Memo to Budget Committee: False and Defamatory Draft Minutes

To: Carla Lootens, Chairman, and Budget Committee
CC: Selectmen
Subject: Your false and defamatory draft minutes and utter lack of understanding of the Right to Know law

Dear Carla and the Budget Committee,

Your draft minutes for the January 2, 2018, meeting contained a false and defamatory statement about me: “It was agreed that the Selectmen would be the ones to decide whether to pursue Mr. Ledoux’s violation of RSA 91-A:5 further.”

You accused me in writing of violating state law. This was a serious accusation that I do not take lightly. If it had not been for Guy Pike, you would not have altered this libelous statement from “Mr. Ledoux’s violation” to “Mr. Ledoux’s possible violation.” However, adding the word “possible” in your approved minutes does not go far enough to correct the facts.

  • The Right to Know law does not apply to me. I am not bound by it. I am not a government employee or an elected or appointed official. It’s literally impossible for me to violate 91-A.
  • As I explained to you in my previous memo — in which I cited both the actual statutes and the New Hampshire Supreme Court precedents — the public has the Right to Know how much it spends on each individual employee. Withholding the information is a violation of 91-A. I understand that Carla disagrees with me and that she has a different opinion. But she has failed to cite any laws or court rulings, instead relying on a her “gut feeling” as well as a vague email from the anti-transparency New Hampshire Municipal Association.
  • Furthermore, it was not “agreed” by the budget committee that the selectmen would be the ones “to decide whether to pursue Mr. Ledoux’s violation of RSA 91-A:5 further.” Gordon asked, “Does it behoove the Committee and/or the Selectmen to pursue this? Is it a legal issue?” Carla said, “I think that’s up to the Selectmen.” There was then a brief silence. “Is it a chargeable offense?” asked Gordon, followed by another silence. The budget committee members did not, in fact, vote or make any decision on the question.

By the way, Carla’s repeated insistence that Joe’s videos are the only “official” videos suggests technological naiveté. A video is a video, and it shows what it shows. There is no Ministry of Truth in Tuftonboro where residents must go to obtain “official” news. I always post the full video without any edits whatsoever. When I can, I also post timestamps to make it easier for people to skip to the part of the video that interests them. I also sometimes post shorter videos and my comments. All viewers are free to comment on the videos or to offer their own opinions; my site is an open forum.

Many of the videos on my website are actually Joe’s; the viewership of his videos has increased since I’ve started sharing them online. I have great respect for Joe and his work—would the selectmen have started posting his videos online if I hadn’t done so first? The selectmen didn’t begin uploading the meeting videos to YouTube until after I’d been doing so for more than a year. Even now, Karen Koch is posting them only in half-hour segments, sometimes over a period of several days, which is not viewer-friendly. I offered to show Karen how to combine multiple video files into one; she has not taken me up on that offer, which still stands.

Gordon said at your last meeting that he “questions [Max’s] motives every day,” to which Bob added, “every day.”

My motives are transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. Whatever Carla’s motives, her actions have come down on the side of secrecy, unaccountability, and fiscal imprudence. It is good that she is not seeking re-election.

Regards,

Max

Who’s Running for Town Office 2018

TOWN OF TUFTONBORO 2018 Candidates for Town Office

Selectman for a 3 year term

  • Robert “Bob” McWhirter
  • *Lloyd P. Wood

Moderator for a 2 year term

  • *Daniel F. Barnard, Jr.

Two (2) Budget Committee Members for a 3 year term

  • Barry Ennis
  • *Helen Hartshorn
  • Chris Sawyer
  • Thomas J. Young

Trustee of the Trust Funds for a 3 year term

  • David M. Braun

Cemetery Trustee for a 3 year term

  • *Susan H. Weeks

Library Trustee for a 3 year term

  • *Gordon L. Hunt

Supervisor of the Checklist for a 6 year term

  • William “Bill” Rollins

*incumbent

Plea Agreement for Effingham Man Who Sold Fentanyl That Killed Tuftonboro Resident

The Union Leader:

OSSISPEE — A former Effingham resident charged with selling the fentanyl heroin mix that killed Joshua Fournier of Tuftonboro in September 2016 could be released in 6 1/2 years following his sentencing Wednesday.

Under a plea agreement with the state, Andrew Garland, 22, must complete a substance abuse treatment program while incarcerated and take advantage of other educational opportunities for early release from the 12- to 24-year sentence. He could have faced a maximum penalty of life in prison.

“I would like to apologize to the Fournier family for the part I played in the death of Joshua. Although I did not know him, I feel remorseful and horrible for my actions and that my addiction has taken the life of another individual,” Garland said before he became so emotional that he asked his public defender, Steve Mirkin, to read the rest.

