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Welcome to the NEW Atkinson Reporter! Under new management, with new resolve.

The purpose of this Blog is to pick up where the Atkinson Reporter has left off. "The King is dead, Long live the King!" This Blog is a forum for the discussion of predominantly Atkinson; Officials, People, Ideas, and Events. You may give opinion, fact, or evaluation, but ad hominem personal attacks will not be tolerated, or published. The conversation begun on the Atkinson Reporter MUST be continued!

This Blog will not fall to outside hacks from anyone, especially insecure public officials afraid of their constituents criticism.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Commissioner worried about assistant attorney's firing

By Kyle Stucker

Posted Nov. 11, 2014 @ 6:54 pm
Updated at 9:17 PM
BRENTWOOD — Local prosecutors and officials say they are “very frustrated” about the termination of a Rockingham County assistant attorney and whistleblower because they expect it will lead to a costly wrongful termination lawsuit against the county.
On her first day in office Friday, newly-elected Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway fired Jerome Blanchard, a prosecutor in her office and the person who earlier this year tipped off the state to the fact that Conway’s husband, former Salem police Sgt. Eric Lamb, was erroneously marked as cleared on the state’s so-called Laurie list.
“That smells like retribution to me,” said County Commission Vice Chairman Kevin Coyle. “It just really smells bad. To me this is clearly an act of retribution on the part of Pat Conway and others.”
No lawsuits had been filed against Conway or the county as of Tuesday, although Coyle said he expects Blanchard to file suits under the state’s whistleblower statute in addition to civil suits against any individuals involved in the firing.
Coyle said he and others consider Blanchard the “best prosecutor in that office” and said he doesn’t “know of anyone in law enforcement who would cast any dispersions on his ability to prosecute.”
“What I told her is she better hire a good lawyer, because she’s going to need one,” said Coyle, who wasn’t made aware of Conway’s decision until after Blanchard was terminated late Friday.
The confidential Laurie list contains the names of law enforcement officers who have been identified by their agencies as having engaged in misconduct that could affect their credibility if they had to testify in a case.
This information must be disclosed to defense lawyers and the court.
Blanchard notified the state in April that Lamb had been cleared in error. This prompted an investigation and Lamb’s name to be restored to the list after the state found former County Attorney Jim Reams, who later resigned from his post amid controversy, had indicated in letters to the attorney general’s office that Lamb had been cleared.
Conway maintained Tuesday that she had “no idea” Blanchard was the key whistleblower behind the Laurie list investigation involving her husband.
She also claimed that Seacoast Media Group and New Hampshire Union Leader stories published over the past few days about Blanchard’s firing contain “lies” because her decision had “nothing to do with retribution.”
“I had no idea about that,” said Conway. “I never knew about that. When I read that in the paper, that was the first time I ever learned about that.”
Conway also said that she “was not aware” that Blanchard and his girlfriend, former county prosecutor Jacqueline Docko, played key roles in the state’s investigation into Reams for sexual harassment, ethical violations and mismanagement of a forfeiture account.
“I didn’t know that,” said Conway. “I don’t know if that’s true or not. I was unaware of it.”
Reams, who served for 15 years, retired earlier this year after fighting for his return to office following a suspension. He has admitted no wrongdoing.
Conway has said she terminated Blanchard because doing so would be in the "best interests" of the county.
Beyond that, Conway said Tuesday that she “cannot comment” on why Blanchard was terminated because it “would be improper” to do that from a legal standpoint. She also said she couldn’t disclose whether her decision was based on poor job performance or wrongdoing.
Many local lawyers and law enforcement individuals expressed to Seacoast Media Group Tuesday that they couldn’t think of any possible job performance-related reasons for Blanchard’s firing.
“I can tell you that amongst the defense bar we consider him if not the best, but one of the best trial attorneys,” said Joe Plaia, a Portsmouth defense attorney whom Conway defeated during the Nov. 4 election. “I think he’s got without a doubt a fantastic whistleblower suit on his hands.”
Conway said her focus in her new role will be to ensure the office is running “efficiently,” “ethically” and “in a fiscally responsible manner,” although Coyle said it’ll be difficult to do that after her first official act was to “fire the person who made a legitimate complaint” against her husband.
“I don’t know if you’re ever going to bring back integrity to the office (after doing something like that),” said Coyle. “I think on her first day she really blew it with law enforcement and the public.”
Blanchard couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Update to: "Editorial: Spin won't solve Timberlane board's communications problem"

