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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!

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Friday, January 30, 2009

SCOOP: Atkinson Served Notice of Impending Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit, over Chief's Abuses!

The Reporter has obtained a copy of the "Notice of Intent" served upon the Town of Atkinson TODAY!

The Text is verbatim below. For those who are unaware, Charles Gwynn Douglas is a Former NH Supreme Court Justice, and a Former U.S. Congressman from the State of NH. He now runs a firm that sues municipalities.

For more info, here is the firm's website

Here is the Letter;

January 28, 2009

Board of Selectmen
Town of Atkinson
21 Academy Avenue
Atkinson, NH 03811

RE: Notice of Suit – First Amendment Violations

Dear Board of Selectmen:

This office represents the legal interests of Leon Artus, in relation to violations of his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to petition the government, by Atkinson Police Chief Philip Consentino and the Atkinson Board of Selectmen.

The purpose of this letter is to place the Town of Atkinson on notice, pursuant to RSA 507-B:7, that Mr. Artus and other citizens will be filing a civil rights lawsuit concerning Chief Consentino’s intimidation and harassment of Atkinson citizens who signed a warrant article petition circulated by Mr. Artus, and the Board of Selectmen’s actions in enabling and permitting Chief Consentino to bully and intimidate residents who have the temerity of criticizing him or taking a political stance against his personal interests.

Mr. Artus obtained signatures of Atkinson residents for several citizen-petitioned warrant articles in early January 2009. Two of these warrant article petitions concerned offices currently held by Philip Consentino – Police Chief and Director of Elderly Affairs. The petitioned warrant articles were turned in to the Town Clerk on the morning of January 13, 2009. Within approximately one hour of the petitions being delivered to the Town Offices, Chief Consentino had obtained copies of the petitions, and was calling elderly signatories to demand an explanation as to why they had signed petitions which might impact his long hold on the Police Department and Elderly Affairs Office.

Shortly thereafter, the citizens who were contacted by Chief Consentino began attempting to withdraw their signatures as a result of his intimidating communications with them. Gail Spellman requested that her name, along with the names of Dorothy Goldstein, Thomas Spellman, and Robert Spellman, be removed. Mr. and Mrs. Everitt Smith went to the Town Offices, and apparently received assistance from Town Officials in writing a letter to the Selectmen requesting that their names be withdrawn from the petitioned warrant articles concerning the Police Chief and Elderly Affairs positions. The Goldstein family received a call from Chief Consentino, who demanded to know “what is your family doing signing this shit?” The next day Dorothy Goldstein was among those seeking to remove her name from the petition.

Chief Consentino’s use of his authority as Police Chief and director of the Elderly Affairs office to intimidate Atkinson citizens into remaining silent on issues in which he has a personal interest constitutes an abuse of his office and a violation of those citizens’ and Mr. Artus’ civil rights. His conduct with regard to the citizen-petitioned warrant articles filed in January of 2009 would be alarming enough if it were the first time it had ever happened. However, as the Board of Selectmen is well aware, Police Chief Consentino has a long and well-documented history of abusing his position to silence his political opposition. What is arguably worse is the equally long and well-documented history of the Board’s complicity in the Chief’s tactics of intimidation and bullying. The Town of Atkinson has a nearly three decades old record of allowing Chief Consentino to engage in abuses of power and coercion of citizens who dare to stand up to him.

For instance:

• In 1981, a civil rights lawsuit was filed against Chief Consentino by Wayne Peak, alleging that the Chief had engaged in a plan to discredit, disgrace, and coerce Mr. Peak by repeatedly charging him with baseless motor vehicle and criminal complaints, resulting in Mr. Peak being forced to move out of state to avoid Chief Consentino’s harassment. The harassment began after Mr. Peak filed a writ of mandamus seeking to compel Chief Consentino to account for monies collected by the Police Department. Upon information and belief, this lawsuit resulted in a significant monetary settlement in Mr. Peak’s favor. Despite that, the Town of Atkinson did nothing to change or eliminate Chief Consentino’s propensity for retaliating against political opponents or abusing his power as police chief.

