Selectmen will not try to dissolve Conservation Commission
Motion withdrawn at advice of attorneys
November 16, 2010
BETHLEHEM– The move to dissolve the Conservation Commission ended Monday night after legal advice from town counsel and the withdrawal of an earlier motion.
Selectman Richard Ubaldo withdrew his motion of two weeks ago to dissolve the commission after first reviewing the reasons why he wished to do so in the first place and after reading from minutes of a Conservation Commission meeting on Sept. 28. He said the Commission had been contemplating sending a letter to newspapers in southern New Hampshire and to the governor's office, despite reservations by some of the members that the selectmen might not like a letter being sent.
Two weeks ago the selectmen considered a motion to dissolve the commission after hearing that it had directly contacted Gov. John Lynch's office asking that he intervene with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) to have it reconsider its August decision to approve expansion of the Trudeau Road landfill.
On Sept. 20 the selectmen voted not to appeal the decision after receiving advice from their attorneys that the likelihood of a successful appeal was slim. The Conservation Commission agreed the following week to contact Lynch's office.
When members of the select board found this out they were angry and viewed the commission's actions as designed to circumvent the will of the selectmen. During a meeting two weeks ago the board was ready to vote on the motion but decided to wait until legal counsel had been sought. They also heard from members of the public and the commission who were angry that the commission's autonomy was being threatened. Ultimately they did not act on the motion, deciding instead to see if they had the authority to proceed.
Ubaldo and fellow selectman Mark Fiorentino said they were angry with the process and that the selectmen were not consulted.
Board Chairman David Lovejoy said Monday night that the town attorney had advised the selectmen that they didn't have the authority to dissolve the commission. That could only be done by a vote of the people at town meeting—the authority which created the commission to begin with.
Lovejoy said that Fiorentino was misinformed as to the powers the board had in that regard.
"How much were the legal fees so Mr. Fiorentino could be educated on this matter?" Asked resident Chris Jensen.
Fiorentino defended himself, and said the question was not that easy to answer.
"They had to dig into case law to determine the answer," Fiorentino said.
Commission member Cheryl Jensen said the commission had been maligned by the selectmen's actions and said the term "malicious" had been thrown around far too loosely.
"I feel I should ask for an apology from the board and an assurance something like this will not happen again," Cheryl said.
At one point Lovejoy got out of his seat and said the issue was a dead issue, it was resolved. He said he could assure her that the issue was settled and that institutional memory would prevent it from happening again.
No apology was issued, however.