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What is the Law Regarding Town Meetings?

By CNHT | March 23, 2017

Cancelling Duly Posted Meetings or Elections

If weather conditions look like they could be dangerous to voters at an annual Town, Village District, or School Meeting, the Moderator can postpone the meeting – but not a date set for an election of officers by ballot. That is reserved by law to election laws supervised by the Secretary of State, found in RSA Chapter 654.

This isn’t rocket science. These laws define who is in charge of meetings and who is in charge of elections. Just because one votes at both doesn’t make them the same. Have you ever discussed the merits of a candidate with other voters while voting by ballot on a candidate in the polling place? No. That is called electioneering. When the election is over you get results.
But you discuss issues and budgets at appropriate times of meetings – where you keep minutes, then you vote in person.
Municipalities are subject to state statutes – or else they would operate under their own laws or traditions. Since they are subdivisions of the State of New Hampshire they are bound by State statutes.

5:1 Department; Secretary; Election and Bond; Transition. –
    I. There is hereby established a department of state under the executive direction of the secretary of state. The secretary of state shall be chosen biennially in the manner directed in the constitution and in accordance with RSA 14:2-b and shall hold office until a successor is elected and assumes the duties of the office. The secretary of state’s duties shall be those of both a legislative branch as well as an executive branch officer. The penal sum of his bond shall be $10,000, and the sureties upon it must be satisfactory to the governor and council.

    II. The term of office for the new secretary of state shall begin on the first Wednesday following the first Tuesday in January. The new secretary of state shall assume the duties of office upon taking the oath of office.

    III. It shall be the duty of the outgoing secretary of state to make available to the new secretary of state all official documents and vital information necessary for a full and complete understanding of the operation of the department of state.
Source. Const. II, 67, 70. GS 13:1. GL 14:1. PS 15:1. PL 14:1. RL 21:1. 1950, 5, part 4:1. RSA 5:1. 1976, 45:10. 1989, 72:1. 1994, 4:1, eff. May 27, 1994.

Section 5:6
    5:6 Election Items. – The secretary of state shall prepare and distribute the election-related items as provided in the election laws.

Source. RS 11:2. CS 11:2. GS 13:3. GL 14:3. 1885, 94:4. PS 15:7. PL 14:4. RL 21:4. RSA 5:6. 1979, 436:2, eff. July 1, 1979.
Section 652:1

    652:1 Election. – “Election” shall mean the choosing of a public officer or of a delegate to a party convention or the nominating of a candidate for public office by voters by means of a direct vote conducted under the election laws. The term does not include caucuses or conventions. The types of elections are further defined in this chapter.
Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:2 Regular Election, Special Election. – “Regular election” shall mean an election required to be held periodically under the election laws, a city charter, or a local by-law, and which is held in accordance with the same. Any other election shall be a “special election.” As used in the election laws, “election” shall mean a regular election.
Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:3 State Election. – “State election” shall mean an election to choose a federal, state, or county officer or a delegate to a party convention or to nominate a candidate for federal, state or county office. The 3 types of state elections are defined in RSA 652:4, 652:5 and 652:6.

Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

  652:7 Town Election. – “Town election” shall mean an election to choose a town officer.

Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:8 City Election. – “City election” shall mean an election to choose a city officer.

Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:13 Federal Election. – “Federal election” shall mean any state general, special, or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of choosing or nominating any candidates for the offices of president, vice-president, United States senator, or United States representative. For federal ballot only voters domiciled outside the United States who are eligible to vote in federal elections as provided in RSA 657:2, “federal election” shall also include any presidential primary election.

Source. 1979, 436:1. 1983, 176:1. 1986, 126:1. 2010, 317:2, eff. July 18, 2010.

  652:14-a City Chief Elections Officer. – The city clerk shall be the chief elections officer with authority to establish uniform practices and procedures that conform to state and federal law for all elections conducted by the city.

Source. 2006, 78:1, eff. July 1, 2006.

