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Joyce Endee

Sheriff criticized for how prosecutor was hired

Acquisition of two military surplus Hummers also controversial

January 19, 2012
OSSIPEE— Two Hummers, a prosecutor, and whether or not sheriff deputies have to buy their own uniforms kept county officials busy last week as a delegation subcommittee and a commissioners' meeting tried to sort out the sheriff's recent actions, without him present.

Sheriff Chris Conley sent Lt. Michael Santuccio in his place to the Jan. 9 subcommittee meeting and again on Jan. 11 to the commissioner's meeting. The county delegation, made up of state representatives from Carroll County is charged with setting the county budget and approving any major projects undertaken by the county commissioners. Subcommittees of the delegation were appointed in recent years to various county departments to act as a liaison between the departments and the full delegation.

At both meetings county officials and the public asked questions about the budget, including a few surprise items.

Commissioner David Sorensen said he was taken aback and it was "the first he heard of it" when the commissioner's were signing bill payment checks and came across one for $4,200 for body work to a Hummer vehicle. Santuccio said the sheriff received two Hummers from a military surplus program. One is planned for use to haul the department's mobile command center when its use is called for and the other will be used for off roading, for example when storms hit and some roads throughout the county are impassable by regular police vehicles.

The second issue is the sheriff's department prosecutor. Santuccio said New Hampshire is unique in that police are allowed to prosecute their own cases. But, he added, it is time consuming and takes away from their regular duties. While statutorily, the sheriff's department is responsible for transporting prisoners, serving warrants and court papers, and providing courthouse security, they perform regular police work, especially in towns with no or only part-time police departments. Money was not budgeted for the new position in 2011 and it is not a separate line in the proposed 2012 budget. Santuccio confirmed that the prosecutor, Tim Morgan, also serves as prosecutor for Wolfeboro Police Department. Santuccio said he is currently working about 10 hours a week for Carroll County cases and is paid $37 per hour, a salary higher than current assistant county attorneys are being paid.

In neither the subcommittee meeting nor the commissioners meeting did anyone argue against the idea of having a prosecutor, but they had plenty to say about how the hiring was done. Sorensen told Santuccio to take word back to Conley that the proper thing to do is to fire Morgan, present the proposed new position and its budget to the delegation for approval, and if they agree to it, hire Morgan back on April 1 when the 2012 budget officially takes effect. "It's illegal the way it is," said Sorensen.

Former county commissioner Chip Albee pushed the commissioners to take a stand against the sheriff's actions and said, "It's the only thing you can do (firing the prosecutor). The sheriff said he had hired this person as a deputy and that is a misstatement. I would go so far as to say it is a lie. This notion they can go unfettered in the sheriff's department… you have to say there is no money available, there is no line item and there is no authority to hire this person. There is no other alternative but to discontinue it. If you were to deputize him now, that doesn't mitigate the damage done previous to this. It is a course of conduct that is just outrageous. Commissioners have generally said it would be nice if the sheriff would bring these things forward. It's the law. He has to bring them forward. This Hummer issue? My position is to send the damn things back. They were never properly brought into the inventory of the county. At some point in time the reins need to be pulled. If you don't have him dismissed you are just breaking the law…..I fully support hiring a prosecutor but it needs to be done the right way."

According to at least two delegates, if you are promoted into a management position in the sheriff's department, you should have to buy your own uniforms. Rep. Steve Schmidt (R-Wolfeboro) told Santuccio that the county should not be paying for his deputy uniform that he is required to wear to work. "I will approve not one dollar more than what is contractually required under union contract. As part of the management team you are not obliged to receive a stipend for that. I don't want to hurt your feelings but as part of the management team, it's on you."

"So I have to buy my own uniforms?" asked Santuccio to which Schmidt responded, "That's correct." McCarthy concurred with Schmidt.

The opinion of two delegates is a long way from final approval of the 2012 county budget. The sheriff's department subcommittee will be meeting again Jan. 23. The full delegation will meet Jan. 30 to begin dissecting the proposed budget that has to be finalized by March 31.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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