Atkinson Town Hall

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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, April 20, 2016

Supreme Court orders Timberlane to release documents in electronic form

Sandown school board member wins Right-to-Know case against district
  • By Breanna Edelstein

CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ordered Timberlane Regional School District to provide budget documents in an electronic format to school board member Donna Green of Sandown, acknowledging the decision advances the purpose of the state's Right-to-Know law and reversing a lower court's ruling.
Green asked the district for the documents last year. The district said she could make an appointment to see the documents. Green then asked for the documents electronically.
The district said it wasn't obligated to provide them electronically, citing state law and its policy, which states "materials and/or documentation produced to fulfill a Right to Know request shall be subject to a charge of $0.50 per page," and that "only hard copies will be produced; no electronic copies will be provided."
A superior court judge sided with Timberlane last March, but Green appealed, landing the case in the Supreme Court in January.
"I absolutely had to appeal it, because I couldn't let this stand," Green said Tuesday. "If that stood, it would have empowered more public bodies to behave like this."
Supreme Court judge James P. Bassett wrote the opinion reversing the earlier decision. He said there was no evidence that it wasn't "reasonably practicable" to copy the documents to electronic media. He also noted producing electronic documents can be more efficient and cost-effective.
The state's highest court noted that both parties had reasonable interpretations of the state law in question.
"The Supreme Court found our interpretation of 91-A:4 reasonable and also concluded that the statute is indeed ambiguous," Dr. Earl Metzler, the district's superintendent, said in a statement Tuesday. "As such, we have amended our Right To Know procedure to align with this recent interpretation that some requested documents must be made available in electronic format."
According to the ruling, Green argued prior wording of the policy indicated that the authority to produce a hard copy form of an electronically stored document only arises if copying to electronic media is not reasonably practical, or if the person asking for the document requests a different method.
She also contended that in this case, the original records reside on a computer in the SAU building and the district should have provided the documents in that format.
On the other hand, the district argued that because the paper documents were made available for inspection and copying, their statutory obligations were fulfilled. According to them, the wording of "may" instead of "shall" in the RSA implies a choice.
Because of a lack of legislative history to aid the ruling, the final decision was based on the purpose of the Right-to-Know law, which is designed to make government more transparent to the public, according to the judge.
In his ruling, Bassett said if the Legislature doesn't agree with the court's interpretation of the law, it can amend the law.
Though Green says she's "very happy" with the court's decision, she added that "it was a colossal waste of taxpayer money."
The case will have ramifications statewide.
"For other school districts, and the media in general, this is a big victory for the people of New Hampshire," she said

Friday, April 15, 2016

Salem files official complaint against selectman, seek Campbell's removal

By Kiera Blessing kblessing@eagletribune.com


BRENTWOOD — The Town of Salem officially filed a complaint against selectman Stephen F. Campbell in Rockingham Superior Court this week after voting in March to seek his removal from office.
The complaint, filed Tuesday, seeks that the court remove Campbell from office for allegedly sharing confidential personnel information, which he was privy to as a selectman, with the public on two occasions in 2014 and 2015.
The court documents detail a letter sent to the Board of Selectmen on March 9 of this year by police captain and head of the Salem Public Administrators Association Union, Robert Morin. Morin alleged Campbell had broken state law by sharing information about the internal investigation of a deputy police chief with The Eagle-Tribune in late 2014.
Though not named in Morin's letter or court documents, former Deputy Chief Shawn Patten was at the center of the investigation. A former Police Department employee, Steve Malisos, sent a letter to the town manager in October 2014, accusing Patten of falsifying records and theft. Though Patten was eventually cleared through an internal investigation and by the Attorney General's office, Morin alleges Campbell brought the information about the investigation to the media, violating state public record laws.
The court documents also mention an incident from February 2015, when Campbell posted about Salem Police Chief Paul Donovan's suspension on his Facebook page. The suspension had previously been kept from the public as a private personnel matter.
Campbell has not denied either accusation.
According to court documents, Campbell acknowledged he was "not authorized" to discuss the chief's suspension publicly; in March 2015, the board voted to "condemn" his actions.
Campbell has also admitted to bringing information to the media, but has maintained that he did not break public records laws in doing so.
“I don’t believe I did anything wrong,” Campbell said during a board meeting March 28. According to court documents, on March 25, Campbell posted on his Facebook page that "The information I shared with the Eagle-Tribune was sent to me and others through the US mail. It was sent to us by a retired Town employee. The information was not from a non-public meeting."
When asked by board Chairman James Keller why he took the information to the media, Campbell answered he "would rather not say."
A hearing is scheduled for May 4

