Opponents, supporters of Wild Goose plan have their say at public hearing

NOTE: The NH’s new Lake Sunapee Public Access Commission will hold a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Concord this Thursday, Dec. 14, at 9:00 am. At its recent meeting in Newbury, the commission announced that it would soon begin seeking input from state officials about the issue. – RC

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – At a recent public meeting of the new Lake Sunapee Public Access Development Commission, the ongoing debate was renewed between those who favor developing the state’s long-planned plan to build a boat access facility on the Wild Goose property and those who claim the site is unsuitable.

Approximately 70 people attended the two-hour gathering of the state’s new 15-member board at the town offices on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 30.

The issues have been “fought over for more than 25 years,” said Chairman Neil Lavesque.

Neil Lavesque, the group’s chairman, told the crowd that Gov. Chris Sununu had formed the commission several months ago in the hope that it would find a “New Hampshire solution” to the unresolved problems related to granting greater public boat access to the state’s sixth largest lake.

The issues have been “fought over for more than 25 years,” Lavesque reminded the group. People will need to work together to come up with a solution, even if “everyone is not going to be happy” with the outcome.

During the meeting, the commission members mostly listened as people outlined their opinions.

Dick Smith of Hancock, who called himself a lifelong angler and a member of the state’s public access water advisory board, said that he “knows a little about boat access, fishing and so forth.” “I feel like I’m here to represent the one-quarter million people who fish in New Hampshire every year,” he said. “It’s apparent that public access should be expanded on Sunapee. The question is where would be the best site for that.

“The citizens of New Hampshire own that lake, all of us equally,” he added, affirming the state’s legal authority over the waterway. “It’s held in a public trust. We also own the Wild Goose property, and its intent when it was bought was for it to be for provide public access to the general public, and it still is.”

Smith said the state has already invested about $450,000 into a plan to develop a Wild Goose facility, and that when it’s completed the federal government will pay for three-quarters of the total costs. The plan has been approved by the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the NH Supreme Court has twice turned down legal challenges to the site’s development.

“There’s an awful lot of support for Wild Goose,” he concluded.

But Ed Thorson, the chairman of the Newbury board of selectmen, said there are problems with the location. “It’s dangerous. There are already many accident on that stretch of road,” he said. “The speed limit on Rte. 103 is 50 mph, but in reality many of the motoring public is going much faster. The site distance at either end of Birch Grove Road is not adequate to safely have boats and trailers pulling out onto a very busy Route 103. “

June Fichter, the executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA), agreed with Thorson, arguing that Wild Goose was a bad choice. “Although purchased purely for conservation purposes, along with another 100 acres on Mount Sunapee, Wild Goose is much better suited for car-tope access, for canoes and kayaks,” she said.

Fichter asked the commission members to encourage relevant state agencies to work together to develop the Sunapee State Beach recreational area to increase parking and develop the launch facility there.

State Rep. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury) supported Fichter’s stance. “The state beach works,” he said, adding that the costs of renovating that facility would be much more economical than the proposed Wild Goose development. “There are plans drawn up,” Wolf added, referring to the state beach parking challenge. “There’s a way to do it.”

Attorney Howard Dunn of Claremont, who is representing several organizations and individuals that are suing the DES for not moving forward with the Wild Goose development, said that the idea of developing the state beach site was flawed.

“It’s been degraded a little bit by the snowmaking equipment there but it’s still a terrific place to swim,” he said of the public beach. “But it needs protection from having this kind of boat access there.” Dunn said that if the state doesn’t use the Wild Goose site, he doubted that there would ever be a state-owned public access facility on Sunapee.

State Rep. Peter Hanson (R-Amherst) reported that he’d recently introduced a bill in the legislature that would restore funding for the development of the Wild Goose site, adding that problematic traffic issues could be resolved by reducing the speed limit on Rte. 103 and taking other precautionary measures.

At the hearing’s conclusion, Chairman Lavesque said the commission would meet again on Thursday, December 14, at 9 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Concord, and the public is again invited to attend.

