May 29, 2014OSSIPEE — As of press time, a right-to-know request submitted by this reporter asking for proof of a commissioner's claim that county employees double-billed for mileage had not been answered.
At the May 14 county commissioner's meeting, Commissioner Asha Kenney made the claim that five employees travelled in a van to a conference and all submitted a mileage reimbursement form. She said this happened "a few years ago." She also stated she brought it up to her fellow commissioners at the time.
At the May 19 county delegation meeting, she was asked by the delegation to provide proof of her claim. On May 20 this reporter filed a written request asking for proof that employees had been paid money they were not owed.
When asked at the May 21 commissioner's meeting, Kenney said, "It did happen" but it would take her some time to go back through old records to find when. "I made a motion that if employees are carpooling and they come back to the county only the driver should be putting in for mileage," said Kenney. She said she brought it up "immediately" at the time to then-commissioner Dorothy Solomon, but was told that is how business is done in the county and so she signed the reimbursement checks.
Kenney has yet to state publicly what date, or conference, or even what year this alleged incident occurred. That has made it tricky for anyone trying to find proof whether or not it occurred. A quick review of all commissioners' meeting minutes on the county website at www.carrollcountynh.net for 2011, 2012, and 2013 revealed no motion made by Kenney to address the travel policy.
"You are accusing them of stealing and you admitted you helped them by signing," said Commissioner David Babson.
When a right-to-know request is filed, the receiving agency has five business days to respond, in writing, by either providing the requested information, denying with reasons why the information cannot be released, or asking for an extension to allow more research time.
In the meantime, a writer named John Reason sent emails to and received responses from several members of the county delegation and sent copies to this reporter. Though we have not been able to verify Reason's identity, the responses from delegates indicate some are taking Kenney's allegations seriously. "John, we do indeed take this serious. I have asked Commissioner Kenney to provide me copies of the documents that are in question, along with a copy of the travel policy that the County has. Once I receive these I will review them and determine what action needs to be taken, if any," wrote delegation chair Rep. Karen Umberger (R-Conway).
Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) replied simply, "This is not the role of the delegation."
In addition to Rep. Susan Ticehurst (D-Tamworth) detailing her recollection of events at the May 19 meeting and her apparent understanding of the seriousness of the accusations, she also addressed Reason's concern that the delegates said little at the meeting when asked to investigate Kenney's claims. "As delegation members, our conduct is guided by House rules of decorum which require us to keep our outward expression of emotions in check. I hope you will understand that outward restraint in no way indicates a lack of concern over possible theft by county employees or malicious accusations by elected officials. It also does not reflect a lack of determination to address the situation," she said.
Rep. Mark McConkey (R-Freedom) indicated that if he doesn't receive proof from Kenney as he requested, he plans to file a formal written request on June 2.