Selectmen Demonstrate That Their Lawsuit Is Frivolous

In the video at the 3:13 mark Selectman Bill Marcussen says, “When you look at what has gone on through various cases that have gone to court it’s clear that the intent is that the costs of the copies to the public cover the actual cost and it’s not intended to cover the time of the town employees that’s involved.”

Yet the selectmen’s lawsuit against Bob McWhirter and me goes into great detail about the amount of labor that would be involved in responding to Bob’s Right to Know request.

The selectmen seek to charge us a fee to inspect governmental records. We have not asked for the selectmen to provide us with copies. Instead we have said that we would use our own equipment to make copies. And yet the selectmen tried to charge us anyway, even though in the video at the 8:42 mark they concede that they cannot charge a fee for someone to use their own equipment to make copies of governmental records.

 

Selectmen’s Lawsuit Against Private Citizens Hearing Rescheduled Again

The hearing in the lawsuit that the selectmen filed against Bob McWhirter and me has been rescheduled once more. The new hearing date is April 18 at 2PM. This time it was postponed by the judge, and only by one day.

The selectmen are dragging us into court in any attempt to avoid their responsibilities under RSA 91-A, the Right to Know law.

Selectmen’s Meeting for April 3, 2017

0:45 Pledge
1:15 First appointment: Gerry Hammer / Jack Parsons
5:00 Intent to excavate permits: discussion of ordinances in light of new articles passed at Town Meeting
5:10 — Jack Parsons
7:00 — Chris Sawyer, PB chairman weighs in
12:30 Review of pending intent to excavate paperwork
14:00 — motion to approve with provisions that selectmen can rescind. 3-0
15:00 — Signing paperwork
15:50 Jack Parson Building department update (the only damage to town property from Storm Stella was a few shingles blew off town house roof)
16:35 Ben Ladd — Mirror Lake boat ramp grant that was passed by Town Meeting. Discussion of contractor bids.
21:45 Chip would like to set a policy for putting contracts out for bid in the future, but not for this project since it’s already in process.
23:50 motion approval of project. passed 3-0 and Lloyd signed the paperwork
25:30 Clay Gallagher Transfer Station update & household hazardous waste collection update (july 29 & august 5). Pamphlets at transfer station.
44:15 Transfer station workers would like to work half day on Easter. They would receive holiday pay + half day.
50:30 Chip raises issue of different rates for contractors at transfer station
51:25 Review of 3-27-17 meeting minutes
53:00 Continued business
53:10 — Board committee assignments
Chip: Budget, welfare, Parks & Recreation
Bill: Planning, Old Homes, Energy, CIP Joint loss, milfoil, Planning
Lloyd: emergency planning, conservation, TACC, watershed
57:12 Board meeting schedule. Bill doesn’t want more meetings. Chip says if there aren’t more meetings, then the meetings have to be better organized. Chip doesn’t like relying on attorney client privilege as a way to subvert open meeting requirement to respond to RTK. Lloyd is ok with meeting every Monday. That way the meetings will be shorter, too. Lloyd suggests meeting once a month at 7PM. Also at different locations around town. Next meeting Friday at NINE AM.
1:06:45 Brown Road
Chip “I don’t know how you got into; well, I do know how you got into this mess.” Says to direct Road Agent to remove the rocks.
Bill: rocks clearly within right of way.
Chip: problem I have with this is it was all done without a vote.
Chip: enormous amount of legal bills in this town, and this is one of the reasons why.
Lloyd asks for input from public
1:17:20 Sandy Knoll Road
1:23:30 Selectmen’s update
1:23:40 Chip looked at the tree on Union Wharf Road. Chip says it’s not on town property, but is in town right of way. Chip thinks it’s health and not a danger.
1:25:12 Bill went to workshop on town roads. If someone wants to build on a property on Sandy Knoll Road, they’ll still have to get a building permit, and the governing body doesn’t have to approve it. Noted with sadness the passing of Steve Honeycutt, town Sextant.
1:33:00 Lloyd met with Mark Howard and others to tour three areas of concern in town on state roads: Tuftonboro Corner, 109/109A, and Mirror Lake narrows.
1:34:07 Correspondence
1:42:50 Appointments to Agricultural Commission. Approved.
1:44:35 Motion to appeal all yield taxes. Perchanski. Bob Wood. Alan Blazek. 3-0
1:47:23 Intent to cut. Blazek. Perchanski. 3-0
1:48:42 Request for change in employment compensation. (RETROACTIVE to January 1, 2017.) Tabled.
1:51:30 Other business
1:52:00 Right to Know from Ed Comeau
1:58:15 Chip “I don’t know what Comeau’s after.”
1:59:30 in past Tuftonboro had a former employee who was still covered.
discussion…
2:07:45 Chip says they need to set a price per copy policy at a market rate.
2:09:45 Chip need to respond to Comeau saying the board will working on the request.
2:10:40 public input
2:10:50 Elissa Paquette question about intent to excavate and the board wanting to have an addendum allowing the to revoke permit.
2:15:06 Charlotte Allen: NarCan training opportunities
2:16:32 Carla Lootens: Wanted to make sure town won’t give anything to Comeau unless the selectmen’s attorney, Richard Sager, has looked at it.
2:17:05 Gordon Hunt: Was happy selectmen were not giving in to Comeau just because he has an attorney.
2:17:35 Steven : follow up Brown Road. Why did property owners place rocks?
Max Ledoux: To clarify, Carolyn Sundquist told Steinmans it was ok.
Elissa Paquette jumped to Carolyn’s defense.

