
0:59:10 Chip: Aye. Bill & Lloyd: Nay
1:00:00 Fenton resigns
1:00:25 Guy: “COWARDS!”

Later, during public comment, Guy Pike called for Bill and Lloyd to resign:

 

The video of the full meeting, with timestamps, is available.

Richard Sager’s Haul from Suing Residents for Exercising Rights: $16,336.12

The selectmen have paid Richard Sager, of Sager & Smith in Ossipee, NH, $16,336.12 in taxpayer money from the residents of Tuftonboro to sue Bob McWhirter and me for the supposed crime of exercising our right to know under RSA 91-A and the New Hampshire Constitution, a review of Sager’s invoices reveals. The $16,336.12 that the selectmen handed over to Sager does not include charges for an “expert” witness, Patrick Harvie, whom Sager brought in at $125 an hour to explain to the court that emails have metadata, a fact we never contested and that was irrelevant to the case.

In November, 2016, I made a Right to Know request to inspect some emails. The selectmen attempted to charge me $6.50 to inspect the emails, even though the law unequivocally states, “No fee shall be charged for the inspection or delivery, without copying, of governmental records, whether in paper, electronic, or other form.” When I refused to pay the $6.50, the only amount they ever tried to charge either Bob or me, the selectmen (at that time Carolyn Sundquist, Bill Marcussen, and Lloyd Wood) sent a sheriff’s deputy to our doors on a Sunday morning to serve us each with a lawsuit: Town of Tuftonboro vs Bob WcWhirter & Maxim A.A.L Blowen-Ledoux. (I have a weird name, so sue me. Wait, no; don’t. That’s just an expression!)

$16,336.12 for $6.50.

Think that one through the next time Selectman Bill Marcussen says he has a fiduciary responsibility to the town.

Sources:
Sager invoices November 2016 to May 2017
Sager invoices June 2017
Sager RTK fees

New Resident in Town Considering Run for Selectman

Mr G. Nome is recently arrived in Tuftonboro and has taken up residence on Mountain Road by the Thompson-Moulton cemeteries. There he is:

A little closer:

Mr. Nome, or G. to his friends, says he likes Tuftonboro “because there’s nice moss.”
G. is considering a run for selectman next March, on a platform of more moss. “Moss is important,” he said.
“It feels good,” he added. “Boy, that’s a nice tree you got there.”

 

Selectmen’s Meeting July 24, 2017

0:00:0 CALL TO ORDER / PLEDGE
0:00:45 PUBLIC COMMENT
Max Ledoux: You’re breaking 91-A in regards to nonpublic meetings
0:14:10 PUBLIC HEARING: Thompson-Moulton Cemetery “unabandonment”
0:14:50 Sue Weeks: legally there are two cemeteries
0:20:49 Scott Thompson: no problem with Moulton Cemetery being abandoned legally. We’d be happy to also maintain it.
Cross talk
0:25:00 suggestion to continue meeting
0:30:40 Lloyd: It’s a cemetery!
0:34:35 Bill: motion to “unabandon” both cemeteries.
0:35:25 motion passes
0:35:40 APPOINTMENTS
0:36:05 CHRIS SAWYER
Requests reappointment to board
0:38:32 Fenton Varney speaks
0:41:25 Tony Triolo speaks
0:42:30 Lee Ann Hendrickson speaks
0:43:10 Tony & Fenton again
0:44:30 Steve Brinser: Why’d this happen?
0:45:42 Chip: “Tension great enough that previous vote happened.”
0:46:20 Guy Pike
0:46:49 Sue Weeks: When did you make the decision?
0:48:00 Fenton: I never filled out a paper to be reappointed
0:48:28 Lee Ann: in the past I have prepared a memo on behalf of members who express a desire to be reappointed.
Lee Ann: Did you send a letter to John Cameron?
0:51:20 Lloyd: “in the lack of a motion let’s move on.”
0:52:35 Chip we have to have a vote
0:54:39 Bill: Planning Board mishandled Master Plan survey mailing by sending it from General Store post office instead of using town office postage meter from Melvin Village
0:57:57 Chip: motion to reappoint Chris to Planning Board
0:59:10 Chip: Aye, Bill & Lloyd: Nay
1:00:00 Fenton resigns
1:00:25 Guy: “COWARDS!”
1:01:46 DEPARTMENT UPDATES
Chief Thompson (FIRE&RESCUE)
1:13:30 Chief Shagoury (Police)
1:19:00 felony burglary suspect under influence of drugs, had to be taken to hospital then arrested.
1:23:10 Chip: Why are you getting protective gear for fentanyl? Is there a need reflected in crime statistics?
Andy: A lot of the statistics aren’t necessary marked as drugs but the underlying cause is drugs
1:30:49 REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES
1:31:05 July 10 Public
1:32:25 July 14 Public
1:33:32 July 10 nonpublic (no changes)
1:33:58 SIGNATURE FILE
1:36:45 Chip next year we should get the discounted oil price for everyone in town
1:36:40 $7,896.75 to SMP for plans for the proposed library renovation
1:40:30 Appoint John Cameron to Planning Board
1:41:05 SELECTMEN’S UPDATES
Bill: Old Homes Days
1:41:58 Chip: Welfare, ambulance
1:42:30 Lloyd:
1:48:05 Chip: Health Insurance provider wants a meeting
1:49:20 Talk about Road Agent
1:50:20 property cleanup
1:52:00 utility poles in poor repair
1:54:45 CORRESPONDENCE
1:57:00 PUBLIC COMMENT
Elissa Paquette
1:57:45 Sue Weeks: Ambulance
2:06:00 Max: Mutual agreements
2:07:40 Elissa: Have other towns sent Tuftonboro bills for mutual aid?
2:08:20 Liane: Planning Board — As staff for PB how do I proceed. If we have no quorum what happens?
2:09:55 Guy: I apologize for outbreak. Bill and Lloyd should resign.
Joe Kowalski: Spectrum
Max: 91-A violations