Surprise! Cozy Low Bid for PR Contract
Four bids were received for the district’s proposed Public Relations services.
$50,400 (Massachusetts)
$46,800 (California)
$39,500 (Massachusetts)
$18,000 (New Hampshire)
The low bid is from SERESC, the organization where superintendents go off to their final taxpayer funded reward. About SERESC Our former superintendent, Mr. LaSalle, now heads this organization and Dr. Metzler is one of six fellow superintendents from neighboring SAUs who comprise the Executive Committee. You might remember SERESC as being the organization that gave us Mrs. Metzler as the Spanish consultant for kindergarten.
SERESC is quick footed, if nothing else. They recently managed to snag Jason Grosky’s wife, Gretchen Grosky, as a PR consultant and have proposed her as the service provider in their bid. Mr. Jason Grosky is chairman of the Timberlane Budget Committee.
The Community Relations Committee, which disgraced itself by opening these bids outside of the publicly announced time and place for the opening, will be deciding on their recommendations at their next meeting in early December. Then they will put their recommendation forward to the school board who will bless the committee’s hard work and thank them for finding such a marvelous consultant right in our own backyard! Actually we don’t look in backyards. We climb up on ladders and peer into bedrooms.
Mrs. Grosky is a former journalist and editor who registered her own PR company, GMG Strategies LLC, with the state of New Hampshire in August 2013.
I should stress that no decision has yet been made and no contract has yet been awarded, but I smell her name plate being printed.
Only five short years ago our policy KDCA (student communications) said this:
“The best possible community relations grow from a superior teaching job in the classroom. Enthusiastic pupils with serious intentions, well directed by sympathetic and capable teachers, are certain to communicate with the parents and the community. The School Board believes this is the cornerstone of good community relations.”
That earnest and encouraging paragraph can no longer be found in any of our policies.
See Dr. Metzler announcing that he had given Rob Collins of the Community Relations Committee Mrs. Grosky’s name at the May 29 School Board meeting: FORWARD TO 3: 24: 40 .
Should you be concerned about the independence of elected officials in the district or the SAU, let me reassure you that there is nothing to worry about. It’s business as usual. The wife of SAU board member, Jason Cipriano, was hired as a full-time teacher at Timberlane in August.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Editorial: Spin won't solve Timberlane board's communications problem

The Eagle Tribune

The Timberlane Regional School Board has correctly assessed that it has a problem with communication. But that problem won't be solved by hiring a public relations consultant.
The board would be better served by simply being open and honest with parents in the school district and with the voters who elected them to office.
The board last week agreed to begin the process of hiring a public relations consultant by approving a request for proposals. The board has yet to work out the details of the request or discuss how much it would be willing to spend on the part-time position.
School Board Chairman Nancy Steenson said the consultant would provide an honest and positive voice for the district, which serves students from Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown.
"If we have an opportunity through someone who does this well, then we can present our story correctly," she said, as reported by James Niedzinski. "We don't have the control to make sure everything is accurate all the time."
The two key words in Steenson's statement are "control" and "accurate." They are the obsession of Steenson, the like-minded members of the board, and Timberlane Superintendent Earl Metzler.
The board's primary concern is its inability to control dissident member Donna Green, who represents Sandown, and whether every statement she makes at meetings or on her private blog is "accurate."
Reduced to its core principle, Green's complaint is that the pressure for increasing spending in the district is relentless, even as enrollment declines. The district's spending places a heavy tax burden on member communities, Green argues.
Green, whose campaign for fiscal responsibility won her election by Sandown voters, can be determined and demanding in her pursuit of district financial information. This is generally considered a positive quality in an elected representative. But to Steenson and Metzler, it is a source of irritation.
Green, like many others who question school spending, frequently faces the accusation that she is anti-education. Her quest for information often takes the form of demands under the state's Right-To-Know Law. She writes emails to the board requesting financial documents or that items of concern to her be placed on meeting agendas. She is unafraid to express her opinions on the board's actions during meetings or on her blog.
In response, the board on Aug. 28 issued a formal letter of censure to Green. The letter said Green's actions had "undermined the integrity and credibility of the Timberlane Regional School District and eroded the trust between TRSD and the community."
The letter further cited Green for the "inaccurate, disrespectful and/or inappropriate" comments made on her blog. The letter states that Green disseminated this false and inaccurate information "without contrition" and that she has "never shown any remorse for her actions."
Green has been banned from visiting administrative offices without an appointment while police conduct an investigation into whether she harassed a district employee.
"It's disturbing, the truth is the truth, there is no need to make things up," Metzler told Niedzinski. "We're trying to do the best for our kids here."
All this conflict generates a lot of news coverage. The board wants to be sure that the good news coming out of Timberlane isn't lost in the shuffle. A public relations consultant who knows members of the media could "grease the skids," board member Rob Collins said last week.
Our skids don't need greasing. We have and will continue to report all the good things that the Timberlane district's students are doing.
But we'll also continue to report on the doings of the Timberlane board, asking questions about things like how it came to pass that the consultant hired for $50,000 to implement a Spanish language program for kindergartners was Elizabeth Metzler -- Dr. Metzler's wife. It was a deal that Green's lawyer Richard Lehmann said "was done under the cover of darkness and hidden from public view."
These are also the kind of questions Donna Green finds so interesting.
Rather than attempting to control public perceptions of its actions by greasing the skids with a hired flack, the Timberlane board might try just answering some questions openly and honestly.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Timberlane board members continue to stir the pot.

