Court Hearing for Selectmen’s Abusive Lawsuit Against Town Residents

The hearing for the lawsuit filed last year by the selectmen (at the time: Carolyn Sundquist, Bill Marcussen, and Lloyd Wood) against Bob McWhirter and me will take place tomorrow, June 12, at 1PM at Carroll County Superior Court. The selectmen have so far paid their attorney, Richard Sager, at least $11,000 in legal fees for this case alone (according to invoices Sager submitted to the town covering November, 2016, to March, 2017). A full accounting of how much taxpayer money the selectmen spent on this lawsuit will be done after the hearing.

The selectmen sued us because we requested to inspect governmental records. Under the New Hampshire constitution and RSA 91-A, everyone has the right to inspect governmental records at no cost. The selectmen, in violation of the law, attempted to charge us a fee to inspect the records. We refused. The selectmen then sued us, forcing us to retain the services of an attorney at considerable expense.

Nowhere in RSA 91-A is it contemplated that a municipal body may say individuals making requests to inspect documents.

The amount of money the selectmen wanted to charge me to inspect governmental records was $6.50.

Selectmen’s Meeting for June 5, 2017

0:00:10 pledge
0:00:20 PUBLIC INPUT
Guy: Brown Road
Max: Ambulance out of town
0:3:45 APPOINTMENT David Ladd
0:27:00 REVIEW MINUTES
0:31:30 SIGNATURE FILE
0:35:10 Table renewal contract with PRIMEX (insurance) so board can review
0:46:35 CONTINUED BUSINESS
0:47:40 Lake Road Boat Ramp contract awarded to Matthew Young
0:50:00 Culverts survey
0:57:00 Carroll County wants municipalities to send money twice a year
1:12:40 SELECTMEN’S UPDATES
Lloyd: Meeting with attorney at 1PM on Friday. Also a non-public meeting for performance review.
1:14:05 Chip: Parks & Rec
Bill: Planning Board working on Master Plan
1:20:00 Lloyd: Conservation committee
1:29:00 PUBLIC COMMENT

Selectmen Open Lake Road Boat Ramp Contract Bids

Selectmen Lloyd Wood and Chip Albee opened bids for the contract of rebuilding the Lake Road boat launch ramp. Selectman Bill Marcussen was not present.

Two bids were received:
Matthew Young for $25,000
A.N. Whipple Construction for $41,862

No decision was made at this meeting. The selectmen will award the contract at their next meeting on June 5, 2017, at 4PM.

The following warrant article was passed by show of hands at Town Meeting 2017:

Article 14: To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) to replace the Lake Road boat ramp.

$16,450 to Develop Conceptual Design for Library Renovation

The selectmen voted unanimously last Friday, May 19, to expend $16,450 from the Library Capital Reserve Fund, for a conceptual design for renovating the current library building, following a presentation by Skip Hurt.

Selectman Chip Albee said that he didn’t think any proposal for a library would be ready for Town Meeting 2018. “To be honest, I don’t see it going on the warrant next year,” he said. “[The library trustees] haven’t gotten to the position where they have consensus on their board about what the want to build. So until that happens, [the board of selectmen] can’t get involved. And until we’re involved, and they’re involved, and we all agree, we can’t get the town involved,” meaning a warrant article at Town Meeting, “so there’s more stuff that’s got to go down before.

Approximately $70,000 was spent on a failed 2015 plan to build a new library across the street from the current library. The plan required a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting because it required a loan due to its projected cost of more than $2.3 million.

Video courtesy of Joe Kowalski.

Watch Skip Hurt’s library renovation presentation to the library trustees here and his presentation to the trustees, selectmen, and public here. The trustees also discussed Skip’s presentation here.

Bill Marcussen: Town Meeting Voters Didn’t Know What They Were Doing

Selectman Bill Marcussen said today that at Town Meeting in March 2017, when voters were discussing Warrant Article 9, there “were opinions voiced at that point that are demonstrably at odds with reality.”

Voters discussed Article 9 for 20 minutes and amended it twice before taking a final vote on it, making it the most discussed article at Town Meeting. But Bill said today that “the discussion didn’t go on to a further conclusion.”

“I believe that the vote as it was taken was done without full understanding on part of some of the voters,” he said. However, before the final vote on the article, Town Meeting’s Moderator, Dan Barnard, asked the voters: “Does everybody understand where we’re at? We’re voting now on Article Number 9. It has been amended to limit the selectmen’s prerogatives to sealed bid, and is constructed in such a way that the authority will expire at the end of one year.”