Bill Marcussen: We Removed Chris Sawyer from Planning Board Because Postage Stamps

Claiming that Chris Sawyer had “bucked the system,” selectman Bill Marcussen cited the planning board’s use of postage stamps to send out the Master Plan survey as a reason she should be removed from her position. No, seriously. She’s out because the planning board used stamps… to mail letters. (According to Bill.)

Guy Pike to Lloyd Wood and Bill Marcussen: Resign!

Quoting from Oliver Cromwell’s speech to the Rump Parliament in 1653, resident Guy Pike (a member of the budget committee), told selectmen Lloyd Wood and Bill Marcussen to resign today: “You have been sat here too long for any good you may have been doing. Depart, I say; and let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Earlier in the meeting Lloyd and Bill voted against reappointing Chris Sawyer to the Planning Board, after Chris asked the board to reappoint her. Selectman Chip Albee was the lone vote to appoint Chris. Bill’s stated reason for voting against Chris’s reappointment was that she had bought stamps from the post office at the general store. Chris pointed out that the planning board had a budget item for postage.

Fenton Varney and Tony Triolo, who were both present and had spoken in Chris’s favor, then resigned from the Planning Board in protest after the selectmen’s vote. Fenton averred that Lloyd and Bill’s actions amounted to the “biggest bullshit I’ve ever seen in 35 years of living in this town.” Guy then jumped out of his seat and called the two selectmen cowards. It is to that outburst that Guy refers to, and apologizes for, in the video.

More videos of the meeting to come in later posts.

Pandemonium at Planning Board as Selectmen Sack Sawyer

Chris Sawyer is scheduled to meet with the selectmen today, likely to discuss why they removed her from the planning board earlier this month. Chris was the chairman of the planning board and had asked to be reappointed to another term on the board when her term expired at the end of June. The selectmen decided not to reappoint her, however. Chris won a Right to Know case against the selectmen in 2015, when Carroll County Superior Court ruled that the board had violated RSA 91-A multiple times, including the improper use of nonpublic meetings.

It’s unclear when the selectmen decided to remove her, but she received a two-line letter dated July 10 signed by the selectmen informing her that she was no longer on the planning board. Her name has been removed from the planning board’s page on the town web site.

Steve Brinser has resigned from the planning board in protest and I’m told that John Lapolla also resigned. (Both their names have also been removed from the web site.) In addition, John Cameron’s term expired at the end of June, leaving the board with only four regular members — three of whom were appointed in June.

While the letter was dated July 10, the selectmen did not discuss the matter in public session at their July 10 regular meeting.