The group plans to soon start speaking with public officials about the Sunapee public access issue, then move into a deliberative session in advance of a final decision. Gov. Sununu has asked the commission to issue its recommendation by March 2018.

This story first appeared in the Inter-Town Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

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Charges dropped in alleged Sunapee election fraud incident

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – The state’s efforts to prosecute two men who were allegedly involved in an election fraud scheme in 2016 has fallen short.

Last month, the NH attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with two charges of illegally altering an email in order to influence the outcome of an election, and one charge of forgery against Adam Gaw of Manchester.

The decision followed an October ruling handed down by Newport district judge Gregory E. Michael that dismissed the same charges against a Sunapee resident, Joseph Furlong.

The woman told police that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the Sunapee school board… Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message…

The two men were charged with the misdemeanor crimes after Sunapee police investigated a report from a resident that was made in March 2016. The woman told David Cahill, Sunapee’s police chief, that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the town’s school board, and sent it to several town acquaintances. Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message with the apparent aim of tilting the election in favor of Heather Furlong, Joseph’s wife, and sent it out to a larger group of citizens just days before a school board election. (Heather Furlong won a seat on the school board but resigned one year later after her husband was arrested.)

Cahill said he immediately notified the attorney general of a possible election fraud crime. With the AG’s support, he then began an investigation that led him to Joseph Furlong.

Furlong denied playing a role in the doctored message. Instead, he pointed to Gaw, an independent building contractor who may have been working on the Furlong house the night of the alleged crime.

Cahill initially doubted Gaw’s existence, saying he thought Furlong had invented a “straw man” to escape responsibility for his actions. Gaw sent an email to the Sunapee police claiming full responsibility for the altered email.

It was not until the early 2017 that the attorney general’s office filed formal charges against Furlong and Gaw. Shortly thereafter, it withdrew the original charges and filed new ones that it believed were more likely to lead to convictions.

But when Furlong’s case came to trial earlier this fall, his lawyer asked Judge Michael to dismiss the charges because the newer ones were filed too late – just days after the legal statute of limitations had run out.

The judge agreed and, when the AG’s office appealed his decision, he affirmed it, saying that authorities had “failed to properly investigate the facts.”

When Gaw’s case came to court on November 14, James Vera of the attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with the Manchester man’s prosecution.

Last week, Vera said that Gaw’s lawyer “would have made the same argument” that caused Judge Michael to drop the charges against Furlong.

Vera refused to blame anyone on the prosecution’s team for the outcome.

“I’m not going to say that anyone dropped the ball,” he said. “There was a decision that was made and it was incorrect.”

Vera said the state is not planning any further action related to the incident.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on November 28, 2017.

Sunapee Lake access group to host public meeting

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – The state’s new Lake Sunapee Public Boat Access Development Commission will be holding a public meeting in the Newbury town office Thursday, Nov. 30, from 3 to 5 p.m.

The meeting is the latest in a series of pubic hearings the group is using to gather input from various stakeholders about plans to develop a public boat launch site on Sunapee. The public is invited to attend.

The commission was formed earlier this fall after Gov. Chris Sununu announced his intention to abandon the long-delayed plan to create a boat launch at the Wild Goose property in Newbury. The commission is charged with identifying a new site and with developing alternate plans for the 3.3-acre Wild Goose land, which the state purchased 1990.

The attorney general recently filed an appeal, asking the court to dismiss the wildlife group’s suit. The attorney representing the group said that he is preparing a legal response to the AG’s request.

While that process is moving forward, a group of New Hampshire residents who have fishing and other interests on Sunapee has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Sununu’s actions. The group, which includes the New Hampshire Bass Federation and the Sullivan County Sportsmen and the Mountain View Gun club, as well as Gary Clark of Merrimack, the author of the popular “Clark’s New Hampshire Fishing Guide,” charges that the state Department of Environmental Services violated its own procedures when it agreed to abandon its Wild Goose plans at the governor’s request.