• In 1999, the Public Employee Labor Relations Board ruled that Chief Consentino had engaged in a pattern of harassment, intimidation, and coercion against members of the Atkinson Police Department who sought to unionize. The PELRB’s Order of December 23, 1999, stated that “[s]uch fears, interference, domination and coercion must be abated. The Town’s conduct, through its agent and employee is, taken as a whole, violative of RSA 273-A:5.” Despite this documented finding of overt bullying toward even his fellow police officers, the Board of Selectmen continue to this day to allow Chief Consentino to go on abusing his position of power and trust.

• In 2000, Atkinson resident Steve Lewis circulated a petition for a warrant article to have a full-time police chief appointed. The warrant article in question was much like the one that Mr. Artus circulated earlier this month. Chief Consentino responded by visiting Mr. Lewis’ office in his Chief’s uniform, leaving his cruiser running outside with its blue lights flashing for over an hour. Inside the office, he loudly and abusively castigated Mr. Lewis for having the audacity to initiate the petition.

• In 2005, Chief Consentino flagrantly violated Orders of the Rockingham County Superior Court in a case initiated by Mark Acciard that required him to leave Selectmen’s meetings at any time the agenda turned to matters involving the Police Department or Elderly Affairs Office. He was found to be in contempt of court by Judge McHugh. Chief Consentino retaliated against Mark Acciard by charging him with trumped up traffic offenses and contacting vendors for Mr. Acciard’s business to tell them that Mr. Acciard was “under investigation by the Atkinson Police Department.” Chief Consentino’s retaliatory behavior against Mr. Acciard resulted in yet another defamation and civil rights lawsuit being filed against the Town, which is currently pending.

• In 2006, former Selectwoman Carol Grant filed a petition to have Consentino removed from his position as Chief of Police. Her petition cited a lengthy history of rogue behavior which would have justified removing Chief Consentino from the position which he so frequently abused. Among other things, Chief Consentino unlawfully taped Ms. Grant during a conversation, in violation of New Hampshire’s wiretapping statute, and then destroyed the evidence of that illegally taped conversation. Despite these serious violations of the law, the Selectmen have taken no meaningful action to curb Chief Consentino’s flagrant abuses of his official position. A lawsuit filed by Ms. Grant resulted in the Town being forced to pay out another settlement because of the Chief’s outrageous conduct, yet he still holds his position and continues to abuse it with the knowledge and apparent complicity of the Select Board.

• Also in 2006, Chief Consentino angrily erupted during a Board of Selectmen’s meeting when a citizen, Brian Kaye, read a prepared statement concerning his opposition to Chief Consentino’s plan to expand use of a communications tower near his property, and Consentino’s rude and belittling responses to Mr. Kaye’s concerns. Chief Consentino then followed up by sending Mr. Kaye two threatening letters, on police department stationary, demanding that Mr. Kaye provide him copies of his prepared statement. This is yet another example of the Chief abusing his position to intimidate a citizen who dared to speak out against him. After a death threat Mr. Kaye moved to Maine.

In addition to the above-described examples of Chief Consentino’s abuses of office, he has also succeeded in making Atkinson’s police department a “family affair” in contravention to any reasonable standard of nepotism. His wife Jody is director of dispatch, and his son David is a patrolman. Supervision of a wife and son is obviously different from supervising other employees. In addition, he uses Jody to screen calls seeking to complain against him, and insulate him from accountability to Atkinson’s citizenry by having her defer to “a superior” who puts up a smokescreen when people seek to file a complaint.

Throughout all of this well-documented history of aggressive, intimidating, and coercive behavior of on the part of Chief Consentino, the Atkinson Board of Selectmen have refused to take any meaningful action to put a stop to it. The refusal to remove Chief Consentino has clearly emboldened him over the years, to the point that he now is willing to personally confront simple townsfolk who sign a petition for a warrant article to intimidate them into removing themselves from the political process, which they should enjoy a constitutional right to participate in this Saturday. The Town’s inaction constitutes an established pattern and practice of ratifying and complying with Chief Consentino’s flagrant violations of Atkinson resident’s civil rights.