However, they did sign a “thank you letter to a board member.”

Chairman Lloyd Wood did not identify the board member they were thanking. The 7/10 public meeting minutes, which are in draft form at the moment, state, “Selectman Marcussen moved to approve a thank you letter to a board member, seconded by Chairman Wood with all in favor.”

Chris said her letter was just two lines long, and this screen shot of Selectman Chip Albee signing the letter midway down the page makes it clear that if it wasn’t the letter to Chris, it certainly was a very short piece of correspondence.

In order to have a letter ready to sign on 7/10, they likely reached a decision at the meeting on July 3, even though there was no specific mention of Chris Sawyer during the public meeting that day.

There was this exchange during the July 3 public meeting, however:

Chip: “Do we have a nonpublic for appointments today?”
Lloyd: “Pardon?”
Chip: “Are we having a nonpublic for appointments today?”
Bill: “I think we need to.”
Lloyd: “If you want, yes. We can have a nonpublic any time we’re [in a] legal meeting.”

By saying “for appointments,” Chip may have been referring to appointing someone to a board. However, at the end of the public meeting, the selectmen said they were going into nonpublic for a “personnel issue.”

The word “personnel” does not appear in the nonpublic meeting section of 91-A. The public minutes for July 3 read, “Selectman Marcussen moved to enter non-public session per RSA 91-A: 3 II (a) to discuss a personnel issue.” As you can see in the video, despite what the minutes incorrectly show, Bill didn’t cite the specific paragraph, which is a violation of RSA 91-A:3-I(b): “Any motion to enter nonpublic session shall state on its face the specific exemption under paragraph II which is relied upon as foundation for the nonpublic session.”

91-A:3-II(a) states “The dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him or her, unless the employee affected (1) has a right to a meeting and (2) requests that the meeting be open, in which case the request shall be granted.”

Chris was not an employee, so if the selectmen relied on 91-A:3-II(a) to discuss her reappointment to the board, then they violated the law.

Regardless of whether they discussed Chris during the 91-A:3-II(a) session, they are likely in violation of RSA 91-A:3-III, which states, of nonpublic meetings, “minutes of such sessions shall record all actions in such a manner that the vote of each member is ascertained and recorded.”

The minutes for the 91-a:3-II(a) session read only, “the selectmen discussed various personnel issues.”

Furthermore, 91-A:3-II(a) does not allow the selectmen to discuss “various” personnel issues, only the specific issues as defined in the paragraph: “The dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him or her.”

It seems likely that the selectmen either discussed Chris’s reappointment during the 91-A:3-II(a) nonpublic meeting, which would have been illegal, or they discussed it in a non-meeting, which would be illegal.

“Junk Yard” Property Owners Identified

According to the minutes of a nonpublic selectmen’s meeting on May 1, 2017, the property owners who are being sued by the selectmen for having “junk yards” on their land are:

  • Thomas Thompson, 23 Cow Island
  • David Straw, Mountain Road
  • Bill Holmes, Levitt Lane and Aspen Drive
  • Paula Gariepy, Union Wharf Road
  • Andy Brousseau, Ledge Hill Road

Theresa Masterson of Dame Road is named in the May 1 minutes, but as stated in the 7/10 nonpublic meeting minutes she has agreed to clean up her property before August 15.

Selectmen Sue Residents Over Junk Yards

The selectmen (Lloyd Wood, Bill Marcussen, and Chip Albee) have decided to file lawsuits against a number of town residents, according to the draft minutes of a nonpublic meeting held on July 10. The selectmen have determined that the residents, who they have not yet publicly named, are maintaining illegal junk yards on their properties. According to the minutes:

The Selectmen reviewed correspondence from Attorney Sager regarding junkyard properties. Per the Selectmen’s request, Code Officer Jack Parsons joined the meeting.

After much discussion, it was agreed to bring suit against all parties recently addressed by Attorney Sager, except for Masterson.

Masterson has avoided litigation for the time being, so long as the property is cleaned up:

Masterson has stated that they will have everything cleaned up by August 15th. In the event that the issue is not resolved by this deadline then the matter will be revisited.

My understanding is that Masterson’s property is on Dame Road.

There was also discussion of the Libby property on Mountain Road across from the entrance to the transfer station.

