by Ed Naile

The mentality of “We are a team with special status” pervades all.

This is what you are up against when it comes to keeping government accountable. One look at “The Swamp” in Washington, DC shows definitively how power, money, and influence alter the way people come to think and behave when they join the team. Even the smallest amount of government power corrupts if you are not careful.

Take the tiny Town of Dummer, NH for instance.

Starting in 2016 the public finally became aware of the theft of municipal funds by the Dummer’s team member, Mariann Letarte, the Town Clerk/Administrator/ Emergency Management Director/ Bookkeeper for the Milan-Dummer Ambulance.

The theft of the documented $147,000 in stolen taxpayer dollars is called a “misappropriation” so as to soften the blow of bad publicity for the Dummer team member. This a long-held tradition when it comes to government employees stealing anything of value from taxpayers. The local media is very careful to comply with this tradition. Remember, the municipality in question is often a good customer of the team and a source for news, so they go light on team members who are exposed as thieves. Local media is often a quasi-team member.

If you want to see how solid a team can become, in spite of how bad things look for a member, I offer this news story about Dummer’s beloved, thieving, town clerk.

The title of this article sums up how the local media cover for the town clerk and her team members – the elected board of selectmen.

“Dummer Asks Judge For Leniency In Sentencing Town Clerk” by Barbara Tetreault.

It is as though the entire town has asked for leniency, not just team members, David Dubey, former Selectman Dennis Bachand, current Selectman Chris Holt and Richard Ouellette, who appeared at the sentencing hearing on the thief’s behalf.

Current Selectman David Dubey even read a prepared statement on behalf of the town asking that Letarte be required to make full restitution but also asking for leniency in sentencing, so I question how this team member has the authority to speak for the entire town.

It is estimated that each household paid $1,000 in extra property taxes covering for the stolen funds. This must be a very generous group of townspeople Selectman David Dubey is speaking for.

As if more evidence of the team mentality is needed we have another story about Dummer.

“We do not regard Mariann’s crimes as pure acts of villainy, but rather of acts of extraordinary poor judgment,” Selectman David Dubey said.”

When it comes to poor judgement one must ask: Where were the Dummer Selectmen from 2011 – 2016 as the theft of a huge portion of that small town’s revenue was being stolen? Did any of them look at a vendor bill, contractor payment, abatement, individual check, treasurer’s report or audit? Their names were forged on documents. Did they notice that? (When I was a selectman in Deering, NH I caught my name being forged on an abatement.)

Or here is another question: Does this town have one, single, non-team member who did question where tax dollars were going all these years? Almost every town has someone every team member regards as a crank who asks questions about town spending. I didn’t see any of that in news accounts of the unfortunate poor judgement incident in Dummer.

Another point to ponder.

As I have looked at theft of municipal funds over the years I have seen one constant problem that never seems to get resolved. That problem is this. How much was really stolen?

In Ashland, NH the beloved team member, Town Clerk Rosie McNamara, “misappropriated,” by auditor estimates before they gave up, over two million dollars, but was charged with taking $111,000. You can see this in case after case, the Litchfield treasurer, and Amherst town clerk come to mind.

So how diligent were the, sympathetic to the town clerk, Dummer team members in discovering how much was really stolen from them – Oh WAIT, I mean the taxpayers. Those are the people not on the team.