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Salem selectmen ask court to remove Campbell

By Kiera Blessing kblessing@eagletribune.com

SALEM, N.H. — In a 4-1 vote Monday, Salem selectmen decided to petition Rockingham Superior Court to remove Selectman Stephen Campbell from office after finding he broke the law by revealing confidential information to the press in 2014.
Earlier this month, police captain and head of the Salem Public Administrators Association Robert Morin alleged that Campbell had brought information regarding the internal investigation of a former police employee to The Eagle-Tribune in a violation of state public record laws. Though he is not named in Morin’s allegation, former Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten is at the center of the dispute.
“I think it’s a sad day for Salem. I think it’s a sad day for the board. It’s unfortunate that it came to this, but we can’t tolerate laws being broken,” Keller told the Tribune. “I went into it (the investigation) objectively, and the facts are the facts.”
Campbell admitted bringing information to the Tribune, but denied any wrongdoing during the meeting and declined to comment after the meeting was adjourned. He said that he received information about a town employee through a Right to Know request years ago, and believed this information fell under the same qualifications for public access, rendering it not confidential.
Keller described the findings of his own internal investigation, conducted in coordination with the town attorney, to the board before presenting the selectman with three options: to find Campbell innocent of wrongdoing, to move to censure him, or to petition the court to have Campbell removed from office.
Selectman Michael Lyons made a motion to petition the court to remove Campbell from office. Fellow board member Lisa Withrow seconded the motion.
“I think the town is in danger of injury again and I’ve had enough, and the four of us need to separate ourselves from Selectman Campbell,” Lyons said. “The four of us have an obligation to separate the town from Selectman Campbell and we need to do so now.”
Everett McBride struggled with the decision for a moment, but said he did believe Campbell broke the law. The board voted for Campbell’s removal, 4-1, with Campbell as the lone dissenter.
Applause briefly broke out from the crowded room full of police personnel, but Keller quickly called the room to order, saying “There’s no glory in this for anyone.”
“I don’t believe I did anything wrong,” Campbell said. “There are other matters that the town manager is aware of that should be taken care of, because there’s a lot going on underneath the surface here. So you can pretend that this is just me, but there are things happening here, happening to me, happening to other people that just aren’t right. ... I hope those complaints are taken as seriously as these are.”
A petition requesting Campbell’s removal from office will be sent to Rockingham Superior Court. Until a decision is rendered, Campbell will continue to serve on the board in his full capacity.
Morin said he was pleased with the outcome.
“Clearly, Chairman Keller certainly took it serious and I thought did an outstanding investigation,” Morin said. “I think Selectman Keller said it best: this isn’t good for anybody. It’s an embarrassment to the town but it needed to be dealt with and obviously I’m pleased with how they chose to handle it.”
Morin added that he hopes Campbell will resign.
“There’s going to be a lawsuit — there’s no ifs, ands, buts or maybes about it,” he said. “The town is in great danger and has a lot of liability on it because of his actions.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Baldwin, Friel re-elected in Atkinson


ATKINSON — Incumbents William Baldwin and William Friel will return to the Board of Selectmen.

They were re-elected to the board Tuesday as residents turned out at the Atkinson Community Center to choose town and school officials. They also voted on numerous warrant articles. 

Baldwin, the board's chairman, received 690 votes while Friel picked up 608 votes to win the three-year seats. They beat out Craig Schuster, who received 416 votes.

The town saw an 18.7 percent voter turnout.

In the only other contested town race, Kathleen Friel defeated Dennis Winsett, 512-420, in the race for a three-year cemetery trustee slot.

While campaigning next to Friel outside the community center, Schuster expressed doubt he would win because of a sluggish voter turnout.  

Friel also wasn't ready to declare victory because of the low turnout, saying a lack of big-ticket questions on the ballot and the recent presidential primary likely discouraged many from voting.

Anything could happen when turnout is low, they said. 

"It's voter fatigue," Friel said.

Town Moderator James Garrity, who ran uncontested, said turnout was slow from the time the polls opened at 7 a.m. until at least 5 p.m. — just as a surge of voters arrived to vote.

