What Are They Hiding?

What could you do with $20,000? This past December, the Tuftonboro board of selectmen (at the time Carolyn Sundquist, Bill Marcussen, and Lloyd Wood) decided to spend what would end up being almost $20,000 of Tuftonboro taxpayers’ money on attorney fees paid to Richard Sager to pursue a lawsuit against Bob McWhirter and me for the “crime” of having made Right to Know requests to inspect government records. Our right to know what government officials are doing on our behalf is guaranteed by the New Hampshire constitution, and codified by RSA 91-A (the Right to Know law). I have that right to know, Bob has that right to know, and you have that right to know.

Rather than comply with the law, the selectmen chose to file a lawsuit against us — an action that is hard to interpret as anything other than an attempt to intimidate us and inflict personal financial harm. We are very grateful to the many fellow Tuftonboro residents who contributed to our defense fund, and also to our skillful attorney, Jim Cowles of Walker & Varney. The selectmen, bizarrely, filed a motion with the court to force us to reveal the “name, telephone number, address, and email address” of each of our benefactors. The court rejected this motion. Why would the selectmen want such personal information? I can think of no good reason.

The selectmen say that they were always willing to give us the government records — the emails. They just wanted to charge us a fee for them, even though the law states very clearly that “no fee shall be charged for the inspection or delivery, without copying, of governmental records, whether in paper, electronic, or other form.” Sager argued in court — unconvincingly — that this sentence in the law doesn’t make sense, because if read literally, it means the selectmen could not charge us a fee. Judge Ignatius agreed that the law, if read literally, means that “no fee shall be charged,” and she ruled on August 8 that the selectmen cannot, in fact, charge us a fee.

The reason this is important is that emails, being electronic, can contain a large number of pages. The selectmen wanted to charge us 25 cents per page, which would quickly turn into thousands of dollars. Records that you can inspect only after spending thousands of dollars are essentially records that you — and most people — will never be able to inspect.

Bob and I requested to inspect Carolyn Sundquist’s official emails because we and others in town suspected that she was making decisions about town business on her own (in violation of RSA 41:8), or with the other two selectmen but outside of public meetings (in violation of RSA 91-A). Our suspicious were confirmed when Guy Pike obtained 40 pages of emails concerning the Brown Road boulder fiasco. Those emails revealed that Carolyn had, apparently without the knowledge of the other selectmen, given Ted and Carol Steinman permission to block access to Lower Beech Pond, which is a state-own public body of water. The Steinmans followed Carolyn’s instructions and spent money placing boulders in the town’s right-of-way along the road. The current board then had to authorize the road agent to remove those boulders, which cost the taxpayers around $800. The Steinmans are now suing the town, disputing the boundaries of the right-of-way and alleging that the road agent trespassed. Perhaps they will win, or perhaps the town will win, but either way, it will probably cost taxpayers at least another $20,000 in fees to Richard Sager. All of this is due to Carolyn’s unilateral actions.

It makes you wonder what is in those emails Bob and I requested. Why were Carolyn and Bill and Lloyd willing to spend so much taxpayer money to make it nearly impossible to read them?

We still don’t know what’s in the emails. Even though Judge Ignatius ruled that the selectmen could not charge a fee for the electronic copies of the emails, and after eight months of legal entanglement, and almost an entire year after Bob first made his Right to Know request, the selectmen (now Lloyd Wood, Bill Marcussen, and Chip Albee) have, incredibly, still failed to turn over any of the emails that are in question.

Bob made his Right to Know request on October 17, 2016. The selectmen must comply with the New Hampshire constitution, with the Right to Know law (RSA 91-A), and with Judge Ignatius’s order. They must immediately — 11 months late — give us access to Carolyn Sundquist’s official emails.

Selectmen’s Meeting August 7, 2017

0:00:00 Call to order / Pledge
0:00:45 PUBLIC
Chris Sawyer: Federal Corner Road
Max Ledoux: RTK 91-A
0:04:40 REVIEW AND APPROVE MINUTES
0:06:50 SIGNATURE FILE
0:10:10 Chief Adam Thompson (Fire Department)
Ambulance payment processor agreement
0:28:20 Adam refers to accusations that he misled people at Town Meeting
0:42:54 Town Meeting 1994 authorized FD to go outside town lines to assist other towns or states. RSA 167
0:44:12 Adam doesn’t want to bill other towns for the airboat.
0:47:40 Chip: If you send the ambulance and do the work, then do the transport so we can get the billing
0:52:50 RETURN TO SIGNATURE FILE
0:53:00 Electricity contract
0:55:20 SELECTMEN’S UPDATES (none)
0:55:40 CORRESPONDENCE
0:56:15 Which line in budget to expend money for GIllum Excavation to clean Dore property
0:57:00 Trustees of the Trust Funds letter: Library Capital Reserve Fund is specifically for a new building so can not be used for anything to do with the current building
1:01:45 Lloyd: No action we can take other than pass on the memo to the Library Trustees
1:02:10 Chip: Well, I think we need to rescind our previous vote to pay the bill.
Chip makes a motion
Bill: But we made commitment to pay the bill. It turns out we can use the capital reserve funds, but we can’t just say “oh, never mind.”
1:05:30 Lloyd lists options
1:07:00 motion passes to reverse previous vote to authorize payment.
Selectmen will invite Library Trustees
1:09:00 Chip to clarify about minutes: you can add things, only correct
1:09:20 Resignation letters from planning board members
1:10:50 subdividing old cemetery
1:14:15 PUBLIC COMMENT
Max Ledoux, asking for Kathy Sutherland: Why are you paying to clean the Dore property?
1:14:55 Adjournment

Selectmen’s Meeting with PD Chief Shagoury August 4, 2017

BOS meeting with Police Chief Andy Shagoury
0:00:00 Call to order / Pledge
0:01:00 performance reviews
0:01:40 new cruiser
0:02:25 Union Wharf parking ordinances
Town Meeting 1989 no overnight parking
selectmen 2003 two hour maximum
0:05:00 19 mile bay parking
0:10:00
0:15:25 Union Wharf Dock: conflicting signs
0:23:45 Community policing
0:28:00 (or thereabout) Drug take back days
0:37:25 Carrying firearms on school grounds — constitutional right. Police wouldn’t remove someone unless they were disorderly.
0:39:00 Firearms training
0:44:50 Bill: Police are people too
0:45:30 Police in schools
0:51:30 Lloyd: people say “Andy does a great job on NPR”
Lloyd: We need you to make a 90 degree turn to community policing. You need to do this for us.
0:57:30 Coverage when Andy’s out of town for Chiefs of Police Association business
1:02:00 NEW POLICE STATION
1:09:00 Lloyd: what message are you hearing from the selectmen over the last hour?
Andy: Communications.
Lloyd: Public relations?
Andy: Sure.
1:16:25 Lloyd: My expectation is there will be a substantial effort on your part

OTHER BUSINESS (Not with Andy)
1:16:45 Old Woods Road cleanup (The Dore property)
motion to approve bill for $1,200 to Gillum Excavation for clean up
1:18:10 motion to adjourn.

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.

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.)

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.