Bill also claimed that “it was a close vote, as you know.”

A close vote would not make the vote any less valid. At Town Meeting articles pass with a 50% + 1 vote, unless the article involves taking on debt that future Town Meetings would be obligated to fund. In that case a 2/3 majority is required.

However, none of the votes on Article 9 were close.

The first amendment to Article 9, which I put forward and that removed the language “indefinitely, until rescinded” from the article, had a recorded vote of 67 yes to 57 no (roughly 55% to 45%). The second amendment to Article 9, which was put forward by Steve Snow and limited the selectmen to selling by sealed bids, had even more overwhelming support and the Moderator, Dan, did not call for a recorded vote but instead declared that amendment passed by show of hands.

The final vote to pass Article 9 as amended was not close, either. Dan again did not call for a recorded vote but instead declared the article as amended to be passed by a show of hands, indicating that a clear majority favored it. All three current selectmen are shown on video voting for the amended article.

Chip Albee Admits Article 9 Was Amended, Still Thinks Selectmen Have Authority to Do Auction

Reversing his previous statements, Selectman Chip Albee acknowledged today that Warrant Article 9 had been amended to authorize the selectmen only to sell tax-deed properties by sealed bids, and not by public auction or any other means. However, Chip maintained that there’s nothing in the law, RSA 80:80, that allowed Town Meeting to restrict the selectmen’s options in regards to selling property.

For reference, here is the text of the RSA:

80:80 Transfer of Tax Lien. –
I. No transfer of any tax lien upon real estate acquired by a town or city as a result of the execution of the real estate tax lien by the tax collector for nonpayment of taxes thereon shall be made to any person by the municipality during the 2-year period allowed for redemption, nor shall title to any real estate taken by a town or city in default of redemption be conveyed to any person, unless the town, by majority vote at the annual meeting, or city council by vote, shall authorize the selectmen or the mayor to transfer such lien or to convey such property by deed.
II. If the selectmen or mayor are so authorized to convey such property by deed, either a public auction shall be held, or the property may be sold by advertised sealed bids. The selectmen or mayor shall have the power to establish a minimum amount for which the property is to be sold and the terms and conditions of the sale.
II-a. If the selectmen or mayor are authorized to transfer such liens during the 2-year redemption period, either a public auction shall be held, or the liens may be sold by advertised sealed bids. The selectmen or mayor may establish minimum bids, and may set the terms and conditions of the sale. Such liens may be sold singly or in combination, but no fractional interest in any lien shall be sold. Such transfer shall not affect the right of the owner or others with a legal interest in the land to redeem the tax lien pursuant to RSA 80:69, or make partial payments in redemption pursuant to RSA 80:71, but the transferee shall become the lienholder for purposes of RSA 80:72 and 80:76.
III. The selectmen may, by a specific article in the town warrant, or the mayor, by ordinance, may be authorized to dispose of a lien or tax deeded property in a manner than otherwise provided in this section, as justice may require.
IV. Such authority to transfer or to sell shall continue in effect for one year from the date of the town meeting or action by the city or town council provided, however, that the authority to transfer tax liens, or to sell real estate acquired in default of redemption, or to vary the manner of such sale or transfer as justice may require, may be granted for an indefinite period, in which case the warrant article or vote granting such authority shall use the words “indefinitely, until rescinded” or similar language.
V. Towns and cities may retain and hold for public uses real property the title to which has been acquired by them by tax collector’s deed, upon vote of the town meeting or city council approving the same.
VI. For purposes of this section, the authority to dispose of the property “as justice may require” shall include the power of the selectmen or mayor to convey the property to a former owner, or to a third party for benefit of a former owner, upon such reasonable terms as may be agreed to in writing, including the authority of the municipality to retain a mortgage interest in the property, or to reimpose its tax lien, contingent upon an agreed payment schedule, which need not necessarily reflect any prior redemption amount. Any such agreement shall be recorded in the registry of deeds. This paragraph shall not be construed to obligate any municipality to make any such conveyance or agreement.
Source. 1987, 322:1. 1992, 173:3, 4. 1993, 176:10. 1997, 266:4, eff. Jan. 1, 1998.

Whether or not 80:80 allows Town Meeting to place restrictions on the manner of sale of tax-deeded properties is a completely different question from whether Town Meeting amended Article 9 to authorize the selectmen to sell the tax-deeded properties by sealed bids only. I am glad that Chip has moved on and is no longer saying that the amendment did not happen.

