April 17, 2013WEST STEWARTSTOWN — It was during what is usually the most routine part of Wednesday's county commissioners meeting — the approval of minutes of their previous meeting on March 20 — that Commissioner Rick Samson of West Stewartstown accused his fellow commissioner Paul Grenier of Berlin of manipulating a bid award.
According to item 10 in the March 20 minutes, following an hour-long non-public executive session, the board of commissioners voted unanimously, 3 to 0, to allow the county Department of Corrections to expend up to $16,000 from the Inmate Trust Fund to construct a visiting area at the county jail.
Then, according to the minutes, "a motion was made by Commissioner Grenier, seconded by Commissioner Samson, to waive the bid process required by statute and county policies and to award the contract to Dennis Boudle for the construction of the visiting area…. All approved, 3 to 0."
At the April 10 meeting, Samson said that he had been unable to find any provision in the law that would allow the board to take that specific action, and he asked that action on the bid be put on hold until the law could be further researched.
Chairman Tom Brady of Jefferson and vice chairman Grenier both immediately seemed receptive to his concern.
Then, however, Samson pointed out that several people had told him that they had spotted Grenier having lunch with former commissioner Burnham "Bing" Judd of Pittsburg and county treasurer/former Sen. Fred King of Colebrook at Howard's Restaurant in downtown Colebrook before that meeting took place. He implied that it was then that Grenier had inappropriately discussed the bid award with Judd and King.
Later that morning, Grenier pointed out that he feels free to have lunch with any citizen of the county. As it happened, Grenier said, he had arranged to meet Judd with whom he had served on the board of commissioners for some years for lunch and that when he had spotted King he had invited him to join them.
No county business was discussed, however, he said.
Grenier also pointed out to Samson that bringing up this kind of "baloney" really hurt the effectiveness of the board.
When Samson stated that he wanted to be a member of a three-man team, Grenier responded, "You're going about it the wrong way."
When the Rick Alpers and Ty Gagne of Primex who were already on the agenda joined the meeting, the commissioners agreed that they would like to use the non-profit's services to build the board's leadership capacity, including using the 50-page Profiles questionnaire, designed to better understand how best to work together.
Both Primex consultants said that the exercise aims to make board members and department heads able to understand "who they are behaviorally so they can limit conflict."
All materials remain confidential, they said, and are not subject to the state's right-to-know law.
In other action, Samson recommended that the commissioners seek "consulting party status" in any federal Section 106 review of historic properties, buildings, or sites on behalf of the Unincorporated Places as well as the organized towns and the City of Berlin that might arise in association with the proposed Northern Pass project across Coös County.
Grenier said he would like at least a month to review Section 106 and to understand the potential role that Samson believes the board of commissioners should play. He said, "I'd like to have a month for research."