Monthly Archives: August 2017

Right to Know NH Receives Award

This is a release from Right to Know NH. 
I'm so proud to be a member of this organization. Kudos, everyone!

RTKNH receives Loeb First Amendment Award

The Union Leader reports that Right to Know NH is this year’s recipient of the Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Award.  The award will be presented on October 5, 2017 at the Palace Theater in Manchester, NH.  The event will also feature attorney Gregory V. Sullivan who will receive the Quill & Ink Award and story-teller Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show.  The event is a fundraiser for the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

Established in 2013, Right to Know NH is a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen coalition that works to make state, county and local government in New Hampshire more open and transparent. Group president David Saad and other members testify on public-access and right-to-know proposals in the Legislature and work to educate citizens and public officials about their rights and responsibilities under the Right to Know Law.

Sullivan, of Malloy & Sullivan LPC, is being honored for his “tenacious defense” of First Amendment rights, the school said, as well as his efforts to educate the public and aspiring journalists about their rights and responsibilities under the law.

 

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Board Member Earns $24,000 from TRSD

Do you think it is appropriate for school board members to have occasional work from the district they are charged with overseeing?

Tonight your school board will be talking about “Conflicts of Interest.”  Thanks to Right to Know information I received today (and paid $2.50 for), I will be bringing some rare facts to the table.

Back on August 17,  I asked for “Check vouchers showing payments to Kelly Ward, Ward Fabrication, and all entities associated with Kelly Ward for the fiscal year 16/17 from either SAU 55 or Timberlane Regional School District.”  Kelly Ward is a Sandown representative to the Timberlane Regional School District.

Today I received the individual invoice summaries as well as a “Vendor Invoice History” for Ward Fabrication for 16/17.  These documents showed eight checks issued to Mr. Ward, totaling $23,877.25.  Of that amount, $18,616 was for “Fabrication for 8 frames for 4 batting cages.”  There was no mention of materials, though some of this could be for material cost. You may recall that the batting cage work was awarded to Mr. Ward in the spring by a 7-1 vote of the previous board.  (I was the sole vote against it on grounds of conflict of interest.) The board has not been told the final cost of the project but the board rejected a motion I made to cap the cost at $30,000.

One voucher for $200 was for “Engineered drawings for batting cage project.”  That check was issued on Nov. 30, 2016.

Additional projects included:

  • welding a dishwasher for $735;
  • repairing field hockey goals  $1,041.25
  • welding a drum  $132.50
  • welding repair to plow frame  152.50
  • a steel rail for HS ADA ramp $3,000

The Vendor Invoice History is here: Kelly Ward’s income from TRSD

I did not obtain copies of the individual vouchers at 50 cents a page, but anyone is free to go into the SAU to inspect them.

 

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SAU’s Motion to Dismiss

Instead of simply saying they will give me a public hearing on my complaint, SAU 55 hired a lawyer, instructed him to appear before a hearing officer in Concord, and then write a motion to dismiss.

Here is the motion to dismiss my complaint.  It is seven pages long and argues that the issue isn’t ripe, I don’t have standing, and that the Board of Education doesn’t have jurisdiction over the matter.

As you read it, just keep the meter running.  That’s the sound of your tax dollars being wasted by a group of individuals who would rather spend your money than confront issues head on.

2017-08-18 SAU Motion to Dismiss (1)

 

 

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Superintendent Stonewalls Policy Changes

In more behind-the-scenes drama of your Timberlane School District, here is an email exchange between me and our superintendent whose contract extends to 2022. (Note, I am the school board head of the standing Policy Committee.  Superintendent Metzler is the administrative head of such policy committee.  Yes, two snarling heads on one beast.)

August 17, 2017  8:34 am   

Dear Mrs. Belcher and Policy Committee Members:
Attached are two draft policies for consideration at our next Policy Committee meeting.
Mrs. Belcher,  kindly place the two attached draft policies at the top of the agenda for the next policy meeting and include them in the packets.  Please remember that going forward all policies should be accompanied by their corresponding procedures (when they exist) in our packets.
Committee members, kindly review for discussion.
Thank you,
Donna

Draft Policy DA-A Default Budget

Draft Policy EH rev Aug 6 2017 (Right to Know)


August 17, 2017    11:32 am   [Addressed to Policy Committee members]

Good morning –I am responding as the Co-chair since I was not consulted on these suggested policies. After a quick read it is clear that these two suggestions are embedded in procedures which is not our role. I suggest we use our time on policies and let the people actually responsible for developing procedures complete that work. This also appears to be something that should be discussed at our next Board meeting under the conflict of interest agenda item.  Any member that has failed or pending litigation against the school district should not be writing policy associated with those cases. Thank you.

Respectfully, Earl


The draft policy on Default Budgets will ensure an honest default budget, providing voters with a real choice and ensuring a tight proposed budget.

The policy on Right to Know will end the pointless and expensive obstructionism by the administration.

Are these policies good ideas?  Who cares?  Let’s change the subject by accusing Donna Green of a conflict of interest.

Neither of these policy proposals puts a penny in my pocket.

Neither policy affects the outcome of my two lawsuits against the district, the more recent of which ended 6 months ago. (My current dispute is not a law suit; it is an administrative complaint which doesn’t affect TRSD.)

Neither policy would result in employment of my spouse on the TRSD payroll – nor allow me to become a public relations consultant for TRSD, either with or without uncontracted reimbursement of professional development expenses.

Neither policy would result in me obtaining a contract installing flower beds at Sandown North.

Neither policy would result in me being hired by the SAU as assistant business coordinator, a position for which I am not qualified, following my service on School Board.