Selectmen’s Meeting, May 8, 2017

0:00:00 CALL TO ORDER / Pledge of allegiance
0:00:25 PUBLIC INPUT
0:00:32 Chris Sawyer
0:02:41 DEPARTMENT UPDATES
0:02:45 Jack Parsons / Code & Buildings
0:04:38 Clay Gallagher / Transfer Station
0:39:20 Jim Bean / Bridges (with Peter Holden, Holden Engineering)
1:10:05 Jim Bean / Highway Department
2:26:08 REVIEW & APPROVAL OF MINUTES
2:27:17 SIGNATURE FILE
2:35:49 Discussion about cemetery abandonment (Thomas-Moulton cemetery) public hearing to be held July 24.
2:44:05 CONTINUED BUSINESS
2:44:08 Junkyards
2:50:12 Tax-Deeded Properties
3:02:01 Cow Island Project
3:04:21 SELECTMEN’S UPDATES
3:04:25 Bill:
Donation to Special Olympics in honor of Steve Honeycutt. Amend previous motion to $75 donation. Passes 3-0.
Milfoil control committee to meet. Needs new members.
Planning Board meeting looked at zoning changes / GIS maps
3:12:45 Chip:
Parks & Rec
Conservation Commission/Jack Parson/Sand replacement at beach
3:17:01 CORRESPONDENCE
Department head meeting May 12 at 10AM
Letter from Carol Steinman
Boat ramp stuff
3:22:15 Jack Parsons has sent a letter to property owners in regards to littering on Durgin Road (two couches and a stuffed chair have been at the end of a driveway for at least six weeks)
Dump stickers and 19 mile Bay parking stickers
3:32:00 OTHER BUSINESS
Jeff Moody / boat ramp
3:32:29 PUBLIC INPUT
Elissa Paquette: “The certified minutes that you’re talking about, is that what is online?”
Chip: “I have no idea if it’s online.”
Karen: “Those are her final minutes. I understand the first draft didn’t have that same decision.”
Elissa: “So you were reading the final minutes.”
Chip: “I’m reading the minutes that were given to us as final from the town clerk…”
Lloyd: “Those are considered…”
Elissa: “[inaudible]…it was a draft…”
Chip: “I don’t think there was significant change from the draft to the final.”
Bill: “Right.”
Elissa: “oh, ok.”
Chip: “In that respect.”
3:34:45 Elissa: “I spoke to Dan Barnard and he said he and Heather agreed with Max and that they had amended the minutes.”
3:35:24

Chip Albee Insists Amendment That He Voted For Didn’t Happen

Selectman Chip Albee is insisting that Town Meeting did not restrict the sale of tax-deeded properties to sealed bids only. “This discussion about whether or not [inudible] should only be put out for sealed bid, and not be auctioned, I think the question in my mind is not whether or not the town voted on that, because they didn’t.”

But we did. Continue reading “Chip Albee Insists Amendment That He Voted For Didn’t Happen”

Library Renovation Proposal Presented to Selectmen, Library Trustees, and Public

Skip Hurt followed up on his presentation to the library trustees a few weeks ago by showing his plans for a renovated library this morning to about 30 people, including the selectmen, library trustees, and several former members of the disbanded library building advisory committee.

The key points of Skip’s proposal are that his plan has a peaked roof, unlike the proposed Dearborn library; he estimates a cost savings of $1 million, compared to the proposed Dearborn library; and, he says, construction could begin as early as September and could be down in stages. His proposal, he believes, does not require a 2/3 majority vote at Town Meeting because the town would not have to borrow in order to finance the project.

The library trustees will have a meeting Thursday, May 11, at 8:30 AM at the the library to discuss whether to take any action on Skip’s proposal


Video time stamps:
0:00 Skip intro
6:00 “Continuous use of library during construction”
7:40 Cost of Skip’s plan: approximately $1.3 million
10:50 $70k for material / $70k for labor (generous est) for new roof.
12:00 HVAC
13:00 Existing bathrooms for meeting room. Two new bathrooms for new part of library.
14:30 Parking. Police building report had a 30×30 garage on the back of the building. So assuming the committee did its work, that’s a parking lot. Plus a bigger parking lot in woods behind.
19:15 $1.3 million savings compared to plan for new building across the street on Dearborn property
20:00 Questions/Discussion