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Police Commissioner Ladd thanked for his years of service

Outgoing Police Commission Chairman Ben Ladd (left) congratulates newly-elected Commissioner Ron Goodgame following his swearing-in this Monday morning, March 15. Joining the celebration were Police Chief Stuart Chase (left), Lieutenant Dean Rondeau and Commissioner Curt Pike. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
March 18, 2010
WOLFEBORO — Making note that this was to be his last meeting as a Wolfeboro Police Commissioner, Ben Ladd first offered congratulations to commissioner-elect Ron Goodgame at the police commissioner meeting last Thursday, March 11.

Touching on the past five years he's served as Commissioner but without going into detail, Ladd related a positive experience in which the evolving commission was able to move forward at a good pace. Regardless of a few setbacks that needed to be addressed, Ladd said the commission worked together positively and accomplished a lot.

"I've had a very good run in the last five years, it's been very positive and I've enjoyed working with everybody…I know the transition is going to be very smooth and everything will continue to go that way."

With Ladd's departure, fellow commissioner Curtis Pike was named chairman for the upcoming year. The senior commissioner happily took over the responsibility.

"It's a real honor to be the chairman. This year I think I'm physically able to do it. The last time I wasn't."

Pike went on to commend Ladd for the job he did as chairman and commissioner, adding that over the years he'd spent hours under the police cruisers fixing them up. Pike said the community owes him a lot of thanks.

Under Commissioner's items, Ladd took a moment to address a letter to the editor written by Molly Leone (Granite State News, March 4) in which Leone stated, "A commissioner assists in developing the budget and overseeing the daily operations of the department, without micromanaging." Leone, a former police commissioner herself and a supporter of unsuccessful police commissioner candidate George Hutchinson, urged voters to "vote for the one who will encourage community policing and strive to improve the relationship between citizens and department members."

In the letter Leone continued, "I believe a commissioner should represent those who elected him and intervene on their behalf, when necessary. The previous two commissioners [Ladd and Goodgame] have not demonstrated they possess these qualities."

"Nowhere in our job description," Ladd clarified at the meeting, "does it say that we oversee the daily operations of the police department." He added, "that's the chief's job and I don't know how you could do so without micromanaging."

Ladd went on to explain that it's also the police chief's responsibility to create the budget, which the commission later approves and then presents to the budget committee.

Other business

Chief Stuart Chase reported that a total of 18 arrests were made in February, a 20 percent increase from the 15 arrests in January. All 18 cases remain open. Three people were taken into protective custody in February. The 64 reported offenses in February led to an 18 percent increase from those reported in January.

Several of the department's officers had attended training and community outreach in the past month. Lt. Dean Rondeau attended a three-day Drug Task Force Commanders School in Franklin, Mass., hosted by the New England State Police Information Network (NESPIN). Chase said this was a good experience for the lieutenant that would have had a high tuition cost if the department had not been a member of NESPIN. Additionally Sgt. Chris Keaton participated in the college and career day at Kingswood High School, and Sgt. Randy Archambault participated in the KidsCare ID event held at Harvest Market for which a letter of thanks was sent to the department from the lead loss prevention officer of Associated Grocers of New England.

The chief is currently working with Sgt. Archambault on scheduling and deployment of bike patrols for the upcoming summer months, focusing on the downtown area, beaches, parks, and bike paths.

During public comments, former commissioner Joe Melanson asked several questions of the board. The first, if the current meeting was actually a legal meeting and if it met the definition of a quorum, was much debated.

Melanson's belief was that since Ladd had not been re-elected as commissioner at town elections, his role as commissioner ceased that very day, and since Goodgame was elected, he had to wait three days before joining the commission.

"In my opinion this means that you [Ladd] cannot perform the duty of police commissioner, as Mr. Goodgame, where he was elected, can not perform in the capacity of a police commissioner until he is sworn in after three days."

In effect, Melanson felt that both Ladd and Goodgame were incapacitated and that because of commissioner Joe Balboni's absence, Pike was the only official sitting member and there was not a legal quorum.

This wouldn't have been an issue, Melanson pointed out, if the meeting had been held the following week and Goodgame was sitting in.

Pike responded that after talking with Town Clerk Pat Waterman that very day about the issue, he felt certain that Ladd legally remained an acting commissioner until Goodgame was sworn in.

Unhappy with Pike's reasoning, Melanson asked if the commission could follow up on the issue.

On a related issue Melanson asked the commission to consider adopting a policy that if an elected commissioner missed more than three meetings per year, the commissioner should consider resigning. With the exception of unforeseen circumstances, he said, there are a lot of reasons why a commissioner shouldn't miss a meeting and that when they do, they're not doing due justice to the townspeople. He added that there was a similar unwritten policy when he was on the commission.

Melanson took this time to point out that according to the commissioner meeting minutes, Balboni had missed four meetings during the last year and was again absent at this meeting.

Another resident, John Ross, agreed with Melanson's point, but recommended it as something for the commissioners to look into and suggested no harsh decisions be made right away. He offered utilizing Skype as a means for the board to hold meetings when a member is unable to physically attend.

The commissioners took no stance on Melanson's suggested policy.

Melanson's third question had to do with how a $10,000 Byrne grant, awarded to the police department from the Department of Justice last summer, had been spent and if cameras (for installation in cruisers) had been purchased.

Chief Chase answered that the grant had been used for purchasing equipment but that no cameras had been bought. When asked if there was money in the budget this year for cameras, he explained that because of strict mandates from the town, which included a zero percent increase (with the exception of negotiated contracts), there was no money set aside for cameras.

Lastly Melanson wanted to know the status of the recent citizen survey to which Chase replied that the results were in, but he was waiting for a reply from the University of New Hampshire where the data was being analyzed.

In response to a last public comment Chief Chase said that he would check with the parole department when asked by a local business owner for help with getting money he is owed from a plead case in which the defendant was sent to jail. Frustrated with the process and lack of responses he's getting, the business owner said he hasn't been paid anything though it's been over a year since the arrest.

The police commission will meet again on Thursday, April 8. Goodgame will take his seat on the commission for the first time and Pike will preside as chair.


Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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