The state’s attorney general recently filed an appeal, asking the Sullivan County Superior Court to dismiss the wildlife group’s suit. The attorney representing the group, William Howard Dunn of Claremont, said last week that he is preparing a legal response to the AG’s request.

The recently appointed 15-member commission includes two state representatives, as well as representatives from the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board, the NH Fish and Game Department, the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES), the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and residents of New London, Newbury and Sunapee.

Rep. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury) supports the DES’s decision to abandon the Wild Goose plan. He said the proposed project would create major traffic problems in Newbury, the construction costs are unreasonable – estimated to be over $100,000 – and that there are environmental concerns. “In my opinion it’s not the right site to put a boat launch,” he said.

A better option would be to establish a boat launch at the Sunapee State Beach in Newbury, Wolf suggested. “There’s an opportunity there to create parking space on the access road going in, and to refurbish the boat ramps at the beach,” he said. The project would be cost-effective and safe, he added.

But Dunn said that adding a state-owned-and-operated boat launch on the state beach would be the “ruination” of the recreational area.

“Endangerment of the state beach is an important aspect of this,” the attorney said. “There can be up to 50 kids there (on a summer day).” Ten towns use the state beach for organized community recreation, he added.

In addition, some of the beach area has already been shrunk by snowmaking equipment, Dunn said, so taking more space is impossible. “It would make it smaller yet; it would reduce parking in the area and it would possibly reduce that very expensive play area there.”

State law requires that there must be public access to any waterway that’s larger than 10 acres, according to Dunn. His clients have to buy boating licenses and purchase relevant equipment that is taxed, and part of those collected funds are supposed to go towards paying for boating access, he added. In addition, a federal grant is available that would pay for more than one-half of a launch site on the Wild Goose land, the lawyer concluded.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rep. Wolf and Rep. Karen Ebel (D-New London) are part of the commission. We regret the error.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, November 28, 2017.

 

‘Around Concord’ – The Best Thing on Ice: Concord NH ‘invented’ American hockey

(The striking image above is by Brad Wuorinen, and on the magazine cover.)

Enjoy our story in the Winter edition of “Around Concord” magazine, “The Best Thing on Ice: Black Ice Pond Hockey.” It tells Concord’s unique role in the establishment of hockey in America. (You can read whole magazine here, or ‘hard copy’ available at newsstands.) Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season to all!

http://www.aroundconcord.com/2017/11/17/160686/around-concord-winter-2017

 

 

 

Warner celebrates library renovations, solar array

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Town officials and residents gathered twice on Saturday to mark two separate advancements in their community.

In the morning, about 30 people gathered at the new municipal solar array adjacent to the town dump to formerly mark the instillation of the facility.

In the afternoon, residents streamed in and out of the Pillsbury Free Library to see and celebrate the completion of that building’s recent renovations.

The library has been a source of community pride ever since it first opened in 1908, according to Michael Simon, chairman of its board of trustees.

‘We’ve very fortunate because more than 100 years ago, the Pillsbury family donated the land and the building (for the Pillsbury Free Library).’ 

– Michael Simon, chairman of board of trustees.- 

 

“We’ve very fortunate because more than 100 years ago, the Pillsbury family donated the land and the building,” he said. “And Mr. Pillsbury made an agreement with the town, that the town would provide a certain amount of money – one-tenth of one-percent of the town’s assessed value – to the library.”

So while other town libraries have to go back to the voters (or town leadership boards) annually for funding, the Warner facility is guaranteed a certain amount of money for its operations, Simon said.

Several years ago, however, the library board did go to the annual town meeting to request a $25,000 allocation. That money was used to take advantage of a state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) matching grant totaling $50,000 to pay for much needed renovations to the building. (Town officials provided ‘in-kind’ labor equaling the other.)

Those funds – as well as money created by some additional fundraising – paid for the majority of the changes that were celebrated last weekend.

A major improvement Simon touted was the elimination of a lowered ceiling that as probably installed during the energy crises of the 1970s. It may have lowered fuel costs but it also blocked a section of the historic building’s original ceiling as well as portions of some stain glass windows.

