What Happens When a Selectwoman Challenges the Town of Piermont? – Part 4 Lawsuit Forced
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.
It was the actions of Selectmen Stubbings and Subjeck and their refusal to abide by the laws of the state that forced her to file a lawsuit in Superior Court, currently the only place Right to Know complaints about Selectboard’s can be heard.
She did not do so willingly but their own unwillingness to treat her civilly when she had always treated them that way or to ever once offer to discuss anything with her or take any but a “our way or the highway” approach to all their dealings with her, simply left her no choice – Town time and money was being wasted and spent without proper oversight to protect the taxpayer and the minutes were being censored by an employee who both encouraged to be insubordinate to Selectwoman Mertz.
After the suit was filed, neither they nor the Town attorneys offered even once to discuss the complaint with an independent mediator – they went right to spending Town money to respond to each and every allegation, requesting and reviewing all the thousands of pages of evidence Selectwoman Mertz had obtained in just the few months since she took office.
Selectwoman Mertz even made settlement offers but all were completely ignored.
And, in fairness to them, why shouldn’t they? As was pointed out in a recent Right to Know NH blog:
“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.”
Instead, by their manner and refusal to do it any other way, they virtually insisted that she had to go along with the way Town business always had been done, which for the most part was in backrooms and by secret agreements completely out of sight of the public.
In other words, they not only forced the lawsuit, their lack of responsibility to the Piermont taxpayers ensured it continued.
Eventually an incident occurred at the Town offices after which she and her husband, based on now proven false statements by Town employees and a Selectman, faced the possibility of being arrested for theft and wiretapping, neither of which they did, and being banned from the Town offices, even though both are elected officials with a right and a need to use those facilities.
Those same false statements were then repeated at a public meeting causing otherwise decent people to become verbally violent toward Selectwoman Mertz, even though they had been presented with no actual proof that she or her husband had done anything wrong.
But that obvious fact didn’t stop misogynist old men grumbling loud enough for others to hear, “They should get the cop to drag her out of here”, and outbursts like “Why are you doing this? Are you possessed?” based on no evidence at all of any wrongdoing on her part – just being accused was enough for them.
Or maybe it was because she was a woman who dared to interfere in “man-business”?
Her cardinal sin seems does seem to be that she exposed the good old boy way of doing such man-business in town and revealed that special deals were being made to benefit only certain people and would never be made available to any others.
She had also showed that the other two Board members were repeatedly either acting on their own or together outside of public meetings and expending Town funds without Board approval.
In that business plan, favored people, also identified as “old timers” by one advocate of the “let’s keep things as they are” militia, get special treatment such as:
– They don’t have their properties foreclosed on even after owning many years of back taxes.
– They are paid for anything they submit for payment without question.
– They can have junky yards that are both eyesores and health hazards but nothing is done about it.
– Their property assessments go down even though improvements have been made.
For “newcomers” or those who are seen as being “not one of us”, it’s a far different story:
– Their properties are foreclosed on for back taxes.
– Their property assessments go up by huge percentages because of “adjustments” even though no improvements may have been made.
– Their assessments are based on incorrect measurements that artificially inflate the valuation of their property.
– They are fined for a junky property that is no worse than those of people “in favor”.
– Town employees harass them.
– They are not allowed to speak or are shouted down at public meetings, but in-favor persons can talk about anything they want for as long as they want, even if it’s not on the matter being discussed.
… and the list of disparities goes on and on.
The irony of it all is that while most of the “newcomers”, like Ms. Mertz and her husband, pay their taxes on time and even in advance, they are “discouraged” from speaking at meetings and harassed for daring to question how their tax dollars are spent while the “old timers”, some of whom do not pay their taxes in a timely manner, have given themselves permission to verbally attack anyone who questions their right to feed as deeply as they want at the taxpayer trough.
That’s may be because those “newcomer” tax dollars are gladly used by the “old timers” not only for their own benefit but also to fund a 2017 Piermont Village School budget of over $2.776 million for 92 students in Pre-K to Grade 8 and tuitioned out for high school.
That works out to over $30,000 per year per student. While it’s commendable that the people of Piermont want to provide a Town school for their children, to put that into perspective, the annual average 2017 tuition at private colleges across the country is projected to be $33,480, while the cost for private elementary schools in New Hampshire is $10,474.
So we probably shouldn’t wonder why the Piermont “old timers” and their minions from neighboring towns want to keep their way of doing business the same as always and will viciously attack anyone, even a Board member, who dares challenge their taxpayer supported empire.
It would be nice if all business could be conducted with a handshake but in reality that only works when there are honest people with integrity on both sides of the deal.
That’s why contracts were invented long before even the Piermont old-timers were born.
But instead of wanting to do business fairly for all by people who do have integrity and will conduct town business lawfully, Piermonters seem to want to continue doing business the good-old-boy way and think the kind of person they need to do that is someone who falsely claimed to be a military veteran and law enforcement officer.
A person who would stoop so low as to intentionally dishonor the sacrifices of real veterans and real police officers almost certainly doesn’t have the integrity to ensure such handshake agreements benefit all citizens of the Town equally, not just the select few who not only seem to know an opportunity when they see one, but who might also lack the integrity not to take advantage of their more trusting neighbors.
Next: Part 5 – Piermont Taxes, Assessments and Avitar