By James Niedzinski Eagle-Tribune
PLAISTOW — Conflict and accusations continue within the ranks of the Timberlane Regional School Board and administration.
Donna Green, who represents Sandown on the board, is at the heart of much of it.
Even before her election to the board in March, Green challenged board members and Superintendent Earl Metzler a number of times.
She maintains a blog, dedicated to the district's budget, leaders and policies.
Before her election to the nine-member board, Green was on the Timberlane Budget Committee and had a thorny time of it there, too.
Some people appreciate Green's approach, her dogged pursuit of documents and figures, her dedication to keeping spending in line.
But her fellow board members are not among her fans. In July, a majority of the board voted to formally censure Green after they said she was posting misleading and inaccurate information on her blog.
Last month, School Board Chairman Nancy Steenson wrote Green a letter, outlining about 60 specific blog entries she said were inaccurate.
Metzler said the blog continues to be inaccurate. "It's disturbing, the truth is the truth, there is no need to make things up," he said. "We're trying to do the best for our kids here."
Steenson did not return phone calls seeking comment.
This week, Green struck back. Richard Lehmann, Green's attorney, sent letters to school district officials and Plaistow police Thursday. The concerns outlined include awarding a $50,000 contract to Metzler's wife, a security camera video of an incident in the administrative offices and the requirement that Green schedule an appointment before setting foot in the School Administrative Unit 55 building.
"I regret that it is necessary for me to take the step of retaining counsel to assist me," Green wrote, "but the administration leaves me no choice." Green is seeking clarification of the protocol for board members to visit the SAU office; a copy of the videotape school officials provided to Plaistow police; acknowledgement the board erred in its handling of the contract with Metzler's wife; and clarification of the existence of a no trespass order.
Three of those issues stem from a verbal exchange in July between Green and Cathy Belcher, Metzler's executive assistant.
That's one thing everyone seems to agree on, although not necessarily the magnitude of the disagreement. The exchange was captured on video tape, but Green has been denied a copy of that tape.
Metzler reported the incident to police and provided them with a copy of the tape. He said Friday he was unsure if the district still had a copy of the tape and noted there is no audio of the verbal argument.
Green claims administrators are holding her reputation "hostage" by not releasing the security video.
The water gets a little muddier here.
The incident is under investigation by police, acting Chief Kathleen Jones said, but would comment further.
Police Lt. William Baldwin is the former chairman of the Timberlane School Board and may be involved in the investigation.
Shortly after the incident, Steenson emailed Green and told her until the police investigation is complete she would have to schedule visits to the SAU office through Metzler. Green, through her attorney, is seeking clarification.
If there is not a no trespass order, Lehmann asks, then why must Green schedule visits through Metzler. She said it's affecting her ability to carry out her official responsibilities. Having Green schedule an appointment was done for the safety of employees and Green herself, Metzler said. "It's to protect both her and them from having a second incident or third incident," he said. Green also is treated differently, he said, because "other members of the board are currently not being investigated for the harassment of a public employee."
While other School Board members do not have to schedule appointments, Metzler said most do anyway. Finally, Elizabeth Metzler was hired to develop the curriculum for a foreign language program. She was recommended through the Southeast Regional Education Service.
Green claims the School Board violated the state's Right to Know law when approving the contract because they entered nonpublic session illegally.
There was no discussion about a request for proposals or contract, Lehmann wrote, and the contract "was done under the cover of darkness and hidden from public view."
But Metzler said it was a transparent process. Board members knew Elizabeth Metlzer worked for the education service and would likely be recommended for the job, he said. "I know how open and transparent I was about this the whole way," he said. "It was very transparent right from the start."
He said Green's numerous Right to Know requests are putting a burden on the district.
Under the law, he said, the district has five days to respond to a request if the information is readily available. "Everything is not readily available on a desk to hand her in two minutes," Metzler said.
On Friday, Green said she started filing Right to Know requests rather than simply asking for information because of her turbulent past with school officials while she was on the Budget Committee. "Based on that background, I did not have the belief that I would get my requests in a timely fashion," she said. "I felt I was compelled to file Right to Know requests." Green said she still attends board meetings regularly.
She considered how the letters from her lawyer might affect her working relationship with other board members, but it was not her biggest concern. "I have to call things as I see it," she said. "My primary consideration is representing the interests of my constituents."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Plaistow police lieutenant investigated