Another significant improvement was brick and masonry repair/renovation done on the exterior. Graham Pendlebury of New Boston worked with Tim Allen, the town’s director of public works, to accomplish much of this work. The project included finding and fixing an area underneath the front stairs that was allowing rain water to leak into the Frank Maria meeting room.

Earlier in the day, Clyde Carson, a selectman and longtime member of the selectmen’s energy committee, thanked several community members for helping to establish the municipal solar array.

At an informal gathering in the DPW garage, Carlson mentioned the contributions of past and present committee members as well as several former selectmen, including Allan N. Brown. He also thanked some residents who manned a phone bank, reminding citizens to come to the annual town meeting in March, where voters approved the $338,530 project.

“Thirty years ago at town meeting, we passed an ordinance for mandatory recycling,” noted Neil Nevins, a longtime advocate of the town’s clean energy initiatives. “And now, thanks to that ordinance we have a wonderful recycling plant nearby.” The recycling effort also paved the way for more clean energy projects, like the new municipal solar array, he added.

The facility will provide power for 14 town buildings and properties, and continue the town’s long-standing involvement in clean energy, Nevins noted.

“I’m so proud to be associated with the town of Warner,” said George Horrocks of Harmony Energy Works, the company that worked with Tim Allen, director of the DPW, on the construction. “Of all the municipalities we’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years, this is the place where a lot of people cared, not just a few… Here, we saw people cared.”

After the discussion, State Sen. Dan Feltes read an official senate resolution congratulating the community on the solar array, and then Carlson led the group outside to the facility. Once in front of the solar panels, several community leaders and others involved in the project participated in an informal ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Then, it was back to the DPW garage for cider and doughnuts, as well as more friendly conversation with neighbors.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspapers of Sutton, New Hampshire, on November 21, 2017.

 

Warner gun proposal still under fire

(Above: The Warner Road site where Dragonfly Ranges wants to build. © Carbone Productions, LLC)

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The latest shots have been fired in the ongoing community battle over a proposed 16-lane indoor shooting range and gun store on Warner Road near Rte. 103.

On Wednesday night, approximately 50 local residents from Warner and Hopkinton came to a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. They offered either support or opposition to the project, which has been proposed by Eric Miller of Sutton under the name Dragonfly Ranges.

The board was unable to a final decision on the project because it still has to review more than 100 pages of public input letters and emails that have been sent from Hopkinton residents. (Hopkinton residents were invited to participate in the review process because the proposed site is close to Contoocook village and deem to be of regional impact; Warner town officials are not obligated to factor in the Hopkinton comments in their final decision.) The board will take up Dragonfly’s proposal at its next meeting on Dec. 13.

‘Guns are uniquely deadly items. You can’t get around that. They’re designed to kill.’

Paul Alfano, MadgeTech attorney 

The most ardent opposition to the shooting range has come from Norman Carlson, the founder and CEO of MadgeTech, a high-tech company that’s located next to the proposed project’s site. Carlson has threatened to move his 60-employee plant out of Warner if the facility is approved by the town. His Warner Road Holdings, Inc. business entity has filed several legal challenges against the town’s planning and zoning boards in order to halt the $1.4-million proposal.

At Wednesday’s meeting, attorney Paul Alfano of Concord, who represents Carlson, started with a linguistic bang. “Guns are uniquely deadly items,” he said. “You can’t get around that. They’re designed to kill.”

The lawyer went on to suggest several reasons that the ZBA should deny Dragonfly Ranges’ request for a special exemption to build on the property near I-89’s exit 7. He said the 11,800 square-foot facility would not meet required setbacks to MadgeTech’s neighboring lot, that the sound of gunfire would be audible from Warner Road, that the operation’s environmental safeguards would not be adequate, and that residential property values in the neighborhood would be adversely impacted by the shooting range/gun store.