Mr. Artus’ lawsuit will name Chief Consentino, the Town of Atkinson, the current sitting Selectmen, and former Selectmen Jack Sapia and Francis Polito. He will be seeking damages and injunctive relief against both Chief Consentino and the Town.

Please have the Town’s litigation counsel contact me if there any questions.

Sincerely,



Charles G. Douglas, III

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've heard most of this, but he yells at a person that filed a warrant article before the current one and leaves his blue lights on outside for all to see (and be warned by), and the selectmen didn't do anything about it?

People complain about our not leaving our names?

The selectmen that have allowed this man to bully the town are the greatest nutless wonders to ever roam the earth. Allowing a 2-bit chief of a pohunk little town to run the place as if he owned it is
------------- OVER ---------------
with this lawsuit! He's DONE!

Hey Jack Sapia! If you put half the energy that you've put into chasing the blog's signs around into controlling Consentino when you were a selectman you might have amounted to something...

You lost your chance. You went down in flames. Now all you can do is hang around in front of the community center during voting making believe you're intimidating people! GROW UP, and get a conscience!

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! WHAT NEWS! Does anyone know if this is the BOMB, or is SOMETHING ELSE COMING? My guess is this is just the beginning.

Chief Consentino........RESIGN NOW!

SELECTMEN........dump Consentino NOW or go down with the ship.

Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

How many more lawsuits must the citizens pay for before the Selectmen do their jobs and can him? At an absolute minimum he should be put in administrative leave and temporarily put in the LT as acting chief. He should also be removed as Director of EA. This %#@%#!@ charade is OVER.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this is the same law firm Ed Naile brought up a few days ago? I guess they did take notice, and saw something our selectman kinda overlooked.
Am I hearing a large women out in the distance singing? If you listen, she is getting louder.

Anonymous said...

At the VERY LEAST........Consentino should serve time in jail along with anyone that supported him in the past.

OUR CIVIL RIGHTS RULE FIRST AND FORMOST. Sullivan knew that and did nothing. Hope he gets the cell right next to Phil.

Anonymous said...

At the VERY LEAST Selectmen should put Consentino AND his wife Jody and son David on UNPAID LEAVE until this issue is settled in court.

Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Since ALL SELECTMEN are being sued, they should all step down and put prior selectmen in office until this suit is settled. All selectmen except SAPIA who is also being sued.

Anonymous said...

Why stop with the selectmen? Polito should also step down because he is being sued. Why should he oversee Town Meeting where he could influence the votes?

Where is Brian Boyle when we need him?

All of Town Meeting could be corrupted with Polito as moderator.

Anonymous said...

Oh crap.

Leon Artis made it very clear that he did not support any articles other than those on tax cards. So forgive me but where does he get off making it sound like his civil rights have been violated?

Anonymous said...

Guessing Leon Artus's attorney will make the case you can't possibly understand. Go read the law and stop wasting good law abiding taxpayer’s time.

You're not forgiven.

Anonymous said...

Wow, how ignorant for you to suggest that some one you don't even know, cannot understand the post.

Leon made it very clear that he was only involved with assessment issues. Don't you read his own postings? Look back.

I merely pointed out that Leon is making this his battle when he has, both on camera and personally stated that he is not concerned with anything other than assessment issues. If Carol put the articles to the Town, how can Leon claim that his rights have been violated? A valid question I believe.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Artus should fork over any money he receives to the people who wrote the 2 articles about the FT Chief and expanding EA and to the person who put their name on the article.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much the people requesting their names be taken off the petition appreciate being named in this lawsuit? So now Mr. Artus is suing the town? And they complain about our tax dollars being spent on legal fees incurred by the town? Feel free to refer to my posts about the use of lawsuits by CHNT and offshoots such as Atkinson Taxpayers Org as tactics. Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

So I have a couple of questions about this:

1. Is it legal to ask someone to take their name off of a petition? I guess the people named in the lawsuit will have to testify as to whether or not they were intimidated to do so. But I am curious if it is against the law to ask someone to remove their name from a petition?

