Allard Says Budget Committee Member Not Legal
By STEPHEN BEALE
The school board chairman has asked for the removal of a budget committee member whom he says is not allowed to be on it.
School board chairman Keith Allard said that Bill Gordon was not a legal member of the budget committee because he is not a commissioner of Grasmere Village Water Precinct, which he is supposed to be representing. In a Wednesday e-mail to budget committee chairman Dan Cloutier, Allard asks him to “immediately act” to address the situation.
Allard cited a legal opinion the town had received Jan. 16 from the Local Government Center stating the water precinct seat on the budget committee had to be filled by one of its commissioners.
Allard, who is himself an appointed member of the committee, said the illegal appointment of Gordon had “tainted” the budget committee process. He said the only recourse, at this point, is to redo the votes on the town and school budgets the committee did Tuesday.
The legal opinion had been requested by Town Administrator Sue Desruisseaux after a general conversation on the budget committee with Cloutier. Neither Desruisseaux nor Cloutier could specifically remember how the issue of Gordon’s appointment came up during their talk.
Gordon was appointed by the commissioners in the fall of 2007. Four of his predecessors were not commissioners either, according to Gordon. Having non-commissioners serve has been the “past practice,” according to Cloutier. Since spring 2008, Gordon actually has served as an alternate commissioner, a position created that year.
Gordon is one of four appointed members on the committee. The other three are from the board of selectmen, the school board, and the Goffstown Village Water Precinct. Richard Fletcher, the official representative of that water precinct, is listed as a commissioner on the town Web site.
The other 12 members of the budget committee are elected.
Gordon said he was being targeted because he has been a vocal proponent of cutting spending, especially in the school district. At the Tuesday budget committee meeting, Gordon voted in favor of a nearly $1 million reduction in the school budget.
“As usual, the free spenders are going to bully, harass, and belittle anyone who dares to defy them,” Gordon said. “I am serving on the Goffstown Budget Committee to bring my talents, experience, and abilities to service for the community and I do it without compensation and do not expect praise or thanks.”
The budget committee is scheduled to meet 7 p.m. tonight, but dealing with Gordon’s qualifications to serve is not on the agenda, according to Cloutier. Instead, he said the purpose of the meeting is to determine what areas of the town and school budgets will be affected by the cuts the budget committee has already approved.
Cloutier said his reading of state law differed from the Local Government Center. He contacted the state Attorney General and was referred to the town attorney for Goffstown.
If the town attorney rules that Gordon’s appointment is not valid, Cloutier said the ball would be back in the Attorney General’s court, which then would have to investigate whether the appointment was illegal and decide if someone should be removed from office. Cloutier said that he, as a chairman, could not remove an appointed official from the committee.
Until the town attorney’s opinion is available, and in the absence of case law on the issue, Cloutier said it made sense to revert to what has been past practice in the town.
Last night, Gordon felt “quite confident” that he would remain on the budget committee.
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