The Granite State News has repeatedly misreported the facts in recent weeks about a non-existent contract for maintenance work and the statutory responsibility for operating the cemeteries in Tuftonboro. After the paper misreported that there was an “ongoing contract,” I gave the paper’s reporter, Elissa Paquette, proof that there were no signatures on the 2010 document, and therefore it was not a contract. She then wrote, contrary to absolute fact, that there was a “contract signed in 2010.” The publicly available document that Selectmen Carolyn Sundquist originally thought was a contract was not signed by anyone (which I explicitly pointed out to Paquette), and even if it had been signed, it had an expiration date of April 15, 2011. It was never a valid contract. The Granite State News has knowingly attempted to mislead its readers and owes all of us a public retraction and correction. However, editor Tom Beeler insisted to me in an email that Ms. Paquette had reported what others had said. That is false. No one at the May 9 meeting said that there was a “contract signed in 2010.” To the contrary, Selectmen Sundquist stated that there was, in fact, no “paper contract.” See for yourself:
Despite this, Mr Beeler has refused to issue a correction. He did offer to print this letter without comment, however.
To the editor’s great credit, he has published almost every one of my letters over the past year, despite our obvious philosophical differences, and I do thank him for the opportunity for this public forum. I also thank him for reprinting my letter the other week that had been accidentally curtailed the week before. I accept his apology and say it is unnecessary because the abridgment of my letter was clearly unintentional.
The Tuftonboro selectmen acted quickly after I raised the concern on May 9 that they had unintentionally over-stepped their authority by exercising power that is by law the purview of the cemetery trustees. In a hastily scheduled non-regular meeting on Friday, May 13, the selectmen discussed written communication from the town’s attorney, Rick Sager, who advised them to “divorce themselves from the Cemetery Trustees in regards to clerical type responsibilities,” according to the meeting’s minutes. No doubt Mr. Sager’s advice was based on review of the applicable state laws.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t present for the May 13 meeting, and there is no video recording of the meeting for the public to review because the selectmen broke with their customary habit of sending an email with a meeting agenda to a mailing list (which you can sign up for at tuftonboro.org). To be clear, the New Hampshire Right to Know law requires only that they post a notice in two public places at least 24 hours before their meetings; they have no obligation to send out an email. They met the letter of the law for their May 13 meeting, but since the meeting was held on a non-regular day, and no email was sent out, no member of the public, including the videographer, was present, other than Paquette of the Granite State News. I asked Selectman Sundquist on June 6th if, since the meeting was not on the regular schedule, they had simply forgotten to send out the email notice. She replied that the meeting had been properly noticed. I asked if they had decided not to send out the email. She stated the meeting had been properly noticed.
On May 19 the Granite State News quoted Selectman Bill Marcussen as saying, at that impromptu meeting, “The cemetery trustees have clear authority.”
I thank the selectmen for acting so quickly to set the record straight about which public body is responsible for the maintenance of the cemeteries. The Granite State News characterized it as the selectmen “ceding” power to the cemetery trustees, but this is not entirely accurate since the selectmen never had the legal power to cede in the first place. The cemetery trustees have always had the “clear authority.” The selectmen usurped the trustees’ power, but now that they have acknowledged as much, I hope we can all move on.