More info on Brown Road:
https://tuftonboro.net/max/town-government/board-of-selectmen/selectmen-meet-encumber-funds-vote-brown-road-lower-beech-pond-issue/
https://tuftonboro.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/carolyn-sundquist-lower-beech-pond-boulders-brown-road.pdf
https://tuftonboro.net/max/outdoors/nh-fish-game-confirms-lower-beech-pond-not-stocked-fish-2016/

Board of Selectmen’s Meeting for 3/27/17

Part 1:

0:40 Pledge of Allegiance
1:14 Election of officers
2:05 Mark Howard
Roads (state)
9:35 review minutes
3/14/17
11:45 Chip says non public minutes aren’t in compliance with 91-A
14:25 Chip questions nonpublic sessions with attorney. Makes motion to unseal minutes. Motion passes 3-0.
16:30 chip wants to unseal nonpublic minutes from last year.
17:20 Fire department update
26:45 Chip not impressed with road agent
27:15 update emergency management plan?
32:30 list of people who might need help was out of date.
39:00 police chief Andy Shagoury
DWI accident caused power outage Friday night
43:25 drug take back scheduled April 29 10-2 at transfer station

Part 2:

01:30 signature file
06:00 sandpits
11:58 veteran’s tax credit applications
Gary Chehames
3-0
Robert Edwards
3-0
Kerry and Andrea Long
3-0
15:00 yield tax levy
timber
17:30 NH the Beautiful
18:10 gravel tax
19:25 supplemental Warrant (extra taxes from Zadede Lane residents)
20:40 letter to students at middle school
21:40 intent to cut: Brad Hunter (rt 171)
22:30 188 middle road gravel pit
27:50 mirror lake boat launch
31:40 lake road boat ramp
33:00 Correspondence
33:45 Right to Know
Lloyd asked Karen to compile how much time is used to respond to RTK. Chip says who cares. It’s part of the deal.
40:00 Selectmen’s update
Bill attending seminar about town owned roads.
Need new planning board members.
Also for energy committee.
48:23 Chip about 91-A
Public optics
Need more meetings
Nonpublic meeting minutes should be released on regular schedule
52:00 Brown Road: there’s a lawsuit?
There was no vote on Steinman rock situation
54:15 Lloyd
Committee assignments
More meetings specific agenda shorter length

Part 3 (Public Comments)

Chip Albee Elected Selectman (Updated)

Congratulations to Chip Albee for being elected to another (non-contiguous) term as selectman!

According Town Moderator Dan Barnard, 379 votes were cast yesterday. The turn-out was considerably depressed by the blizzard. For comparison’s sake, in last year’s competitive budget committee election there were 832 ballots cast. And at last November’s federal election, Tuftonboro had 2,047 registered voters, and saw an astonishing 83% turnout with 1,705 votes.

Given the weather conditions yesterday, all the town officials, public employees, and volunteers who worked the polls yesterday (and kept the roads clear) deserve a well-earned thanks.

Update: Dan Barnard has rightfully taken me to task over the number of votes versus ballots in last year’s election. Since the budget committee election was for two positions, the 832 votes translate to 416 ballots. Dan also pointed out that in last year’s uncontested selectmen’s race Bill Marcussen received 386 votes and there were 46 write-ins, for 432 votes total. Therefore, yesterday’s 379 votes in the selectmen’s race, given the storm, are really quite remarkable! (But still very low when compared to the number of registered voters, unfortunately.)

