Atkinson Town Hall

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Welcome Message and Mission Statement

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.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Timberlane pays $95k to settle 1st amendment suit

By Breanna Edelstein

PLAISTOW — A $95,000 settlement has been reached between Timberlane Superintendent Earl Metzler, the school district and Carolyn Morse, a Timberlane Regional High School Spanish teacher, following a lawsuit that cited First Amendment rights violations.

It was a year ago when Morse filed a complaint, saying the district wrongfully punished her for a comment she posted on Facebook.

The comment referred to foreign language consultant Elizabeth Metzler, the superintendent's wife, when high school teachers were asked to tutor a kindergarten teacher in Spanish.

"Shouldn't this be the job of the consultant and not paying us additional money that comes from the (school administrative unit)," she wrote on Facebook.

The complaint said Metzler reacted by starting an investigation, threatening Morse with dismissal via the School Board, and coaxing her into waiving her rights to a School Board hearing.

She was also stripped of her position as the coordinator for the world languages department, which came with a $3,500 stipend.

According to the school district's ethics policy, "all employees of the district are expected to maintain high standards in their conduct both on and off duty."

When asked about the situation a year ago, the superintendent said all employees are expected to follow the rules, and anyone using social media inappropriately would be held accountable.

But Morse's lawyer, Jon Meyers of Backus, Meyer & Branch, said at the time that the discipline went too far, and the district's policy cannot supersede the First Amendment.
Terms of a settlement agreement, sent to Metzler on April 28 from Primex, an insurance company, explained the details of Morse's impending compensation.

For compensatory damages, lost wages and medical expense reimbursement, Morse will receive $36,000 — $30,000, $4,500 and $1,500 respectively.

Morse's attorneys will be compensated $59,000.

A statement released with the settlement said "the Timberlane Regional School District honors the rights of its employees guaranteed by the Constitution to express themselves in their private lives on matters of public concern except in instances where that speech is unprotected."

The discipline imposed on Morse was rescinded.

"To the extent that discipline was perceived as an infringement of her rights, it was not intended as such but rather was intended to protect the privacy rights of District employees," the statement said.

Metzler and Morse both declined comment Wednesday.

Marijuana charges against Atkinson man set aside

By Kiera Blessing

BRENTWOOD — An Atkinson man accused of growing more than 7 pounds of marijuana in his home will not be convicted of the crime.

Robert Zdrada, and the state settled on a diversion agreement in Rockingham Superior Court Tuesday, in which Zdrada will not be convicted of any felony charge in exchange for completing 100 hours of community service. His criminal record will remain clean.

"It certainly is a relief because this has been very stressful," Zdrada told The Eagle-Tribune following the hearing. "I've probably lost another 10, 12 pounds because of it and it will take me over a year to try to get that back."

Zdrada and his wife Valerie were arrested Oct. 19 and charged with one count each of cultivating marijuana and possession with intent to distribute. All charges against Valerie and the distribution charge against Robert were later dropped after their lawyer, Alan Cronheim, showed the court that Zdrada suffers from cancer and was growing the drug for medicinal purposes.

"We're happy that it's done," Zdrada said. "I'm most happy that Val is out of the picture on this — she never had anything to do with the drugs."

Though medical marijuana was legalized in New Hampshire in 2013, the first dispensary in the state did not open until last month. The state only began distributing medical identification cards late last year; Zdrada received his in January.

While free on personal recognizance bail, Judge Sharon DeVries of Plaistow ruled that Zdrada was permitted to use medical marijuana with his identification card as long as it was a part of his treatment plan discussed with a doctor.

Tuesday, Zdrada appeared with Cronheim in superior court for a plea and sentencing hearing. In exchange for making the diversion agreement with the state, Zdrada waived his right to trial. If he were to default on the terms of the deal, he would be sentenced to 12 months in jail suspended for one year.

Zdrada will also have to pay a $50 per month fee for one year while he completes the community service requirement.

It's early in his treatment plan, but Zdrada said the medical cannabis has been helpful. He told Judge David Anderson that he "deal(s) with a lot of pain" and "every day is a struggle."