"There's not a lot of contested stuff," Garrity said.

When asked if there was a particular candidate or issue they came to support at the polls, several voters said there was not.

The residents said they were just fulfilling their civic duty by voting.

Among the top issues on the ballot was an article seeking $10,000 for cemetery improvements, which failed, 550-470. But an article to contribute $35,000 to a cemetery capital reserve fund was approved, 665-354.

Voters also allocated $340,314 for roadwork, 784-234. But they rejected a $79,043 lease purchase agreement for a highway department truck, 600-416.  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Candidate's Night Drama- Heard around the Town Hall

You gotta love Candidate's Night. While it is the time for some candidates to shine, it is always the time for the elitist bullies in Town alleged leadership, to demonstrate their uncanny ability to make asses of themselves. And as we have seen over the last decade, rarely does anyone do a more thorough job of making a bloviating donkey's posterior of themselves than Jack Sapia. He has an almost divine gift of speaking without knowledge upon almost any topic, and being ignorant enough to continue his thought devoid diatribe even when the facts(inconvenient to his claims) are beating him about the head like the bully he tries to be.

This year's Candidate's night proved no different. Enter the usual victim of Jack's ire, Mr. Artus, who began his remarks about the deficiencies of the School Board and it's budget committee, only to have Jack direct Noriko to end his speaking time. God forbid a little thing like FREEDOM OF SPEECH, be allowed to override Jack's neo fascistic restrictions thereof.

Mr. Artus started out giving his background, then eased into the school district's budgetary increases and cost per pupil expenditures versus the District's declining enrollment over the last 7 years. As he is presenting the actual hard data, complete with accurate numbers, No more than a few minutes into his presentation Jack signaled to Noriko that is was time to cut him off. Noriko did so, and Mr. Garrity, the alleged moderator, stated that he is merely acting as Moderator, but the night is hosted by the Women's Civic Club, and Noriko is in charge.

After cutting off Mr. Artus The Moderator turned the floor over to questions, Mr. Artus fielded questions from the audience, about the numbers, and data, Then Jack asked a question of Mr. Artus, demanding to know who told him that the District will seek another bond for a new School. Perhaps Jack has forgotten Dr. LaSalles presentation to the School Board his last year as Superintendent, about Bonding $88,000,000 in two bonds three years apart to build a new High School, and a new Middle school, Their reason for this necessity being, The schools "do not conform to (the Districts) current educational philosophy" It was pointed out at that meeting by Mr. Acciard that with the almost decade left to run on the PAC center bond this would add $8,000,000 per year in debt service to the budget. As usual Jack is long on bullying and short on facts.

Then Jack asked what do the Candidates consider an "adequate education"? As we see from TRSD's "Report Card" the longer a child goes to TRSD the lower the proficiency in reading and Mathematics. Only 50% of 11graders are proficient or better in reading, and only 29% in Mathematics. Is THIS what you consider to be an "adequate education", Jack?

Here is where the story becomes interesting; AFTER the cameras were left behind the two Budget candidates, Mr. Artus, and Ms. Hammond went into the lobby to talk privately. Jack followed, hovering near the meeting room, but trying to overhear the conversation. Since he could not hear what was being said he resorted to shouting at Mr. Artus and Mrs. Hammond to be quiet as people were trying to hear what the candidates were saying, M. Artus politely told him that if he went into the meeting and shut the door there would be no problem. Jack kept shouting, He was all we could hear, as he bullied Mr. Artus and Mrs. Hammond, Then another resident went into the lobby to speak to Mr. Artus. Jack barged into their conversation, when the gentleman raised issues about the school boards conduct, Jack in a loud and beligerent manner told the man he was a school board member and that the gentleman must have gotten his info form Mr. Artus because it was all lies. Jack continued his loud bullying of the people in the lobby leading to Town Administrator Alan Phair coming out 5 times to tell him to be quiet. Jack ignored him. Mr. Artus suggested that if Jack would not maintain decorum the TA should call the police to remove him, Jack's response was a loud snort, followed by "Yeah, like that is going to happen". It must be nice to be above the law like dictator Sapia believes himself to be.