The minutes to the nonpublic meeting on 7/10/17 were obtained through a Right to Know request despite the selectmen attempting to thwart their disclosure by improperly claiming the meeting was not subject to RSA 91-A.

Karen Koch, the administrative secretary, wrote in an email:

On Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 11:35 AM, Tuftonboro Selectmen wrote:

Max,

In response to your request today to review the non-public minutes dated 7-10, the Selectmen considered the non-public meeting of July 10th to be only a review of ongoing legal actions and hence covered by lawyer-client privilege and hence not subject to 91-A.  Since your request was made we have been reaching out to Attorney Sager to confirm that those minutes are not subject to 91-A.  If we find that these minutes are subject to your 91-A request we’ll happily supply them.  Having not heard back from Attorney Sager this morning it may take until Monday for an answer.

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

However, Karen immediately sent me the minutes after I responded to her here:

On Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 12:05 PM, Maxim Ledoux wrote:

Hi, Karen,

It was non-public meeting pursuant to 91-A. They had a roll call vote to go in to non-public meeting per 91-a:3:II-L:

Bill: “I move we go into non-public.”
Chip: “Non-public. Do we need to go into non-public? Do you want to take some actions…”
Bill: “To discuss these? I believe we do.”
Chip: “OK. Then I’ll second that.”
Lloyd: “Roll Call.”
Bill: “Marcussen: Yes.”
Lloyd: “Wood: Yes.”
Chip: “Albee: Yes.”
Chip: “That’s a capital L.” (Referring to 91-A:3-II-L)
Bill: “Yes.”
Chip: “Not the lower case L.”
Max: “What’s the specific provision?”
Chip: “Legal.”
Max: “Legal.”

As you know, but I’m stating here for the written record, I was just in the town office and reviewed the binder of non-public meeting minutes.

The minutes for the non-public 7/10/17 meeting were not in the binder.

RSA 91-A:III states in full:

Minutes of meetings in nonpublic session shall be kept and the record of all actions shall be promptly made available for public inspection, except as provided in this section. Minutes and decisions reached in nonpublic session shall be publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting, unless, by recorded vote of 2/3 of the members present taken in public session, it is determined that divulgence of the information likely would affect adversely the reputation of any person other than a member of the public body itself, or render the proposed action ineffective, or pertain to terrorism, more specifically, to matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of all emergency functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life. This shall include training to carry out such functions. In the event of such circumstances, information may be withheld until, in the opinion of a majority of members, the aforesaid circumstances no longer apply.

The draft minutes of the public 7/10/17 selectmen’s meeting do not record a 2/3 vote to “seal” the non-public minutes. The public minutes do record that the non-public meeting ended at 11:19AM. It has now been more than 72 hours. While the public minutes are in draft form, I hardly think a reasonable person would find it plausible that you would omit something as important as a 2/3 vote to seal non-public minutes. You take very detailed minutes, and the selectmen only ever correct very minor points, such as typos.

Please provide Bob and me with an electronic copy of the 7/10/17 non-public meeting minutes today, before close of business (4PM ET). The minutes are created electronically, so you can provide them electronically.

Kind Regards,
Max

When I was in the office reviewing the binder of nonpublic meeting minutes, as I mentioned in the email above, I discovered that the minutes for a nonpublic meeting on May 1, 2017, were improperly missing. The selectmen are now attempting to withhold those minutes, even though, like the 7/10/17 minutes, there was never any roll call vote with 72 hours of the meeting ending to withhold the 5/1/17 minutes from public disclosure.

The public meeting minutes from 5/1/17 reveal that the nonpublic meeting was on the same subject — junk yards — as the 7/10/17 nonpublic meeting:

At 3:45 pm, Selectman Marcussen moved to enter non-public session per RSA 91-A:3, II (c) , to discuss junk properties with Code Officer, Jack Parsons[,] and Attorney Sager, seconded by Selectman Albee. Roll call vote: Wood – Yes; Marcussen – Yes; Albee – Yes.

At 4:00 pm, Selectman Marcussen moved to end the non-public session and move back into public session, seconded by Selectman Albee with all in favor. After a brief break, Chairman Wood called the public meeting to order at 4:07 pm and proceeded with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The selectmen have no more grounds for withholding the 5/1/17 minutes than they did for withholding the 7/10/17 minutes.