"Right now, it's try," he said of using medical marijuana.

"It has been heart breaking watching my husband suffer with cancer issues during this most difficult time," Valerie Zdrada said in an email Tuesday. "I would like to thank all of the compassionate people in the community who have reached out and supported him."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Congratulations SRHS class of 2016!!!

May you enjoy a lifetime of benefits from attaining this goal.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hearing to remove Salem Selectman canceled

By Kiera Blessing - Eagle Tribune

BRENTWOOD — A hearing scheduled to decide the fate of Salem Selectman Stephen Campbell was canceled Wednesday after a series of closed-door conversations.

Campbell left Rockingham Superior Court with his lawyer, who declined to comment on why the hearing did not occur.

On March 29, Salem selectmen voted 4-1 to ask the court to remove Campbell from the board. 

Earlier that month, Robert Morin, a police captain and head of the Salem Public Administrators Association, accused Campbell of violating state public record laws by bringing information about the internal investigation of a former police employee to The Eagle-Tribune in 2014.

Though he was not named in Morin’s complaint, former Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten is at the center of the dispute.

 A former Police Department employee, Steve Malisos, sent a letter to the town manager in October 2014, accusing Patten of falsifying records and theft, according to selectmen’s complaint against Campbell. Patten was eventually cleared through an internal investigation and by the attorney general’s office.

The official complaint filed against Campbell also mentioned an incident from February 2015, when Campbell posted comments 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. The board voted to “condemn” Campbell’s actions in 2015 but did not take the matter to court.

Campbell did not deny either accusation but denied any wrongdoing. He said that he received information about a town employee through a right-to-know law request years ago and believed this information fell under the same rules for public access, rendering it not confidential.

Town Manager Leon Goodwin and Board of Selectmen Chairman James Keller said they could not comment on why the hearing did not take place, or whether this marked the end of the effort to remove Campbell from office.

“We were prepared up until the last minute to have a hearing,” Goodwin said.

He declined to comment on which side of the legal battle approached the other prior to the hearing.

Keller said Campbell is still a selectman.

Campbell did not return requests for comment.

Morin, the police captain who made the initial complaint about Campbell to selectmen, said he didn’t know why the hearing was cancelled but that he “would imagine” both sides of the issue are “coming to a resolution.” 

“I think that the law and the violation is clear...and I think the remedy for that is to remove him from office,” Morin said. “Do I think that Stephen Campbell is going to terrorize Salem anymore? Nah, I think he’s done. I think he’s done, and even if he survived this, he’d be done at the polls in March.

“I, as a taxpayer in Salem, am disgusted that he didn’t resign when he had the opportunity to and save us all the aggravation.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Atkinson selectman pleads no contest

By Kiera Blessing

PLAISTOW — Atkinson Selectman Harold Morse pleaded no contest Monday to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident in September that led to his arrest.

Morse received a $300 fine, suspended for six months, on the condition of good behavior during his trial in 10th Circuit Court.

A no contest plea is when a defendant admits no guilt, but chooses not to dispute a criminal charge. 

Morse's attorney, Gerard LaFlamme, asked Judge Sharon DeVries to accept the plea "in the interest of justice in this case."

In "this particular case, I think this is warranted," LaFlamme said, referencing the legal definition of disorderly conduct, which states a person must leave a "public way" if told to do so by a police officer.

Prosecutor Jill Cook agreed not to prosecute Morse on a second charge of resisting arrest, for which he could have faced up to a year in jail. 

"I think this sounds like a resolution that makes sense under the circumstances," DeVries said as she accepted Morse's plea.

Morse and his wife, Christine Lewis Morse, declined to comment on the case. LaFlamme also declined to speak to the media.

On Sept. 16, Morse began directing traffic on Route 121 near the intersection with Route 111 in Hampstead, where a construction project was underway. When an officer directing traffic asked him to stop, Morse refused, ultimately leading to his arrest. 
It became clear during the trial that the construction company working on the road was Lewis Builders, an Atkinson-based company where Morse is the general manager. His wife is president of the company.

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