In addition, he said that recent renovations Dragonfly had made to its noise abatement program were still insufficient. He quoted from a report that an audio expert had done for his legal firm, which concluded that Dragonfly showed “a complete lack of understanding of acoustics.”

Alfano concluded his presentation by suggesting that the building a gun store/shooting range on the Warner Road land would disagree with the goals of the town’s master plan.

“It’s detrimental to the zoning district,” he said. “And it’s detrimental to the health and welfare of the public.”

Janice Loz, the board’s new chairman, followed up by asking Carlson if he owned a gun.

Some in the audience gasped and Alfano began to object to the question but the MadgeTech CEO said he didn’t own a gun but did not agree with Alfano’s statement “a gun’s only purpose is to kill.”

During the public input part of the meeting, several residents voiced their opposition to the facility.

“I don’t see how a gun range enhances the town. It’s not the reason that people move to the town of Warner,” said Pam August of Warner.

It was a sentiment echoed by several others.

Chuck Austin said he’s hesitant about the project because of what’s happening in Washington. “Congress has been unable to pass even the simplest of gun laws,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to invite (guns) into our town… I don’t think it’s safe to have a gun range or shop in our family town.”

Clyde Carson, who serves on the town’s board of selectmen, said that Carlson’s threat to move MadgeTech out of Warner if the shooting facility is built next door should be taken seriously. “We have an abutter that is a high-tech company, that has one of the highest payrolls in town,” he noted. “They’re saying, this isn’t good for our business… What do we tell our existing businesses if we don’t take them into account?

“It’s not in the best interest of the town to approve this exception,” he told the ZBA.

But others disagreed, saying that some of their neighbors’ fears were unreasonable and that the facility would be a safe asset to the community.

“I speak against the ridiculous assertion that a gun’s sole purpose is killing,” said one man.

Another claimed that the so-called “explosive” nature of gunpowder that Alfano alluded to is a misnomer. “Ammunition does not propagate itself,” he explained. “The idea that it’s a big explosive hazard, that’s just not true.”

Andy Stone of Hopkinton echoed the thoughts of several others when he said that a place like Dragonfly Ranges, where shooters can learn about gun safety and practice their skills, would be beneficial for the area.

James Gafney of Warner questioned the assertion that the proposed facility would drive down local home values, saying that the studies Alfano had presented to the board reflected prices in commercially-zone areas where residential homes were built later, after a shooting range was already established.

“We live in a very rural town,” noted Warner resident Mary Watts. “When we first moved here, I was terrified (because) every one of my neighbors had guns. They would target shoot, and I was afraid a stray shot would hit one of my young children. I was terrified of guns.

“But I had a very good friend who took me to the Manchester firing range,” she added. “That is the most important thing that this brings to this community: it takes away the fear. It helps people like me live in a place like this.”

Afterwards, Dragonfly’s owner Eric Miller said that supporters of his project had come to the meeting with the goal of being heard by officials and other residents.

The ZBA will take up the Dragonfly application again at its next meeting in December.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, November 14, 2017.

 

State wants court to dismiss Lake Sunapee access case

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – State officials want the Sullivan County Superior Court to dismiss a suit that would bar the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) from moving forward with a plan to abandon a long-planned public boat launch site on Lake Sunapee.

In papers filed in the court in August, several people and nonprofit organizations with recreational interest related to the lake asked the court to have the DES ignore a proposal from Gov. Chris Sununu to ditch the state-owned Wild Goose property on the southeastern shore in favor of a different location. The governor says that the planned site has “met with significant public opposition, including extensive litigation involving multiple appeals to the New Hampshire Supreme Court” and, therefore, “it is necessary to assemble a variety of perspectives” on selecting a new site.

In Sept., Gov. Sununu signed an executive order establishing the Lake Sunapee Public Access Development Commission to find ‘alternative opportunities for expansion of boat access.’ 

 

The group includes the New Hampshire Bass Federation, the Sullivan County Sportsmen and the Mountain View Gun club, as well as Gary Clark of Merrimack (author of the “Clark’s New Hampshire Fishing Guide,” now in its fifth edition) and longtime fisherman Richard Smith of Hancock.