2. From what I could tell, Sullivan and Friel were starting to come around on some of the issues. Mr. Sullivan has stood up to PC on several occasions and Mr. Friel, from what I understand, has worked very hard on the groundwater withdrawal issue. Why are all of the selectman being sued here?

MAcciard said...

To 11:51;

Nice attempt to reframe the debate to shoot the messengers.

If town officials did their jobs, and did not abuse their positions, residents would not have to sue.

Speaking as one who has witnessed this type of behavior ever since I complained about the chief violating the town code of ethics ordinance(imagine something that small) I can tell you that if you have not pissed the chief off, you have not had the opportunity to see this type of behavior from him, and probably have trouble believing it. But it is true, nevertheless.

The fact is no one should have to leave in fear of their police chief. And no one should have to remain silent when they see something wrong with their government for fear of retaliation.

And NO ONE should have to post anonymously on a blog because they are afraid of the police chief being able to target them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your reply. I understand your situation, however, there is no attempt to shoot the messenger or reframe the debate.

Several months ago, many folks had no issue posting topics questioning the connections President Obama had with certain groups. If I recall, you were one of the stronger supporter of these topics.

Why is it that, when showing the connection between Mr. Artus' local taxpayers group and CNHT and some of the "questionable" practices, there is now the outcry of shoot the messenger?

I thought this blog thrived on debate? Are we not within our rights to question the timing of the lawsuit? Not to mention all of the hints about it since last weekend? Of Mr. Naile's knowledge of it? And how AR2 got the "scoop?" Obviously, there was a tremendous amount of awareness of it amongst a certain group here. And let's not forget the costs to the taxpayers...ah yes, there was no choice but to do this...

Anonymous said...

To clarify:

Leon Artus runs the Atkinson Taxpayers for Fair Evaluation Committee. He does not run the Atkinson Taxpayers Association.

MAcciard said...

Thank you for recognizing my point.

I believe almost everything the government does should be in public's eye.

I also believe that when you hold a public office, you have to go above and beyond to do the right thing, because the public has the right to question you when you don't.

I also believe that all levels of government are answerable to me, not me to them.

And finally, I believe that, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "when the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny."

Anonymous said...

yeah the eagle trib, story got s lot of things wrong;

the elderly affairs article just make him post information, and supply services, without regard for who has angered him.

It doesn't separate anything, nor does it require a new director.

Anonymous said...

From G.D. Brownfield:

I am Chairperson of the Atkinson Taxpayer Committee and also gathered signatures for this years Deliberative Session. My future ability to gather signatures from my neighbors is now strictly compromised due to official actions by town employees. The ink was not dry before my signers were contacted, questioned, and criticized at length. THIS IS VERY WRONG. I was contacted personally by desperate petitioners requesting to remove a total of five signatures. And like Mr. Artus, I am not going to remain idle in the face of this official misconduct. I intend to sign onto this case and have Mr. Douglas represent me and my signers as well. Thank you Mr Artus and Attorney Douglas for the courage to take action. If I experience any police or other town intimidation whatsoever-- I will immediately contact the NH State Police, the State Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, NH Criminal Division-Jim Kennedy, and Attorney Douglas.

Anonymous said...

RE: January 28, 2009 11:09 PM

Ignoring Mr. Artus for a moment, can you claim anything said in the lawsuit is false? Could any reasonable person inside, or outside of Atkinson, not recognize a long pattern of abuse and harassment, and the failure of all the BOS's during that time to do anything about it.

Has the chief, even once, been publicly reprimanded for his actions?

The facts are clearly laid out. The chief has demonstrated a very long period of abuse of office, harassment of his own employees and the public, and as a consequence of his being able to get away with it, felt emboldened by it.

And this should put the BOS, current and future on notice. Do what is right. Do your job. A town employee misbehaves, REPRIMAND THEM. If the action is serious enough, FIRE THEM.

Those of you who work in the private sector know what I'm talking about. The chief has stepped over the line so many times its hard to track. He finally stepped over the big one, and guess who is going to suffer, US. This should have been taken care of years ago, period.

Anonymous said...

"G.D. Brownfield ,Chairperson of the Atkinson Taxpayer Committee"

Not to be confused with the Atkinson Taxpayers Association.