Assistant Attorney General Danielle Sakowski, who prosecuted the case, told the judge the victim’s father, Michael Fournier, opposed the proposed deal, believing it was too lenient.

“He did not believe he was emotionally capable of being here today,” the prosecutor said. The elder Fournier discovered his 22-year-old son dead in the basement of the home they shared. The state medical examiner ruled the cause of death as acute fentanyl intoxication.

Beveridge Craft Beer Ice Fest Saturday

The fourth annual Ice Fest is taking place Saturday from 12-3PM at 19 Mile Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee in Tuftonboro. The beer festival is sponsored by Beveridge Craft Beer and Soap Co. The Wolfeboro company is owned and operated by Tuftonboro resident Lisa Beveridge.

The following breweries will be on the ice: Garrison City, 7th Settlement, Great North Aleworks, Woodstock Inn, Moat Mountain. Lonewolfe, Stoneface, Oddball, Hobbs, Rockingham, Burnt Timber Brewing Co., Henniker, North Country Cider, Backyard Brewery, 603 Brewery, Neighborhood Beer Co., Bad Lab, NBPT, Tuckerman, 14th Star Brewing, Kettlehead, Backyard, and Canterbury Aleworks.

In addition, Flurries Surfside Burger Bar will be there with their chili and ice cream, and Wicked Twisted will have soft pretzels, while Hobbs will be whipping up something tasty to go with their brews, and Tumbledown Cafe will have pulled pork sliders and other delicious goods. Third Shift Fabrication will have their amazing metal bottle openers andother creations, and don’t forget to get some beer soap made by Beveridge Soap Co.

Tickets are $35 per person if you order them online before 11AM on Saturday, or $40 at the lake, and include all the beer tastings you can handle. There’s also a $10 designated driver ticket for those who won’t be drinking. However, access is strictly legal drinking age only.

There will be a shuttle bus from Wolfeboro, leaving from Railroad Ave (by Seven Suns) at 11:15AM, and then will return for a second pickup around 11:45-12PM. The bus will then make return trips from the lake to Wolfeboro starting at 3PM.

Click to purchase tickets.

NY Times Best Seller Kate Braestrup at Tuftonboro Free Library Saturday

Maine author Kate Braestrup is coming to Tuftonboro on Saturday, January 20, at 11AM, for the first Book & Author Lunch of the year at Tuftonboro Free Library. Braestrup is a minister, chaplain to the Maine Warden Service, and author of numerous books including the best-selling memoir, Here If You Need Me.

Praise for Here If You Need Me:

Can be read as a superbly crafted memoir of love, loss, grief, hope and the complex subtleties of faith. Or it can be read as the journey of a strong-minded, warmhearted woman through tragedy to grace… [Braestrup is] remarkable, steady, peaceful and wise.”
Jane Ciabattari, Washington Post

Even the most jaded secularist would fall for the chaplain of the Maine Warden Service.”
Karen Schechner, Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Extraordinary. [Braestrup] writes with affecting gravity about the everyday horrors she encounters. This witty, middle-aged Maine minister has a calm, earthy authority all her own.”
Jennifer Reese, EW

Although laced with tragedy, the book is breezy and humorous – and uplifting.”
-Jerry Harkavy, Boston Globe

For (free) tickets, please stop by the library or call 603-569-4256.

Access to Electronic Records Under the Right to Know Law

To: Public and Municipal Affairs Committee: Senator Gray, Senator Ward, Senator Birdsell, Senator Kahn, Senator Woodburn
CC: Senator Guida, Senator Bradley

Dear Esteemed Members of the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee,

My name is Max Ledoux, of Tuftonboro, and I’m writing to ask you to support SB 395, relative to access to electronic records under the right-to-know law.

In November 2016 I made a Right to Know request to the Tuftonboro board of selectmen for governmental records, which happened to be emails. I specifically requested the records be sent to me electronically. Despite this, the board told me it would cost me $.25 per page for an email chain that contained 26 pages (or $6.50).

When I refused to pay the fee, which I told them I believed to be illegal, the board took the remarkable step to sue me (and another town resident who had also requested electronic records). We were forced to hire an attorney to defend ourselves in what turned out to be an eight-month-long legal battle. The selectmen spent more than $20,000 in taxpayer money against us. In other words, they spent more than 3,000 times the amount of money they were trying to collect from me ($6.50).

Eventually, in August 2017, Carroll County Superior Court ruled the selectmen couldn’t charge us a fee for electronic documents, because there is no “actual cost” to providing electronic records (Tuftonboro vs. Ledoux & McWhirter).