I have no children participating in clubs, teams, performance groups or honor societies in the district, so these policies can’t help me there either.

But by all means let’s not discuss the policies.  Let’s discuss conflict of interest.

 

 

 

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Administrative Pre-Hearing: Green against SAU 55 Board Continues

On Friday, August 11, 2017, I was in a small room with three lawyers, being recorded with a piece of New Hampshire antiquity, a cassette tape recorder.
The room was in the Walker Building at the state government complex on South Fruit Street in Concord.  Room 200 held a few tables, pushed together to make a conference table, with a modest number of chairs around it.  A few microphones were on the table and nothing else.  Everything that transpired is public record.
Seated at the head of the table was the hearing officer, Attorney Peter Foley.  Across from me sat James O’Shaughnessy,  SAU 55’s attorney from Drummond Woodsum. By his side was Geoffrey Dowd, SAU 55’s new Business Administrator and an attorney by training.
All parties were convivial and relaxed.
The purpose of the pre-hearing conference was to “facilitate the proceedings of the hearing by discussing and clarifying the issues on appeal, discussing the possibility of settlement, stipulating to facts not in dispute, discussing the number of witnesses, and making discovery requests,”  according to the pre-hearing notice sent to me on August 3, 2017.
I had prepared a list of facts not in dispute, a list of evidence to be requested and a list of witnesses, depending on the agreed upon facts.  I had also considerably fleshed out my complaint.  None of that work was destined to be presented that day.
Without any discussion of merits, Mr. O’Shaughnessy immediately argued to dismiss the case on three procedural grounds:
  • ripeness
  • standing
  • jurisdiction
“Ripeness” was a new term to me but its meaning was evident.  O’Shaughnessy argued that the administrative rules require SAU 55’s board to first hold a hearing on the issue before it can be escalated to the Board of Education.  Since SAU 55’s board had not decided NOT to hold a public hearing, the issue was not yet ripe for an administrative hearing by the hearing officer, so he argued.
“Standing” is a perennial issue for those wishing to see the laws of this state enforced against a public body.   O’Shaughnessy argued I didn’t have specific harm and therefore had no standing to pursue the complaint.
“Jurisdiction” is a more complicated issued that O’Shaughnessy mentioned without details. He referenced a court case concerning a related RSA where the ruling indicated the Board of Education had no jurisdiction over the matter.
The hearing officer said he would make no ruling on a motion not submitted in writing so that I could have an opportunity to respond in writing.
We took a while discussing whether a motion to dismiss should be submitted before or after the SAU’s board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on October 4, 2017.  A written motion to dismiss, if granted before the next meeting, would likely just find us all back there again when I resubmitted my complaint should SAU 55’s board not deal with my complaint to my satisfaction on October 4.  Then, you see, the issue would be as ripe as a peach in August.
The hearing officer set the deadline for a motion to dismiss (before the Oct 4, SAU meeting), for August 18.  My deadline to respond was set for August 25.
Mr. O’Shaughnessy said his client had instructed him to file a motion to dismiss and he would need to confer with his client to determine the date of his submission.
In a particularly interesting development, the Timberlane board has been told by an unofficial source that our liability insurance carrier, PRIMEX, will be denying claims from SAU 55 for the costs of this administrative proceeding.
I take it as quite encouraging that the SAU’s lawyer did not want to address my complaint on the basis of merit and must resort to procedural wrangling to defend his client.
Naturally I’ll keep you posted when I receive the motion to dismiss.

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Default Budgets: Anybody with the Guts to Fix Them?

You may remember that I challenged SAU 55 and the Timberlane Regional School District in New Hampshire’s Superior court in order to obtain a line-item default budget. Unfortunately, I was not successful and Timberlane taxpayers had to suffer once again with a default budget HIGHER than the proposed budget which is contrary to the legislative intent of default budgets.  Since the default budget is what the district must run on if the proposed budget is rejected by voters, it is imperative to know how the default budget is constructed.

Even with the limited information provided, earlier this year Arthur Green demonstrated that Timberlane voters were deprived of an honest default budget because Timberlane’s default budget illegally included additional staffing positions.  You can read his trenchant analysis here: Default Budget: Exposing the Shakedown

There was more dishonesty in this budget but difficult to prove emphatically because the default budget given to Timberlane representatives and citizens is a high level summary that makes it impossible to know exactly what was put in and taken out.   Some districts do provide detailed information but not at Timberlane where things financial are disclosed only with the claw marks of a growling administration.

This is where your elected officials should jump in to impose a policy that requires transparency in default budgets.  Linked below is a policy based on one that had been adopted by the Milford School Board. (Sadly it is no longer in force because Milford’s elected officials abandoned their taxpayers in favor of the school administration, something Timberlane taxpayers experience all too often.)

Will Timberlane’s board adopt this policy, or will they continue to take lightly their duty, under penalty of perjury, to declare the default budget accurate and truthful?

Draft Policy DA-A Default Budget

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Legal Seminar for School District Officials and the public: August 12

The TriTown Times wrote an excellent article on the forthcoming seminar being held by the School District Governance Association of New Hampshire.  Thank you, Penny Williams.  (It is a pity you are blacklisted by Timberlane, but articles like this might explain it.)

Elected officials and members of the public are welcome to attend this seminar, “How to Manage Your School District/SAU Legal Engagements.”  Attorney Richard Lehmann will be conducting the lecture and question period.

Nackey Loeb School of Communications, Manchester,  Saturday, August 12, 9 am – 12:30 pm.

You can read Penny’s article here:  Seminar to be Held for School District Members

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