Gary, what does your taxpayers group normally focus on? Assessments?

Anonymous said...

To anon January 29, 2009 9:46 AM

Artis has stated on occassions that he's only interested in the tax card articles. The case surrounds the 2 police articles and how people were intimidated. Artis collected signatures along with 4 other people (according to this blog) but I fail to see where specifically his rights were violated.

I see where the rights of those who were intimidated were violated, and those of other people in town in the past. I asked a question about why he thinks his rights were violated personally. It's a legitimate question. I could also see if this were a class action suit representing all residents, or even if all 5 people collecting signatures were represented.

I fully agree that ALL of our rights are violated on a regular basis.

MAcciard said...

We have a town employee handbook, which is official town policy. In the section on employee discipline, it outlines a 4 steps discipline procedure. Verbal, written, suspension, termination, and it provides for those steps to be bypassed, or accelerated depending upon the severity of the violation.

Now look at some of the highlights;

Calling the police to evict a resident who was merely reading a letter, to file a complaint against him, and violating a Court Order in the process. I, as holder of that Court Order, could have filed comtempt charges again, but chose not to, as I was sick of the whole mess.

Calling a residents business partners to announce that he is under investigation, then when asked in Court about that saying there was no investigation, is clearly wrong.

Violating a Court Order, is clearly wrong, especially so for a chief of police.

Intimidating petitioners, clearly wrong, doubly so, in that the issue concerns your job.

How about sending resident threatening letters on police stationary? Again, seriously wrong.

How about repeatedly violating NHPSTC standards by working more hours than you are qualified to.

How about paying yourself $1300.00 that you did not qualify for?

How about taping someone against their will, in a NON-PUBLIC selectmen meeting(illegal), and then destroying that tape when it was subpeonaed?

All of this is documented. All of it is wrong. And throughout all of it the selectmen have buried their heads, and hoped it would go away.

Ask yourself, personalities aside, should ANYONE be allowed to get away with all of this?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Artus' rights have been violated in that his ability to collect signatures in the future, as well as his ability to garner local support for his organization have been severely hampered, by a vindictive chief of police.

Anonymous said...

I,m not a town resident but do live in an adjoining community. Long ago I made a statement that the Town of Atkinson was becoming the laughing stock of lower N. H. Now as I see it the town has come to the point of having recognized just that and some residents with guts have done some thing about it. This seems to being done not for themselves alone but for others and what they believe and feel is for the community good. I'm sure the questions of Mr Artus and his reasons for addressing the problems in your town are well intended for him and the town residents . The lawyers he has contacted will make the proper changes to his action to become a "class action" type of suit what with others being listed in the action. Second guessing as I might be ,I think he will win his case hands down but the town will suffer to pay his award and justice will have been served. He would be entitled to take the monies awarded him but second guessing again, I think he will pay the lawyers off and take very little of what is left for his use and forward the money to the towns treasury. I think from what I've read for so long these years of following the papers and blogs Mr. Artus is the type of man who will do that. I could be wrong but that is my opinion of him. The chief appears to have no shame after all he has caused and done to disrupt the towns people and the towns legal and proper operations. As for his wife and son I think its not easy being them and it seems that if they were to or wanted to do anything at all to stop the chief from continually causing problems then it seems that only two things could be happening in their personal and professional contact with their ,husband, father, and chief. 1. They condone and back him fully ,possibly out of fear for themselves or him alone. 2. They are so involved in what has happened that they are or will be considered as guilty as the chief. I would hope ,as an outsider, he ,the chief will step away from hurting his own self and his family and the town further. Simply put --Its time to do the old WW2 great Generals thing and silently walk away into the pages of history be it he will or would remembered as being liked or not. His mistakes are his alone and the Higher Power, of your own belief ,has the final judgement and that Power is much stronger than any court proceedings.

Anonymous said...

To January 29, 2009 10:25 AM.

Thanks.

I hope he makes that clear in the filing.

It sounds like alot of other people should get on the bandwagon with him.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't of said it any better.

Anonymous said...