They claim that the DES was wrong to go along with Sununu’s proposal by withholding an extension of the Wild Goose’s permit for construction of a docking facility. According to their action, the DES’s own regulations demands that it approved the extension, despite a vote by the governor and the executive council not to approve it. “(Sununu’s) action and position is moot since none of the DES statutes allow for, let alone require, the governor and (executive) council approval,” it reads.

But in the court action filed on Oct. 17, the NH attorney general’s office argues that the group’s request that the DES okay the extension is on shaky legal ground in several ways.

For example, the group claims that withholding the approval would means that the boat launch will be built and, as a result, the state will meet its legal obligation to provide public access to all of the state’s waterways. But the group’s request for access that is “sufficient” is “subjective and conclusory, with no facts to support a finding that a fundamental problem regarding access to Lake Sunapee currently exists or will continue to exists.”

In addition, the group’s legal action “assumes that the issuance of the permit equates to construction of the (docking) project,” the AG’s office argues. There would still be costs related to the docking construction and the state’s budget has no money for the work at this time, it notes.

The state’s dismissal request also claims that the group members don’t illustrate any specific damage that is done to them by the denial of the permit extension, especially since they would be allowed to participate in future discussions about building a launch site at another location on the lake.

In September, Sununu signed an executive order establishing the Lake Sunapee Public Access Development Commission to research and evaluate “alternative opportunities for expansion of boat access at Lakes Sunapee.” The commission will also consider other potential uses for the three-acre Wild Goose site, which the state purchased for a possible boat ramp in 1990. A report is scheduled to be issue in March 1, 2018.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

(Image from GoodFreePhotos.com)

 

 

Sunapee man cleared of all charges in election fraud case

By Ray Carbone

NEWPORT – A Newport district court judge has issued a sharp legal rebuke to law enforcement agencies that were involved in a criminal case against a Sunapee man charged with election fraud.

In a decision handed down on Oct. 27, Judge Gregory E. Michael dismissed all charges against Joseph Furlong, 41, of Sunapee, stating that the state “failed to properly investigate the facts” related to the alleged crime.

“(The state) wishes the court to endorse its failure,” Michael wrote. “This court will not do so.”

Michael issued his ruling after speaking with Furlong’s attorney, James Rosenberg, and James Vera of the attorney general’s office at a public hearing earlier in October. The hearing was held following the attorney general’s official request to have Michael reconsider his original decision to dismiss all charges against Furlong.

In his Oct. 26 decision, Michael said that the state had made a crucial error when it filed its original charges in March 2016, then took too long to fix it.

The original investigation, conducted by Sunapee Police Chief David Cahill, concluded that there was “probable cause” to believe that Furlong altered the email of another Sunapee resident, and then sent it out to others in the community in an attempt to tilt a 2016 school board election in favor of his wife. As part of the case, authorities also charged that Furlong had invented a “straw man” named Adam Gaw to blame for his illegal activities.

(Adam) Gaw is still scheduled to go on trial Nov. 14 in Newport… He’s filed a plea of not guilty, but has also confessed several times…

 

By the time Furlong’s trial came around in July, however, Adam Gaw had come forward and confessed to doctoring the email, apparently clearing the local man. The state withdrew its original charges against Furlong and filed new ones, charging that the local man had worked in concert with Gaw to plan and distribute the altered email.

Just days before the trail was to begin, Judge Michael dismissed all charges, saying that the new charges were filed too late to give Furlong’s attorney sufficient time to prepare a proper defense.

At the October hearing, Vera argued that the state’s new charges dealt with Furlong’s alleged criminal behavior and that it was no different if he’d acted alone or with Gaw.

But the judge disagreed. He said the new charges shifted the primary blame from Furlong to Gaw and the Sunapee man wasn’t properly prepared for the trail – and the new charges were filed too late, after the statute of limitations had run out.