The New Hampshire Municipal Association is basing their interpretation of the difference between an election of officers by ballot with the two-part deliberative session and day you vote on articles set into the warrant after the deliberative session.
NHMA is wrong.

40:4 Duties. –
    I. The moderator shall preside in the town meetings, regulate the business thereof, decide questions of order, and make a public declaration of every vote passed, and may prescribe rules of proceeding; but such rules may be altered by the town.
    II. In the event a weather emergency occurs on or before the date of a deliberative session or voting day of a meeting in a town, which the moderator reasonably believes may cause the roads to be hazardous or unsafe, the moderator may, up to 2 hours prior to the scheduled session, postpone and reschedule the deliberative session or voting day of the meeting to another reasonable date, place, and time certain. The date originally scheduled shall continue to be deemed the deliberative session or voting day of the meeting for purposes of satisfying statutory meeting date requirements; provided, that in towns or districts that have adopted RSA 40:13, the postponement shall not delay the deliberative session more than 72 hours. The moderator shall employ whatever means are available to inform citizens of the postponement and the rescheduled deliberative session or voting day.

Source. Const., Art. 32. RS 33:3. 1847, 490:1. CS 35:3. GS 36:3. PS 42:5. PL 46:4. RL 58:4. RSA 40:4. 1998, 278:1, eff. Aug. 25, 1998.

Topics: Town Government, Town Meetings | Comments Off

What Happens When a Selectwoman Challenges the Town of Piermont? Part 2

By CNHT | March 21, 2017

What Happens When a Selectwoman Challenges the Town of Piermont? Part 2

If you still don’t understand that your own NH town is a good place to start draining the swamp, please read Part 1.

Piermont is a small town in Grafton County, New Hampshire. When we say small, we mean it — the population of Piermont was a mere 790 at the 2010 census.

When Teran “Terri” Mertz, wife of George Mertz, Commander, USN (Ret) was elected to a seat on the 3-person Selectboard in 2016 for a three-year term, she never expected that her attempts to insure the town simply follow rules and procedures would lead to harassment, threats of arrest, and even an attempt to ban her from entering the town offices.

While the 91-A law provides that ANY citizen, not just elected officials, can request public documents, Terri Mertz has been required to make a written request for all documents she wants.

The tax record posted below is the last one she was allowed to see.

Did the other selectmen do this to protect a person they hired, a person Mertz alleges is at least double-, if not triple-dipping into the taxpayer till by logging time for all three of her part-time town jobs simultaneously and working almost as many overtime hours when she is supposed to be only working part-time?

Selectman Subjeck, of course, is the only one who is allowed to see/ sign that employee’s time-sheets.

It is quite probably that many of the people in the attached tax record listed as being in arrears have simply fallen on hard times. But, certain names do stand out, as those who have been in arrears since as far back as 2013. The law is fairly strict about how long a town can allow taxes to go unpaid. If, after two years the taxes remain unpaid, the tax collector will deed the property to the municipality (N.H. Restat. Ann. § 80:76).

Coming in Parts 3 and 4 will outline attempts to defame the Mertzs, and inconsistencies with tax assessments by Avitar.

Piermont Outstanding Taxes as of July 2017

Topics: Abatements, Assessing, Litigation Updates, Right to Know, Town Government, Town Meetings, View Tax | Comments Off

What Happens When a Selectwoman Challenges the Town of Piermont?

By CNHT | March 20, 2017

What Happens When a Selectwoman Challenges the Town of Piermont? – Part 1

If you still don’t understand that your own NH town is a good place to start draining the swamp, please read on…

Piermont is a small town in Grafton County, New Hampshire. When we say small, we mean it — the population of Piermont was a mere 790 at the 2010 census.

When Teran “Terri” Mertz, wife of George Mertz, Commander, USN (Ret) was elected to a seat on the 3-person Selectboard in 2016 for a three-year term, she never expected that her attempts to insure the town simply follow rules and procedures would lead to harassment, threats of arrest, and even an attempt to ban her from entering the town offices.

