What Happens When a Selectwoman Challenges the Town of Piermont? – Part 3
Defamation of a Selectwoman to Hide Right to Know Violations.
Introduction from 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.
After being in office only a few days, Selectwoman Mertz found many reasons to ask questions about town contracts and the actions of the other Board members.
For doing so, she found herself immediately under verbal attack and the object of intentional public defamation based on false and derogatory statements directed at her from the other Board members, Town officials and employees.
It all came about because she:
– Dared to question a Selectman who appeared to have made a decision affecting the Town without Board discussion.
– Refused to consent to an agreement she’d never seen and which had never been discussed in any detail by the Board.
– Questioned what services were being performed for a contract that did not exist but that the Town had been paying increasing amounts for each year.
– Dared to purchase her own business cards with the title “Selectwoman” instead of “Selectman” on them because the office staff took over two months to order the regular cards for her despite repeated requests.
– Pointed out that a quorum of Selectboard members could not meet with anyone to conduct Town business outside of a properly called public meeting.
– Asked what was being done to ensure a Request for Proposals for the Town’s expiring Property Assessment contract was sent out as soon as possible.
Instead of working with her to correct what she felt were clear violations of the people’s right to know or conduct Town business in a professional, open manner for all citizens to see and read, the other Selectboard members not only continued what they were doing, she says they began refusing to give her documents she requested, or act on anything she brought to the Board for consideration.
As a Board member, she has the right to request any item she wanted be put on the agenda if she thought it was of benefit to the Town, but to prevent her from doing so and to make it is difficult as possible for her, she says they:
– Required that she provide extraordinary documentation for anything she wanted on the agenda, while neither of them had to for any of their agenda items.
– Began refusing to put her items on the agenda unless she submitted a request at first one, then two, then a completely arbitrary number of days before a meeting.
– Even then they wouldn’t put her items on the agenda, despite the fact that they were for the benefit of the people of the Town, like the expiring property assessment contract or timely ambulance service for the eastern portion of the Town.
She says despite the fact that she tried to work with them again and again, their continued refusal over the next two months to even discuss anything with her led her to have to:
– Object to the other two Board members secretly creating two new positions without job descriptions.
– Object to the hiring of two current employees to fill those positions without advertising the positions publically.
– Insist that meeting minutes contain a brief summary of all items discussed, the results of votes taken and motions passed as required by RSA 91-A:2.
– Object to meeting minutes being censored with entire discussions intentionally omitted even after she requested they be included.
For all that, she says, she was subjected to further vicious verbal attacks in private and in public meetings by the other Board members, office staff and misinformed members of the public, with childish rationalizations such as “Move out of town if you don’t like the way we run things here”.
As punishment for daring to purchase her own business cards, then Chairman Randy Subjeck wasted hours of Town office and public meeting time chastising her for placing her picture on the front of the card and what he referred to, in an appalling display of unawareness, as a “splotch” on the back of the card, which was nothing more than a form of bar code used on most business cards now and grocery items; even the US Post Office has been using it for years.
But what seemed to anger him the most was that she had the nerve to use the title of “Selectwoman” in place of “Selectman”.
Maybe that was too feminist for him, which made him think it was an illegal title?
Mr. Subjeck did appeared to think it was illegal because he wasted more time claiming he had thoroughly searched the statutes and could find nowhere in there that “Selectwoman” was a permissible title.
Selectman Stubbings seemed at first to contradict him, saying he had no problem with her card or her picture on it and he thought it was a good idea to have pictures of Town personnel in other places as well, but then said that what he objected to was that she didn’t ask his/ their permission to do so first.
That completely ignores the fact that both he and Mr. Subjeck are accused of routinely acting upon many much more important matters by themselves or together that expend Town funds or make deals without one word to her or revealing their actions in a public meeting.
Mr. Subjeck’s scolding of Selectwoman Mertz was scheduled to continue at the next meeting but the next day he was informed that not only was there a statute that permitted her use of the title “Selectwoman”, it was one of the very first articles. Had Mr. Subjeck actually searched the statutes using the “Search” field kindly provided by the state for online research, simply by typing in the word “Selectwoman” he would have found the statute in less than a minute.
Instead, he may not have done any kind of research at all and may have just been looking for a way to try to embarrass Selectwoman Mertz in public.
But why would he choose to do that? She certainly hadn’t done anything wrong or wasted Town time and taxpayer money like he seemed willing to do over a nothing issue.
It could have been handled by letting it go and then at some other time make a policy if the rest of the Board thought it was necessary to spend time on such a small issue.
There were certainly much larger issues to tackle, like the expiring property assessment contract that Selectwoman Mertz was trying to ensure stayed visible to the public, but kept getting swept aside by what appeared to be the much more pressing need to defame her in public at almost every meeting after she began asking questions they didn’t like and made favored persons uncomfortable.
Instead, as was testified to in Court, prior to the Board meeting he spoke to the then Executive Assistant and requested that she bring up the matter during her report. Maybe he thought if a complaint came from another person in the office it would appear to be a bigger problem than it actually was?
Once he was told about that statute, though, he immediately dropped his other objections about her picture and his splotch without a word of apology to her or informing the public at the next meeting why she was now permitted to place her business cards in the Town office.
Since all Selectboard members have equal authority and status under the law, with the Chair being mainly a ceremonial position, nothing more, she actually did not need his or Mr. Stubbings permission to purchase, at personal expense, and display her own business cards.
But apparently in Piermont she does need the permission of the male members of the Board, even though it was perfectly legal for her to use the Selectwoman title or how many hours of public time and money it wasted.
As the weeks went by, she says they continued to ignore her requests, acted without informing her of what they were doing, continued to hold secret meetings and encouraged gross insubordination from office staff toward her.
Then and only then did she seek legal advice, not immediately after being elected as the Piermont rumor mill maintains.