Category Archives: Sandown Issues

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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Seattle’s Pointless Legal Battle with Public Money

The very first right of the public to be infringed in floundering administrations is the public’s right to know what their government is doing.

Unlike rational individuals spending their own money, public entities will take up hopeless legal battles in an effort to hide embarrassing information in defense of misguided decisions.

Seattle spent more money trying to hide the disappointing revenue from a tax, than it gained in income from that tax.  In this case, Seattle’s gun and ammunition tax drove business out of the city rather than generating the anticipated income.  Instead of just saying so, the city decided to try to block public disclosure of the total revenue.  It went to court with the predictable result.

Fox News links to the story: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/08/02/seattle-spent-more-defending-gun-tax-lawsuit-than-it-collected-in-revenue-from-tax-gun-group-claims.html

Back at Timberlane….

During the 2017 organizational meeting after the March election, the Timberlane Regional School Board passed the following resolution:

VOTE: The newly amended motion to allow the Superintendent to seek legal counsel when necessary with firm most appropriate and to use Drummond and Woodsum as the counsel of record and to obtain prior school board approval for matters of litigation passed 5-4-0 (Mr. Bealo, Mr. Ward, Mrs. Sherman and Mr. Guide opposed).


The four votes against the motion were from those elected officials who do not believe the superintendent should have to seek permission from the board to engage in litigation with public funds.

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Green Complaint Escalates to NH Board of Education

Gentle Readers, here is the reply I received from SAU 55 concerning my request for a public hearing on alleged violations of RSA 194-C:5, which charges SAU boards with setting salaries for SAU employees, something our superintendent does currently.

July 25, 2017

Dear Mrs. Green,

This email confirms receipt of correspondence from you dated July 21, 2017 relative to your complaint invoking ED204.  This correspondence will be placed in the correspondence folder for review and possible discussion by the whole SAU 55 Board at a future SAU 55 Board meeting.

Cathy Belcher


The next scheduled SAU meeting is October 4, 2017, a good three months from my complaint.  I read that as a “No.”

As a result, I have forwarded my complaint to the NH Board of Education and the Office of Legislation and Hearings.  A pre-hearing before the hearing officer will take place in mid-August.  That will be followed by a full hearing after which the hearing officer will make a determination.  That is then placed on the NH Board of Education’s agenda for their subsequent action.  Timberlane may be represented by an attorney.

All this is so avoidable if your SAU would simply put their big boy pants on and do their job. What is so hard about responding to my allegations in public and correcting what may be out of compliance with the law?

Faithful readers will perceive a pattern in all this. You might wish to join me in calling it The Three Monkeys Syndrome: see no evil, speak no evil, and do nothing.  The SAU board knows members have a much easier time of things if they clutch their blindfolds, cover their mouths and do nothing. Heck, a spouse might even get a job at Timberlane.

The Timberlane board could force the issue by taking a vote to require the SAU board hold a special meeting to sort this out, but they won’t.  Why, I don’t know.

What I do know is that this neglect cashes out in undisciplined budgets.  Unlike the school district budget, the SAU budget is untouchable by voters. The laws exist to protect taxpayers and I’m simply trying to get the law enforced.

Here is my complaint to the New Hampshire Board of Education concerning the conduct of the SAU 55 board:  Ed 206 Complaint_0001   

 

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