Sound familiar? This is all too often the case in small towns that have tight-knit operations and receive little to no scrutiny from the taxpayers.

So, what exactly what did Ms. Mertz discover? Mertz suggested that her two male colleagues, Randy Subjeck and Colin Stubbings, violated New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law by holding illegal meetings, making payments to vendors without having followed legal contract procedures, and mismanaging meeting minutes, for starters.

When she began questioning their actions, she immediately found herself under personal attack from not only both of them but one of the Town attorney’s who made specious “rulings” against her, not to mention those “citizens” who benefited from the alleged corruption.

After months of attempting to work with the other Board members, their offenses and personal attacks against her only increased to the point where she had no choice but to file a Right to Know suit against them dated July of 2016 in Grafton County Superior Court [215-2016-CV-00168]. The case has now advanced to a final two days of hearings in Grafton Superior Court on March 21 and 22, 2017.

The lawsuit alleges in part:

- Selectmen Stubbings and Subjeck, acting in concert with one another, have repeatedly and consistently caused the defendant, Town of Piermont, to violate the State of New Hampshire rightto-know law, specifically RSA 91-A:2, RSA 9r-A.2-a, RSA 91-A:3, II(c), and RSA 91-,{:4

- The town has not provided meeting minutes in a proper or timely fashion

- Citizens are being hired and paid without proper contractual agreements, sometimes made without discussion or being voted on at any Board meeting, despite the fact that Selectwoman Mertz objected to such agreements when she heard about it in a nonpublic session held at the request of the citizen in question

- That she, Mertz, was subject to coercion when she refused to go along with what she felt were illegal procedures

- Meetings that should have been public were held in private, and for an invalid reason, specifically on May 5, 2016 and her subsequent request to correct the matter was ignored

- Meetings that were supposed to be public were not properly noticed

- Mertz suffered public denigration over the issue of her business cards which she had printed when the town was taking too long, which referred to her as “Selectwoman”, which is legal according to NH RSA 2I:28. She was attacked for titling herself as “Selectwoman” instead of “Selectman” as Stubbings and Subjeck apparently preferred

- Job hirings for critical town office positions were not properly approved or advertised per law

- The court is asked to find that the Town of Piermont has violated
RSA 91-A on one or more occasions and that Selectmen Stubbings and Subjeck have
caused those violations to occur and that they be fined and required to correct their actions and receive remedial training in addition to paying all attorney’s fees and expense

- As a result of Selectwoman Mertz’s efforts, she and her husband have suffered extreme alienation and public threats, including unwanted visitors to their property, and financial hardship such that they are seeking lawyers fees which are now in excess of $60,000, and projected to go much higher because Selectmen Subjeck and Stubbings have rejected all reasonable offers of settlement. Apparently, as long as the Town continues to pay for their defense, they are happy to spend the taxpayers money to protect themselves.

The problem the citizens of Piermont face was best stated in a recent Right to Know NH article:

“Unlike the citizen who filed the lawsuit, public officials don’t bear the burden themselves. Public officials, use taxpayer money to hire lawyers to fight on their behalf against the citizen’s right to know. They spread their financial risk across all the unwitting taxpayers within the community. The deep pockets of taxpayer funding and trivial personal financial risk, breeds disincentives for public officials to resolve the citizen’s complaint outside of court.”

The question is: “When will the citizens of Piermont wake up to the corruption rampant in their town?”

This lawsuit alleging violations of the Right to Know laws is not the end of it.

Coming in Part 2 will be Piermont and allegations surrounding issues of attempts to defame the Mertzs, inconsistencies with tax assessments by Avitar, and residents with unpaid taxes.

Topics: Abatements, Assessing, Litigation Updates, Right to Know, Town Government, Town Meetings, View Tax | Comments Off

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