“This court believes the charges should inform (Furlong) of his alleged misconduct prior to trial, not AT the trail,” Michael’s ruling read. “When preparing the initial (criminal) complaints, the State did not believe Adam Gaw existed and based its allegation using that ‘fact’ as a predicate for the original complaint.

“The original complaint also contained an allegation that (Furlong) ‘knowing gave false information’ to a law enforcement office,” the judge added, when the local man named Gaw as the person who may have doctored the email.

Gaw is an independent construction contractor of modest means who lives in Manchester. Furlong has said that Gaw may have been among of group of contractors who were working in the Sunapee man’s home when the email message was sent out but he’s unsure.

Both Furlong and Gaw were originally arrested and charged in March 2017 but, in July the attorney general’s office set the original charges set aside and instituted the new ones, including two counts of illegally altering an email with the aim of influencing the results of an election (Class A misdemeanor) and one count of forgery (a Class B misdemeanor).

Gaw is still scheduled to go on trial on Nov. 14 in Newport District Court. He’s filed an official plea of not guilty with the court, but has also confessed several times that he’s doctored the email.

At an earlier hearing on his case, Lauren Breda, a public defender representing Gaw, indicated that if the charges against Furlong are dismissed, her client could ask the court to dismiss his charges based on the same legal issues.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on November 7, 2017.

 

Judge to decide if New Hampshire man will again face election fraud charges

By Ray Carbone

NEWPORT – The question of whether a Sunapee man will again face criminal charges related to an election fraud case in his town will be determined by how a Newport District Court judge legally interprets his conduct during the incident.

“It’s an interesting case because we’re confronted with what constitutes conduct (according to the law),” commented Judge Gregory E. Michael at a hearing in his court last week.

Joseph Furlong was originally charged with illegally altering an email of another resident, and then sending it out to others, in an attempt to tilt a March 2016 school board election in his wife’s favor. Shortly before Furlong was scheduled to go on trial earlier this year, authorities withdraw the original charges and filed new ones, including forgery. As a result, Judge Michael dismissed all criminal charges, agreeing with Furlong’s attorney that the new ones were different enough from the first that there was not enough time to develop a proper defense.

At last week’s hearing, Judge Michael agreed to reconsider his decision based on a formal request from the New Hampshire attorney general’s office.

(Furlong’s attorney) said that authorities could have done a more thorough investigation initially and that part of the reason for a statute of limitation is to discourage insufficient police work.

James Vera, an associate attorney general, argued that changing the specific criminal charges against Furlong didn’t alter the conduct that implicated him in the criminal behavior. “The state has added no facts that are different (in the new charges),” Vera told the judge. “The arguments are the same and the facts are the same.”

James Rosenberg, Furlong’s attorney, said that since the charges were altered, his defense had to be altered, and that the judge was right in his initial decision to dismiss them because the statute of limitations had run out.

“This is not the same conduct,” Rosenberg said, noting that the original charges did not include information about an alleged accomplice as the later ones did. “You can’t escape the way the state set forth the charges. The state declared, you’re acting alone.”

“Somebody hit the button (to send the email),” Judge Michael commented, adding that whether Furlong actually pushed the “send” button or otherwise played a prominent role in the altered email incident might not be especially significant. “He may have encouraged it or otherwise set in motion,” the judge said, reviewing the state’s argument.

Rosenberg said the original charges indicated that Furlong had “invented” the alleged accomplice as a way to dodge responsibility. He said that authorities could have done a more thorough investigation initially and that part of the reason for a statute of limitation is to discourage insufficient police work.

The central issue is how the court interprets Furlong’s specific conduct, the judge said. If it is basically the same as what’s outlined in the original charges, then the Sunapee man did have enough time to mount a defense and the charges will be reinstated. If not, the court’s dismissal of all charges will stand.

“I’m going to think about this,” Michael added at the hearing’s conclusion. “I’m going to try to be fair, knowing that one side won’t be happy (with my decision).”

The judge said he would issue his ruling as soon as possible.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper in Sutton, N.H. on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.

 

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