Question to the voters, why do you continue to allow buffoons like this to run the town? Jack evidently cares nothing for truth, or honor, or the best interests of the town, only those of himself, and his buddies. He has been caught lying on camera in the past, just watch the video of the home page. His wanton disregard for the rights of the taxpayers must not be allowed to continue.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Marijuana charges dropped against couple

PLAISTOW — The state has dropped all but one charge against an Atkinson couple accused of growing marijuana in their home. On Monday, all charges against Valerie Zdrada, 60, were dropped, while her husband, Robert Zdrada, 65, still faces one felony charge of cultivating marijuana. Both were initially charged with one count of cultivation of marijuana and one count of possession of the drug with the intent to distribute. Judge Sharon DeVries accepted the state's withdrawal of three of the four charges in 10th Circuit Court in Plaistow Monday morning. The Zdradas' defense attorney, Alan Cronheim, said he was pleased with the development. "I appreciate that the state took the time to resolve it. I think it's very appropriate that the possession with intent to distribute charges were (dropped)," Cronheim said. "Lastly, we appreciate that the state has reviewed the medical information we've provided and we're going to continue conversations about how the remaining charge is resolved." Cronheim argued at the couple's arraignment in December that they grew the marijuana not to sell, but to treat Robert Zdrada, who suffers from cancer. Zdrada obtained a medical marijuana card in late January. New Hampshire began accepting applications for medical marijuana identification cards in early November, just three weeks after the couple's arrest. Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana into law in 2013. Cronheim had referenced a Superior Court case from November, in which a judge ruled that the state needed to issue a medical marijuana card to an Alstead woman named Linda Horan, who then used it to buy the drug in Maine. Cronheim likened the case to his clients' situation, arguing that Robert Zdrada would have had legal access to marijuana had New Hampshire not delayed the issuance of cards. At the time of the Zdradas' arrest Oct. 19, police said they seized more than seven pounds of marijuana, along with plant stems, seeds and specialized heating lamps, from the Zdradas' Crown Hill Road home. The case will move to Rockingham Superior Court to be presented to a grand jury if it is not resolved during negotiations between the defendants and the state beforehand.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Selectmen Corruption, lying and illegality continues.

First let me open by saying that Our selectmen exhibit less than a passing regard for adherance to law. This has been the case for the decade plus that Phil has exerted control over this board, and therefore is no surprise. In my opinion they are liars as well, Oh not  the "Honey that dress looks great on you" type of liars, more along the Hillary Clinton; "It was caused by a spontaneous protest over a video that got out of hand" type of lie.The surprise, and frankly it is somewhat disgusting to watch is the blatant dishonesty and willful corruption of Mr. Grosky, himself a Lawyer, and Prosecutor. Given his training and education, as well as the professional canon of ethics Lawyers are supposed to subscribe to, he has the knowledge that precludes any claims of ignorance, lack of understanding, or the ever proclaimed necessity for "legal opinion". Which brings us to last night's litany of corruption.

We begin by noting that the Selectmen posted a Non Public meeting under RSA 91-A:3,II,e. "legal" to precede the public meeting.

When this meeting began Town Counsel, Sumner Kalman showed up for the meeting. The selectmen REFUSED to obey the stated law by opening the public meeting and voting to go into Non public, even though specifically asked if they were going to do this by Mr. Artus. Mr. Baldwin stated that they were just meeting with their attorney. Sorry, Billy, as you SHOULD know, whenever you have a quorum of the board, you have a meeting. As you SHOULD know, even if the meeting occurs in Sumners office, it must be posted and minutes kept. AND according to RSA 91-A:3, you MUST open the public meeting and make an on the record vote to go into Non public for the exemption that applies. You failed to obey this particular law. I wonder why?

Now,  RSA91-A:3, II,e. states as follows;

" (e) Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed by or against the public body or any subdivision thereof, or by or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such public body, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any public body for the purposes of this subparagraph."

As there are no active lawsuits, of which we are aware, nor any "threatened in writing" We wonder how this was a LEGAL non public meeting? BTW, just for the record, when they emerged from this quasi non public, they never closed the non public before opening the public meeting.

As Mr. Grosky authored a letter to the Conflict of Interest committee, advising them(BTW WHEN did the selectmen authorize Mr. Grosky to  write that letter?, It seems no meeting held nor vote taken to do so, Well chalk that up under the illegality column) That the ONLY allowable reason to go into Non public for legal was to discuss an ACTIVE lawsuit or one threatened in writing, Both Mr. Groski and the Board upon which he sits clearly knows, the purpose and limitation of this law, but CHOOSE to ignore it for themselves.