PLAISTOW — The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office and Rockingham County attorney's office are investigating longtime police Lt. William Baldwin for "irregularities" that occurred during two recent traffic stops, Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald confirmed Friday the two agencies have begun looking into allegations that Baldwin, also an Atkinson selectman, may not have followed standard police procedures during the two stops.

But Baldwin said Friday evening he believes he is being unfairly targeted by another member of law enforcement who disagrees with the "discretion" he used during the two stops, both within the last month.

"I do the best to what my discretion allows me to," he said.

Neither Baldwin, Fitzgerald nor interim police Chief Kathleen Jones said they could comment in detail about the traffic stops nor the allegations while the matter is under investigation.

Baldwin, on scheduled time off for the next week, said he's only trying to do his job."It's just disheartening," Baldwin said. "There are two sides to every story, and I take my job very seriously to keep the community very safe." Baldwin said he's not sure who is making the allegations against him.

"I don't know the motive," he said. "I put my life and soul into the job. People just come after you and target you. It's someone who doesn't care for me here."

Baldwin said he's yet to speak to investigators from the attorney general's office or the county attorney's office.

Interim County Attorney James Boffetti said he could not comment on pending investigations. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young could not be reached for comment Friday.

Fitzgerald said he's waiting to receive further reports and had yet to speak to Baldwin, who has worked in Plaistow since 2011. Jones has spoken to Baldwin about the matter, he said.

"We will make appropriate decisions to make sure we keep the highest standards of policing intact," Fitzgerald said.

Jones, who was deputy chief, has led the department since the death of police Chief Stephen Savage in July. She said town officials won't hesitate to act if Baldwin is guilty of any misconduct.

"If anything has been done wrong, we will take swift action as needed," Jones said.

Fitzgerald said despite the allegations against one of the department's highest-ranking officers, Plaistow police do an excellent job serving the community.

"We have an outstanding department," he said.

Baldwin was a member of the Atkinson Police Department for 14 years before leaving for Plaistow.

Earlier this year, he applied for the Atkinson police chief's job after Philip Consentino was dismissed by selectmen. Baldwin later withdrew his application, saying he had doubts about leaving Plaistow.

Baldwin also served in the U.S Marine Corps for 10 years and has been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, taking leave from his police career to serve in the Middle East.

He is also a former Timberlane Regional School Board member.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Green says censure won't stop her

School Board member accused of misleading public
By Doug Ireland
 The Eagle Tribune Fri Jul 18, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT

