Cease and desist orders rescinded in flyer controversy
January 26, 2011MOULTONBORO — The Attorney General's Office has rescinded the Cease and Desist orders issued to five residents last year for alleged violations of law regarding political advertising.
In March of 2009, the AG's office received a complaint from resident Paul Punturieri concerning a flyer advocating against the adoption of SB2, alleging that the flyer did not identify its source and some of the mailed flyers were unsigned.
On June 8, Cease and Desist orders were issued to Karel Crawford, Laurie Whitley, Lisa St. Amand, Anita Blood, and Mary Ann McRae for failure to comply with the disclosure requirements of RSA 664:14. In the letters, the AG's office cited that the authors of the flyers were not properly identified and the group's president or treasurer was not named.
According to the letter sent by the Attorney General's office on Jan. 20, the office decided to reopen the investigation after receiving numerous letters requesting reconsideration of the cease and desist letters.
According to a copy of the letter sent to Crawford, Investigator Richard Valenti re-interviewed the recipients of the letters and Punturieri. In the process, an original copy of the flyer was turned over to Valenti.
"Unlike the photocopied flyer previously made available to us, the original copy clearly established that the back of the flyer was used as the mailing envelope," read the letter sent to Crawford, signed by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Mavrogeorge. "The back of the flyer contained a stamp bearing the last name and mailing address of Laurie Whitley, who is one of the individuals who you worked with in sending the flyers out. Additionally, you informed investigator Valenti that you put your return address on each flyer that you sent out."
The AG's office concluded that the back of the flyer satisfied state law by including a last name and an address to reach the sender.
"Based on representations made to us during the interviews, it is our understanding that all of the flyers were mailed in that manner would comply with New Hampshire law," the letter read. "We further found insufficient evidence to support the allegation that the individuals who gathered together to send out copies of the flyer constituted an enterprise or organization under RSA 664:14, II."
According to the letter, the cease and desist letters were rescinded and the matter has been deemed closed.
"I never felt that I did anything wrong. This just basically validates that we just really executed out First Amendment rights and opposed SB2 and did it appropriately," Crawford said. "I'm very happy that the AG's office reopened this investigation and saw what was going on."
"I'm delighted. I felt all along that once the AG saw all the facts the outcome would be a rescinding," Whitley said.
Punturieri said he was disappointed in the ruling.
"I thought that it was already decided. I'm disappointed that it wasn't upheld," Punturieri said. "It's a done deal; they made their decision."
Regarding the materials, "They got the same information both times. I don't know what information was resubmitted the second time that was different than the first."
Punturieri said he will review documents related to the investigation but otherwise considers the matter a closed issue.
"I feel like the complainant really disparaged the volunteers who just happened to disagree with him, and it was a frivolous complaint and I would like to see him apologize to us," Whitley said.
Punturieri said he disagreed with Whitley's statement.