Did the warrant pass last year to have town officials vigorously pursue counter claims for frivilous lawsuits?

Anonymous said...

To January 29, 2009 10:36 AM

"The lawyers he has contacted will make the proper changes to his action to become a "class action" type of suit what with others being listed in the action. "

It sounds like you are close to the situation. Is this really to be a class action suit or are you speculating?

Anonymous said...

This should be a lesson to all of the voters to NOT vote in those who are connected to the Chief. Maybe some of them are ok but as long as the Chief has support, we will pay thru the nose for his legal fees.

Anonymous said...

"Did the warrant pass last year to have town officials vigorously pursue counter claims for frivilous lawsuits?"

Do you consider what the lawsuit states as "Frivilous"?

Please, tell me, which one of the claims do you consider frivilous?

Anonymous said...

in response to the citizen who was questions Mr. Artus standing in having his civil rights damaged. I beleive this qustion igornes the fact that the violation is really concerning the people who signed the petition and were approached by the Chief. I appreicate someone willing to stand up to a bully on behalf of others. It is sad that in Atkinson it is very difficult to get people willing to sign any petition becuase of this type of abuse of power. So who ever is complaining about Mr. Aruts being part of this suit has obviously missed the point. Its not about Mr. Artus its about Phil Consentino running the Police Department like a southern sheriff. Its a very sad day we all have to be anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't complaining about Artis, I was asking for more information.

Not everything you read is intended as criticism, though I recognize yours clearly.

Anonymous said...

Can we make a motion at the session saturday to adjourn if it's getting too late or we don't have enough support, or do we have to go until we are done?

MAcciard said...

Yes, the "frivolous lawsuits" article passed last year.

The Legislative body(the people at deliberative session) can largely do whatever they want. There are very few laws limiting the scope of the legislative body, as Frank will tell you at the start of the meeting.

I love the comments dismissing this because they question how Mr. Artus' right have been violated! Don't you see that you are missing the point... The issue is NOT how Mr. Artus' rights have been violated, but the FACT that all of this actually happened!

Please tell me anything in this letter that is acceptable behavior.

Anything at all.

Anonymous said...

Re: Adjourning Deliberative Session.

If the meeting goes until close to 12 midnight, a motion will be required to adjourn because, I'm pretty sure - it can't carry over to the Sabbath.

My only thought would be that a lot of people won't bother to go to the adjourned session.

Anonymous said...

To Anon.12:09 - From 10:36 .... As I said prior I am not an Atkinson resident. Therefor I am not close to the situation as you may or do think. However, if you read the Anon.12:54 writing you have the answer to your inquiry as to my knowledge of the law as it is common sense after some thinking of what little law I do know . Some reading of this whole resident response on your and all readers should be done. In that way alone you'll find more than answers ,you'll find the need to get the changes necessary to be made for a brighter Atkinson future. Remember that I did say some time ago the town was the laughing stock of lower N.H. . Now to remind the readers that I just got through saying the towns people are now doing some thing about it. I made mention to a WW2 hero General ,liked or not ,in regard to the chief and the related past trouble w/i your town and I still feel that way even at this distance from Atkinson. I wouldn't want to be the judge or jury if it gets that far. Better the chief step down for all concerned and continue on looking forward to the future of the town and its citizens.

Anonymous said...

I did not dismiss anything Mark, nor did I miss the point!

I merely questioned why HE felt violated enough to take point on this, where he's usually just the tax card guy.

geez - I should be able to ask a question without people getting defensive. I even asked forgiveness first but still got jumped on.

Anonymous said...

it,s about time sink this a---h---

Anonymous said...

"I merely questioned why HE felt violated enough to take point on this, where he's usually just the tax card guy. "

The question is now a purely academic one. The suit has been filed. It is now up to a judge to decide if it has merit, or the parties come to a settlement.

What I would hope, and the town seriously consider, is putting Phil out to pasture and asking Leon in return to drop the suit.

If this could be done before Saturday, the meeting will go a lot smoother.

If the BOS insists on defending Phil, it is going to get ugly.

Anonymous said...

I heard they have been trying to get him to retire but he resists. It would be best for them to fire him by tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Please accept this as an article submission...