And before they parade their usual lies about this meeting it should be pointed out that the Conflict of Interest committee while they have discussed among themselves the idea of a Court filing to force the selectmen to  obey the law, They have NOT put this into writing to  the Selectmen. The other oft mentioned legal matter is the Selectmens wish to Forego the fines won in Court against the Osbornes, but yet to be paid. So much for their Fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers. However this, too does not  qualify under RSA91-A:3,II,e. as the matter had been fully adjudicated(Presumably Mr. Groski, in his profession DOES KNOW what that word means). These matters would be the subject of a PUBLIC meeting, not a non public, but what is the law to our dictators?

Later in the meeting our erstwhile governing body whipped out new shiny RSA books to read RSA31;39a, the enabling statute that allowed the town to establish the Conflict of interest committee. These men were intellectually challenged to understand the simple meaning of the Statute, even the Attorney Mr. Groski, Pull up a chair Jason your education is about to begin;

" 31:39-a Conflict of Interest Ordinances. – The legislative body of a town or city may adopt an ordinance defining and regulating conflicts of interest for local officers and employees, whether elected or appointed. Any such ordinance may include provisions requiring disclosure of financial interests for specified officers and employees, establishing incompatibility of office requirements stricter than those specified by state law or establishing conditions under which prohibited conflicts of interest shall require removal from office. Any such ordinance shall include provisions to exempt affected officers and employees who are in office or employed at the time the ordinance is adopted for a period not to exceed one year from the date of adoption. The superior court shall have jurisdiction over any removal proceedings instituted under an ordinance adopted under this section."

Readers please note the simple text of the above Statute which confused out Attorney/Prosecutor/Selectman. Lets take this point by point for Mr. Groski. who proclaimed it confusing and ambiguous due to the profusion of the word "MAY";

"The legislative body of a town or city may adopt an ordinance defining and regulating conflicts of interest for local officers and employees, whether elected or appointed." This simply means the State authorizes the legislative body of  the Town(Jason, that means the VOTERS) to esablish a Conflict of Interest ordinance if they so desire. In Atkinson We did.

"Any such ordinance may include provisions requiring disclosure of financial interests for specified officers and employees, establishing incompatibility of office requirements stricter than those specified by state law or establishing conditions under which prohibited conflicts of interest shall require removal from office." This simply means that the Ordinance once established may set out requirements for disclosure, prohibited conducts, and punishments that exceed those enumerated by State law. Are you following this, Jason?

"Any such ordinance shall include provisions to exempt affected officers and employees who are in office or employed at the time the ordinance is adopted for a period not to exceed one year from the date of adoption" This is the typical phase in clause.

Now Jason, PAY ATTENTION, THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART;

" The superior court shall have jurisdiction over any removal proceedings instituted under an ordinance adopted under this section."  This means that when removal is the recommendation, PARTICULARLY of a selectman, the fellow selectmen may not decide upon their  own what punishment will be, That, too  would be a conflict. They SHALL, note that word, Jason, which in legalese allows no wiggle room, they SHALL pass it on to the Superior Court which has sole jurisdiction over removal proceedings.

So ends our lesson, As we said they read this statute on camera. proclaiming it confusing, ambiguous, and requiring of legal opinion. A Little late, Jason you claimed you had already gotten legal opinion and spent $2,285 for ELEVEN HOURS of it,back in March on this  very topic. And the taxpayers wonder why Atkinson spends so much on legal fees.

By the way, just to reveal another lie, a couple of months ago, Mr. Groski stated on camera that the voters defeated a $5,000 legal line for conflict of interest a couple of years ago. This was a lie, what would have been true, would have been to admit that the SELECTMEN wanted a CAPITAL RESERVE FUND established for legal purposes a couple of years ago, and it failed by one vote.

It is an utter travesty that we allow these actions to continue. Mr. Morse seems to be the most honest of this corrupt board, Unfortunately Mr. Friel has done a complete 180 in the last 5 years, and now routinely joins the corrupt triumverate of Consentino, Groski, and Baldwin, in their efforts to do whatever they wish without regard for law. When you consider the background of these men; An attorney and public prosecutor, a Police Lt. former school board chair, and selectman, and a Former long term police chief, selectman, and director of elderly affairs, recently fired for cause, pursuant to a sexual harassment complaint of a female employee young enough to be his daughter, NOT ONE of these men have any excuse for their behavior.