RSA 91-A as currently written, and as interpreted by the courts, already prohibits municipalities from charging for electronic records. However, as proven in my case and others in recent years (such as Green vs. SAU 55), government entities continue to try to charge citizens for electronic records. And in some cases, like  Taylor vs. SAU 55, the Supreme Court has allowed government entities to charge not for the actual records but for providing them. The effect is chilling. Although my town was trying to charge me only $6.50, my co-defendant was facing a potential fee of more than $3,000 for the records he was seeking. If a citizen must pay thousands of dollars to access public records, then those records are not really open.

SB 395 would make clear statutorily that government entities can not charge for electronic copies, but would not change how the courts have already interpreted the existing Right to Know law. I hope this will spare other New Hampshire citizens from the expense and intimidation that was brought against my co-defendant and me, just for exercising our constitutional Right to Know.

Thank you,
Max Ledoux
Tuftonboro

Keene Sentinel Editorial: Monadnock officials owe district citizens some answers

Local government officials don’t want the public to know how taxpayer money is to be spent. It sounds familiar, but it’s not the Tuftonboro board of selectmen (Lloyd Wood, Bill Marcussen, Chip Albee) or the Budget Committee Chairman (Carla Lootens). This Keene Sentinal editorial from last month is about the Monadnock Regional School District.

Sentinel Editorial

Open, accessible, accountable and responsive: Monadnock officials owe district citizens some answers

Dec 12, 2017
Governing is difficult, tedious work, often not pleasant, but necessary. Those who give their time and energy to it are, generally, to be thanked. But there are those who revel in holding even a little power over their fellow citizens; in being on the inside, with information others lack; and in playing a disproportionate role in determining the course of our communities.

And sometimes, they get so caught up in that role that they forget why they’re really there, and that they serve at the will of the people.

“All power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, and at all times accountable to them. Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive.”

These words, from Article 8 of the N.H. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, are the underpinning of our state’s Right-to-Know Law. The purpose of the law is to hold public officials — both elected and appointed — accountable by allowing the public access to not only the results of government, but also the process. Thus, officials are bound, with few exceptions, to conduct official business in public, to answer questions posed by the public regarding their actions, and to make available any documents or records that would inform the public about the causes and effects of those actions.

It is the mechanism by which officials at every level of government — from the governor to state lawmakers to county commissioners to those elected or appointed to run our cities, towns and schools — must adhere to the principle that as the wording of the Constitutional passage above notes: All power resides in, and is derived from, the people.

The great danger of a government unfettered by such public scrutiny isn’t only that those in power might enrich themselves at the public’s expense or pass laws, rules and policies detrimental to the general citizenry (or specific subgroups) without opposition. Equally worrisome is that those in power might, if unchallenged, forget they serve at the public’s bidding and for the public’s benefit, not their own.

Which brings us to the Monadnock Regional School District’s latest flap — over Business Administrator Jane Fortson and the public’s right to information on her absence and, in particular, how the district’s finances are being handled during it.

Fortson, The Sentinel learned last week, was recently suspended, with pay. Inquiries to almost all of the district’s 13 board members and Superintendent Lisa Witte were rebuffed.

The Right-to-Know Law does give public bodies latitude in discussing certain personnel matters. Specifically, officials can refuse to reveal information that would potentially harm a person’s reputation, and they can refuse comment on disciplinary actions. Either might account for Witte and board members declining comment on why Fortson was suspended.

But those exemptions don’t extend to discussing the state of the district’s finances. So, when asked who is handling the business operations in Fortson’s absence — an absence that’s occurring in the midst of constructing the district’s 2018-19 budget that will hit every taxpayer’s wallet and affect every school child’s education — there is no excuse for not answering directly.

Yet board members have repeatedly done so, one even indicating she’s been told that to comment at all would leave her open to being removed from the board. And Witte has, after first declining comment, offered only a vague statement that acknowledges she’s ultimately responsible for the proper operation of all district functions “working with our competent and dedicated staff.” Well, we’d hope so. But that still doesn’t reveal who’s actually handling the $32.7 million in public money entrusted to the school administration.

One proper question for the board and superintendent surely is whether the suspension has to do with those public funds. Thus far, only school board member Neil Moriarty has been willing to comment on that, and only to say the suspension “has nothing to do with financial issues.”

More troubling still is the behavior of at least one board member, who gloatingly told a Sentinel reporter during last Tuesday’s meeting that she wouldn’t be able to find out anything, because the board had just voted to seal the minutes of its nonpublic session on the matter.

Such taunting, childish actions convey more than disdain for the reporter. They reveal a contempt for the public and its right to know how its money is being spent and how decisions regarding its children are being made.