The selectmen hold their meetings at 9AM and 4PM, usually on Mondays although sometimes on other days. Anyone who has a regular 9 to 5 job, therefore, is unable to attend the selectmen’s meetings if they want to. At their last meeting, I asked the selectmen to consider having one meeting per month at 6:30 or 7PM. Today the selectmen categorically refused to have their meetings in the evening. The reason they gave is that they didn’t think anyone would show up, anyway.
I believe there is a difference between not going to a meeting because you can’t and not going to a meeting because you don’t want to. And I have no illusions that if the selectmen’s meetings were at 6:30 then suddenly 25 people would show up to every meeting. However, if the meetings were at a more convenient time for most of the residents of Tuftonboro, some residents would be able to come to meetings that covered issues of interest to them. For instance, a resident of Eaglemere Road might want to come to a meeting for which the agenda included discussion of the paving of Eaglemere Road (which is a dirt a road). But if they work, and the meeting is at the selectmen’s preferred 9AM? Too bad.
The selectmen prefer not to have meetings in the evening, because it’s more convenient for them. Both more convenient in terms of their schedules (they are all retired), and because fewer residents are able to come if they want to come.
While Lloyd Wood and Bill Marcussen seem more open to public input, Chairman Carolyn Sundquist has proven time and again to be unwilling to listen to any input from the public. “What would come from the public that would change our minds on a vote?” She asked on May 24 of this year. “I don’t know what kind of input they could give us.”
I am collecting signatures for a petition warrant article to be voted on at Town Meeting 2017 to require the selectmen to have all of their meetings, both regular and work session, at 6:30PM so that more people could attend if they wanted to attend. Please let me know if you would like to add your signature. The wording of the warrant article would be as follows:
Article by Petition: To see if the Town will vote to require the board of selectmen to hold all meetings of the board of selectmen, both regular and work session, at 6:30PM to allow as many residents of the town to attend meetings as possible. The selectmen currently hold most meetings at either 9AM or 4PM, when the vast majority of residents are unable to attend. Holding meetings after normal work hours would be in keeping with the spirit of the Right to Know law (RSA 91:A), which states: “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society.”
Carolyn Sundquist has shown little interest in conducting public business openly. In 2015, Carroll County Superior Judge Charles Temple found that the board of selectmen, including Sundquist, had violated the Right to Know law by illegally conducting public business during a non-public session and by holding a public meeting without adequate public notice such that no one attended. For the past six months, Sundquist has been practicing viewpoint discrimination, which is unconstitutional, by allowing Elissa Paquette of the Granite State News to ask questions during selectmen’s meetings but requiring everyone else to wait until the end of the meeting, often after relevant votes had already been conducted, to ask questions.
The selectmen put in countless hours on behalf of our town, and they deserve thanks for their efforts. If they do not wish to hold meetings after normal business hours when more people could come (if they wanted to), then the selectmen can resign. The selectmen work for us, the people. They answer to us. They are not our rulers. They should hold their meetings when it is convenient for the vast majority of residents to attend, not when it is convenient for the selectmen.