PLAISTOW — Timberlane Regional School Board member Donna Green, who was censured by her colleagues Wednesday, said the reprimand won’t change how she conducts herself.
The Sandown resident said yesterday that even though seven of her eight fellow board members voted to censure her, she will continue to seek “transparency” from the school district administration, especially when it comes to spending issues.
“Censure has no bearing on me,” Green said. “I’m not going to change my behavior.”
Board members said during the nearly three-hour special meeting Wednesday that Green’s behavior is having a disruptive impact on the board and district.
They said Green often makes inaccurate and inflammatory remarks during meetings and in her personal blog on district issues. Her comments are damaging the board’s credibility and integrity, the members said.
Board member Rob Collins, who made the censure motion, said there have been nearly 70 inaccuracies in her blog since she joined the board in March.
The comment prompted Green to rise from her chair and say, “I’m done.” She then left the meeting.
Shortly before Collins’ remark, Green refused to attend a 10-minute nonpublic session called by Peter Bealo to discuss “reputation.”
After Green left, the board voted in favor of the censure — the equivalent of a public scolding. Chairman Nancy Steenson said a censure letter would be drafted for the board’s review at its meeting in August.
Green said yesterday afternoon she didn’t learn of the censure until a friend phoned her and that she had not been notified by the board.
She said she even stopped by the school administrative office yesterday to review district invoices, but no one mentioned the censure vote. She called the vote “a public humiliation.”
Green admitted the move wasn’t a complete surprise, explaining that Collins has said in the past he would ask that she be censured. The special meeting was called by Steenson to clarify the district’s position on key issues Green has challenged.
Those issues included the district’s transfer-of-appropriations policy, a health trust refund and an auditor’s report.
The Wednesday night meeting became heated as Green queried administrators, including Superintendent Earl Metzler, and board members questioned her actions.
Among her concerns was that the board did not have enough control over overexpended line items in the school budget.
“We are falling down on budgeting,” Green said. “We are also falling down on oversight.”
Board members told her administrators retained the authority to make those budgetary decisions. Steenson said Metzler and his staff have followed the district’s policy and done nothing illegal or unethical. Green disagreed.
Board members also said Green refused to attend policy meetings or meet with Metzler in his office to discuss issues.
Green said one meeting was held on Passover and she couldn’t attend. Another was held while Green said she was out of the country. She said she would only discuss district issues in public.
Green issued a statement yesterday, questioning Collins’ claims about inaccuracies in her blog and asking him to outline each one.
She also denied accusations that she would not work with her colleagues and said censuring a member would discourage other residents from running for the board.
“My blog has always been open to public comment and correction should it be challenged,” she said. “The real root of my censure is my is my insistence on financial transparency at Timberlane to get a handle on the excessive cost increases we have experienced while enrollment is plummeting.”
Board member Kelly Ward, also of Sandown, abstained from voting Wednesday but did not say why. Ward later said he did not have enough information to cast an informed vote.
Steenson, the only board member authorized to speak to the media, refused to comment on Green’s censure.
Green is serving her first term on the board. She was elected in March.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Timberlane board censures member

Donna Green censured, accused of misleading public
By Doug Ireland
The Eagle Tribune Thu Jul 17, 2014, 12:23 AM EDT
PLAISTOW — The Timberlane Regional School Board voted to censure one of its own members last night, saying Donna Green is damaging the board’s credibility and integrity.
The 7-0-1 decision came after the board met for more than two and a half hours to explain and clarify its positions on key issues that Green challenged and the public has questioned.
The special meeting, called by Chairman Nancy Steenson, was often contentious as board members debated Green on various issues.
Those included Green’s comments on the district’s transfer-of-appropriations policy and her opinions on a health trust refund and an auditor’s report.
Steenson defended the board’s positions, saying neither the board nor school administration has done anything illegal or unethical.
“I don’t know if you didn’t understand it or didn’t like it,” Steenson said of Green’s views on one policy.
After a 10-minute nonpublic session that Green contested and refused to attend, board member Rob Collins was among those to publicly explain his dissatisfaction with her as a member.
Since her election in March, Green has often disagreed with her colleagues on issues.
“I have some very grave concerns about the behavior of Mrs. Green,” Collins said.
Collins spoke of what he said were nearly 70 inaccurate quotes in her personal blog on district issues. Green then said, “I’m done” and left the meeting with her husband.
Collins then made the motion to censure her. A censuring is, in essence, a public scolding. Board member Kelly Ward abstained from the vote but did not say why.
Collins said Green makes inaccurate and inflammatory comments in and outside the meeting room that hurt the public’s trust in the board.
“The damage she is potentially doing to this district I’m not going to stand for,” he said.

Other board members agreed, including Sue Sherman.
“She is not reflecting our truth,” Sherman said.
“It is really misleading to the public,” Vice Chairman Kate Delfino said.
Superintendent Earl Metzler called Green an “obstructionist,” saying, “She is unwilling to work with us.”
During the meeting, Green criticized the board and administration for not doing a better job of being transparent and handling the district’s business in the proper fashion.
Steenson said a censure letter would be drafted for the board’s review at its meeting in August. She declined to explain the censure process.