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County commissioners discuss procedures for coming year

CARROLL COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIALS were sworn in Jan. 2. Pictured here (l-r) are Sheriff Domenic Richardi, Register of Probate Henry Mock, County Commissioner David Babson, County Commissioner David Sorensen and Register of Deeds Ann Aiton. Also sworn in at the county administration building Jan. 2 were Aiton’s deputies – Anna Hill, Pamela Berlind, and Arlene Chase. County Attorney Robin Gordon was sworn in at Third Circuit Court in Conway by Judge Pamela Albee. County Treasurer Jack Widmer was, as of press time, set to take his oath of office Jan. 11. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
January 10, 2013
OSSIPEE — He won't sign off on any minutes that include wording telling readers to check out the videotape if they want to know what happened at the county commissioners meetings. That was just one announcement newly-elected county commissioner David Babson made during his first meeting on Jan. 2.

After a swearing-in ceremony, the commissioners met to vote on officers and to set some new practices in place for the upcoming year. Babson, who has been attending the weekly commissioner's meetings as an audience member for years, came prepared with a list. Babson was elected by his fellow commissioners to serve as vice-chairman for his two-year term, Commissioner David Sorensen was re-elected as chairman for his four-year term and Commissioner Asha Kenney will serve as the commission's clerk for the remaining two years of her term.

The previous board of commissioners flip-flopped several times on their decision whether or not to include what the public had to say in their meeting minutes. Babson continually advocated for the public's comments to be included in the meeting minutes as an important part of what goes on at commission meetings. During the past year, in some minutes the public's comments have been included. In other minutes only the commissioner's response to audience member's questions were included. Other times, public comment was eliminated from the minutes completely with the reader being directed to look at the videotapes of the meeting taken by videographer Ed Comeau for posting at www.governmentoversite.com. Comeau receives no compensation from the county budget for his efforts, though he creates video of practically all county commission, county delegation, and subcommittee meetings. "Mr. Comeau runs a private business. There is no telling in 20 years if someone wants to look something up that we will even have the technology to read the tapes. I would hope that pertinent comments from the public should be recorded (in the minutes) without a reference to going to the video," said Babson.

In what Babson referred to as a source of irritation and inconsistency, he asked that from now on the commissioner's weekly meeting agenda be available on the county website at www.carrollcountynh.net no later than "Monday noon of any week."

Babson also requested the commissioner's hold work sessions in addition to their regular meetings that would be open to the public but without public input and would allow time for the commissioner's to legally meet and do the work of the county. Babson questioned how it is possible to run a "$27 million dollar a year business" when only meeting for an hour and a half a week for their regular meetings.

Additionally, Babson's list included making it a new practice that the commissioner's conduct job performance evaluations in writing annually for all department directors, something that is not currently being done, according to Sorensen. "How does a person that's working here and has done a good job get a raise? How does a person not doing a good job get kicked in the can and told they have to do a better job?" Babson asked.

In another organizational note, Sorensen who said he has "been criticized in the past for being overly fair" and too liberal with letting the public run the commissioner's meetings, said anyone making accusations at meetings against the commissioners must, from now on, have written documentation to back up their claims or they will be gaveled out of order. If that doesn't work, the meeting will be temporarily adjourned until order is restored. "When accusations aren't supported, it makes us look bad. From now on, accusations must be in writing," said Sorensen. And, if the accusations stem from something a viewer saw on the meeting videotape, said Babson, the complainant must provide the date and time of the video clip.

Other county business

Sorensen said, as of Jan. 2, it was still unclear whether or not the county's insurance policy will pay any of the costs associated with the county farm's pole barn that that under construction when it collapsed last month.

Commissioners divvied up the responsibility of being the liaison between the commission and various county departments. Babson was assigned to the jail and the county farm. Kenney is assigned to the county attorney's office and sheriff's department. Sorensen will be responsible for the nursing home, registry of deeds, and "whatever else is left."

Newly-elected Carroll County Attorney Robin Gordon has confirmed that her opponent in the 2012 race, Stephen Murray, has resigned his job as an attorney with the county office and has been hired as a prosecutor for Coos County.

Rich Young, retired Sandwich Police Chief, has been hired as the second-in-command at the Carroll County Sheriff's Department.

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