Tom Beeler, the editor of the Granite State News, agrees with me that the Tuftonboro selectmen are making it difficult for residents to attend their meetings, but he’s ideologically opposed to me so he’s reduced to quibbling over the definition of “hectoring,” all while patting himself on the back for “asking questions to clarify information for our readers.”
Did the Granite State News ask the selectmen if they were legally authorized to conduct an auction of town-owned properties that was scheduled for October 15? The answer is no, the Granite State News did not. I did. And the answer again was no, the selectmen had not received the legally required authorization from Town Meeting to sell the properties. The auction has been cancelled. No thanks to the Granite State News, Tuftonboro is not at risk for costly law suits as the result of an illegal auction.
Tom suggested readers “watch the video.” I agree. I have made videos of meetings available at tuftonboro.net. You can watch the videos of public comment for June 6, September 26, and October 3. Bob McWhirter, Sue Weeks, and I repeatedly asked questions of the selectmen about the property auction. The selectmen stonewalled and refused to answer. Tom criticized my tone of voice.
Watch the October 3 video and listen to Carolyn Sundquist’s tone of voice. When Elissa Paquette asks a question, Carolyn is all answers. When anyone else asks a question, Carolyn shuffles papers distractedly and refuses to engage; she shows irritation and appears impatient and even contemptuous. Compare this to the exchange between selectman Lloyd Wood and me on October 3. Rather than glare at me mutely as Carolyn and selectman Bill Marcussen did, Lloyd actually engaged me in conversation, and we had a pleasant, amicable exchange.
Tom in particular may want to watch the video of October 3. Lloyd confirmed that, contrary to Tom’s assertion two weeks ago, it is unconstitutional to allow one person to speak but not allow others. Tom was wrong when he dismissed the question of constitutionality as “fashionable.” If his reporter, Elissa, had stayed for the whole public-comment portion on October 3, rather than leaving after she asked her own question, she could have quoted Lloyd, who said, “It’s a first amendment issue.” Once more, no thanks to the Granite State News, Tuftonboro is not at risk of costly lawsuits as a result of the selectmen’s actions.
In scheduling the meetings in the day, the selectmen seem to have their own convenience as a priority. And their attitude at meetings gives the impression that they’d rather town residents did not attend or get involved. But while stonewalling and shutting down legitimate questions, they have repeatedly (albeit unintentionally I’m sure) put the town at risk for costly law suits. They illegally usurped the cemetery trustees power, they engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, and they almost conducted an illegal property auction.
If you think that transparency and accountability is a good thing for our town, please let me know in the comments below. I’m collecting signatures for a warrant article for Town Meeting that would require the selectmen to have their meetings at 6:30 PM when more people could attend.
Note: This post was submitted to othe Granite State News and should appear as a letter in the October 13 edition.