Selectmen Schedule Emergency Meeting

The selectmen just announced that they will have an emergency meeting in less than two hours:

Notice of Emergency Public Meeting

On Monday, March 13, 2017, at 1:00 pm, the Board of Selectmen will meet with Daniel Barnard, Town Moderator, to discuss options relative to tomorrow’s scheduled election. The meeting will be held at the Town Office.

RSA 91-A:2-II states:

Except in an emergency or when there is a meeting of a legislative committee, a notice of the time and place of each such meeting, including a nonpublic session, shall be posted in 2 appropriate places one of which may be the public body’s Internet website, if such exists, or shall be printed in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town at least 24 hours, excluding Sundays and legal holidays, prior to such meetings. An emergency shall mean a situation where immediate undelayed action is deemed to be imperative by the chairman or presiding officer of the public body, who shall post a notice of the time and place of such meeting as soon as practicable, and shall employ whatever further means are reasonably available to inform the public that a meeting is to be held. The minutes of the meeting shall clearly spell out the need for the emergency meeting.

There is a winter storm warning in effect for Tuftonboro from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning, issued by the National Weather Service station in Grey, Maine:

…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 7 AM TUESDAY TO 5 AM EDT WEDNESDAY…

* HAZARD TYPES…Heavy snow.

* Accumulations…Snow accumulation of 14 to 18 inches.

* TIMING…Snow will begin Tuesday morning. The heaviest snow
and most significant impacts are expected Tuesday afternoon
into Tuesday night. Snow will taper off early Wednesday.

* Temperatures…Around 20.

* Winds…North 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.

* Visibilities…one quarter mile or less at times.

* IMPACTS…Heavy snow Tuesday and Tuesday night combined with gusty winds and blowing snow…will create near-blizzard
conditions at times and lead to dangerous travel conditions.

Court Grants Selectmen’s Motion to Delay Hearing Until After Sundquist Leaves Office

The selectmen — Carolyn Sundquist, Bill Marcussen, and Lloyd Wood — filed a motion to continue earlier this week with Carroll County Superior Court to delay the hearing in Tuftonboro vs. McWhirter & Ledoux until after Carolyn Sundquist leaves office as chairman of the board of selectmen.

The selectmen sued Bob McWhirter and me in December and tried to force us into court just four days before Christmas. However, we hired an attorney and filed a motion to continue so that we would have time to respond. The court granted our motion and rescheduled the hearing to January 27. The selectmen then filed their own motion to continue, which we assented to, a few days before the 27th, and the hearing was rescheduled again to February 22.

Now they have filed another motion to continue, and today the Court granted the motion. The hearing has not as of this moment been rescheduled.

However, the hearing is almost certain to be after Sundquist leaves office after Town Meeting on March 15. The Court granted the selectmen “reasonable time” to respond to our counterclaim, which we filed on February 7. According to court rules, then, the selectmen have 30 days to respond, which would be March 9.

The selectmen also filed an Objection to our counterclaim, but the Court has granted our motion to add the counterclaim, in which we are seeking reasonable attorney’s fees from the selectmen. We also asked for a court order requiring the selectmen to undergo remedial Right to Know training at their own expense.

All this because the selectmen refuse to follow the clear language of RSA 91-A:4-IV, which states: “No fee shall be charged for the inspection or delivery, without copying, of governmental records, whether in paper, electronic, or other form.”

I asked to inspect some emails. The selectmen attempted to illegally charge me $6.50 to inspect those emails. I refused to pay. They sued me.

It’s reasonable to assume that the selectmen are spending more than $6.50 to sue me. (Richard Sager’s regular attorney fee is $175 per hour.)

Right to Know Lawsuit Update

We’ve had to file a counterclaim with Carroll County Superior Court because the selectmen were absurdly claiming in their Objection to our Answer that because they were suing us that the court shouldn’t view the lawsuit as a Right to Know case. (Never mind that their own stated reason for suing town residents is that they’re asking the court to “clarify” the Right to Know law.)

So for procedural reasons we have had to officially counter-sue the selectmen. Practically speaking, the only difference is that we had to pay a filing fee. That’s it. But it will allow the Court to narrow its focus to the issue at hand: whether the selectmen can charge a fee for the inspection of governmental records even though the law clearly states that they can not. In our counterclaim we’re also requesting that the Court hold the selectmen personally financially responsible for paying our attorney’s fees and also for paying for their own remedial Right to Know training.

Here’s our “Assented to Motion for Leave to File Counterclaim.”