NH legislators propose giving towns more say on water withdrawals

By Eric Parry
eparry@eagletribune.com

ATKINSON — Two local representatives have filed bills in the state Legislature that would give towns more control over large water withdrawals in their communities.

Rep. Mary Allen, R-Newton, has filed a bill that would allow towns to have an impact study paid for by the developer. The state would notify the town when an application has been filed and the town would hire its own hydrogeologist.

"This way, towns officially know they can do something," Allen said.

Currently, towns are notified of applications sent to the state Department of Environmental Services, but they are never given any explanation as to how they can impact the process. The DES eventually makes the decision whether to allow water companies to withdraw the water.

Another bill, filed by Rep. James Garrity, R-Atkinson, would give towns even more power. The bill would allow communities to file local rules that regulate large groundwater withdrawals. Large groundwater withdrawals are classified as more than 57,600 gallons a day.

Atkinson resident John Wolters, who spoke in favor of Garrity's bill at a hearing in Concord last week, said he supports the bill because it gives local residents more power through the process.

"They have the power to deem what's in our best interest," Wolters said of DES.

It's not that DES does a bad job regulating water withdrawals, it's just that residents and towns feel they are ignored by the state, Allen said.

"This lets everyone in the area know what could happen," Allen said.

DES would still continue to do its own geological testing before deciding on the application, Allen said.

Wolters is one of two residents to ask the state Public Utilities Commission to deny Hampstead Area Water Co.'s request to borrow money from the state. Atkinson selectmen and resident Carol Grant filed similar requests to the Public Utilities Commission.

The water company applied for a $1.1 million loan to connect Atkinson's water system with Hampstead's over the summer. If the loan is awarded, 15,000 feet of pipe would be laid between the two towns. First, the Public Utilities Commission has to allow the water company to take the loan and increase its rates.

The Public Utilities Commission held a hearing in November on the issue, but has yet to issue a ruling.

Allen and Wolters said their concern about large water withdrawals is that they could have a negative effect on residents wells.

"We have no municipal water system here," Allen said.

Both towns have passed regulations regarding water withdrawals in the last year.

The Newton Planning Board passed new rules that would require the town to review applications for water withdrawals before they are submitted to the state. In Atkinson, a special town meeting was held in September where residents approved beefed-up local regulations regarding large groundwater withdrawals.

MAcciard said...

To Anon @ 2:18;

LOL, I wasn't getting defensive, I was merely using a response to your comment to consolidate responses to those previous who try to re-frame the debate.

Everyone who signed the petitions rights were at the very least infringed upon when the government(or one of it's officials) uses his taxpayer funded position and authority to intimidate said taxpayers.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, facts are stubborn things.

Anonymous said...

I am sick and tired of paying these clowns legal fees, just because they think they are untouchable.

Sorry, Phil, you've had a long run, but you should have quit before you became and embarrassment.

goodbye

Anonymous said...

I'll bet Phil is absolutely seething right now. Probably for most of the day.

But, you know what, he has absolutely no one to blame but himself. Leon, Mark, Steve Lewis, Carol Grant and all the rest are not responsible for this.

He will claim a few people are out to get him. That they have a vendetta. Sorry Phil. Here's a news flash - You did this to yourself, and the current and past BOS's did not put a stop to it.

Save yourself and the town more embarrassment. Say you are stepping down for family reasons, or health reasons, or to explore other opportunities. All of these are tried and true reasons to leave with dignity.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what the Eagle Tribune's spin on this will be.

Bet we get the usual quote from Phil. Maybe this time they'll bother to talk to some other people besides him. I won't get my hopes up.

But, they have been critical of him before. Lets hope they go back and find that spine they used last time and use it again.

Anonymous said...

How is it possible to achieve dignity in the context of manifest indignity set up over years? It is oxymoronic to imply a resignation manifests dignity.

Fishgutz said...

Just be grateful he is no a prosecutor or a judge.
He needs be to be fired in such a way that he is disqualified from ever holding any public office or collecting a public pension. Since barely 1 year are being hired as a part time cop he has been abusing the limited authority to feed he need to feel power over others.

Anonymous said...

What the heck was that again fishyguy?

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:48 PM,

That's the most coherent Fishgutz has been in a while! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Eagle Tribune completely missed it, or chose to completely ignore it.

Kinda hard to put a positive spin on this from the Chief's standpoint, which is all they seem to care about lately.

So, the question of the day? Is it Phil's last?????

Anonymous said...

Webmaster: This might make a good submission article.


Atkinson resident ready to sue town, police chief
By Eric Parry
eparry@eagletribune.com


January 30, 2009 10:27 am



ATKINSON — Leon Artus thinks police Chief Philip Consentino has been intimidating residents who support a warrant article that could cost the chief his job.

He feels so strongly about it he is preparing to sue Consentino, selectmen and the town of Atkinson.

Artus, founder of the Atkinson Taxpayer Committee, said he never had a problem with Consentino until earlier this month when he was collecting signatures for a petitioned warrant article that would put Consentino out of a job. The article directs the town to hire a full-time police chief — with a bachelor's degree and 15 years experience.

Consentino is a part-time chief, limited to 25 hours a week. He said he is the lowest-paid member of the Police Department, with an annual salary of approximately $21,000.

Artus also was involved in collecting signatures for a warrant article that would expand the town's elderly affairs services, another department headed by Consentino. The chief is not paid for his work as elderly affairs director.

Artus' attorney, Charles Douglas, said he plans to file the lawsuit next week. Douglas, a former state Supreme Court justice, said filing a notice of intent is the first step in the process and he did so on Wednesday.

"The letter summarizes what will be in the suit," Douglas said.

Douglas sent a letter to selectmen this week, claiming within hours of the two petitioned articles being delivered to the town office, Consentino "was calling elderly signatories to demand an explanation as to why they had signed petitions which might impact his long hold on the Police Department and Elderly Affairs Office."

Douglas' letter claims Consentino's actions violated Artus' civil rights. He goes on to say Consentino used his position as police chief and elderly affairs director to intimidate citizens into silence.

Consentino could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But it's not the first time these claims have been made since the petitioned articles were submitted.

Two weeks ago, Consentino said he did contact three people who signed the articles to question why they wanted him out of a job. But he denied intimidating anyone. That same day, he said, he received a letter from an elderly resident, thanking him for his help during the ice storm. Consentino said he was surprised to see her name on a petition that would oust him from his job.

Artus said yesterday the articles aren't targeting Consentino.

"This is about moving the Atkinson police department into the 21st century," Artus said. "If he can't qualify for the job — he's had it for a long time — let someone else who's qualified do it,"

Consentino is a 40-year veteran of the Atkinson Police Department, a former three-term selectman and the director of elderly affairs.

The elderly affairs article is intended to expand the program and allow it to benefit more citizens, according to Artus. There is nothing in the article that would remove Consentino from his job as its director, he said.

Douglas' letter also takes selectmen to task for not reprimanding Consentino.

"The town's inaction constitutes an established pattern and practice of ratifying and complying with Chief Consentino's flagrant violations of Atkinson residents' civil rights," Douglas wrote.

Selectmen William Friel and Fred Childs said last night they had not seen Douglas' letter. But they also said Artus has never come to selectmen to complain about Consentino.

Anonymous said...

"But they also said Artus has never come to selectmen to complain about Consentino."

What good would it have done he had? A big reason for this whole mess is the BOS's failure to reprimand and/or fire the Chief, despite his long history of transgressions.

MAcciard said...

thats a riot! because I had two people that I dont even know call me, thinking that I had something to do with those petitions, (other than signing them I did not) and I complained to Steve Angelo, and he told me that he could do nothing unless one of the people called filed a complaint against the chief.

They knew about it, and did nothing! They gave him the petitions even before the signatures had been verified.

Anonymous said...

The Eagle Tribune is not the only newspaper with a story. Watch the Manchester Union-Leader

Anonymous said...

I hope Leon has a bodyguard tomorrow.

And, I dearly hope someone from the NH State Government is in attendance. It is time for them to see how things really happen in this town.