Gun range project could land in Concord or another NH town

By Ray Carbone

SUTTON – Since his efforts to build a retail gun store/indoor shooting range in Warner were defeated last month, resident Eric Miller says he’s heard from numerous local communities that are anxious to see if his new business can be established in their towns.

Speaking by phone from his home here late last week, the owner of Dragonfly Ranges said that he’s seriously considering several potential locations, including two in Concord. “There are two (spaces there), and one is large enough for indoor skeet/trap shooting,” Miller explained. “So, I’m seriously considering doing two ranges. One for skeet/trap shooting and the other the more traditional range,” like the was proposed in Warner, he explained.

The two locations are “within four or five miles of each other,” Miller noted.

‘What I’m looking at right now is speed-to-market. It took a year for this to play out in Warner and I’m not spending another six months (delayed).’

  • Eric Miller, owner of Dragonfly Ranges

 

Miller said he’s decided against appealing the Warner zoning board of adjustment’s recent decision to deny a variance that would have allowed his $1.4-million firearms facility to be constructed on Warner Road, despite the urgings of his attorney. “My lawyer has said in no uncertain terms that the zoning board violated state law (by rejecting the variance request), and he has written me a very detailed analysis, even though I’ve told him I’m not looking to appeal this,” the business owner said.

“What it comes down to, quite simply, is that if I appeal then the judge would likely send (the case) back to the another zoning hearing,” Miller said. “And since its their (members) intend to violate state law, the only thing I could expect is that they would try to conceal their preconceived opinions and hide their real biases better than they did this go-around… It’s not a good investment of time.”

“What I’m looking at right now is speed-to-market,” he said. “It took a year for this to play out in Warner and I’m not spending another six months (delayed).”

Planning officials in Concord have assured Miller that there are numerous locations around the city – including some on Main Street – where he would have no problem opening up his retail gun store/shooting range operations. “We’d need no more than a building permit,” he said.

In Warner, Miller was unable to convince the five-member ZBA that his proposal was allowable under the town’s legal definition of a “permitted use” for a zoning variance. During the last year, a significant number of area residents said that they did not feel the facility was a good addition to the community because of concerns about noise, pollution and safety. Last month, the ZBA voted 3-2 to turn aside Dragonfly’s variance request.

Miller said that since the group’s decision, he’s received invitations from officials or private citizens in Hillsboro, Newport, Grantham, Springfield and Hopkinton, as well as City of Concord and his Sutton hometown, offering to discuss the possibility of locating his facility in their towns. Some involved procuring land and constructing a new building, something he’s not interested in at this time. Miller wants to rent space in an industrial-style building to speed his opening, he explained.

The business owner said he hasn’t yet developed any plans for the 2.9-acre Warner property he bought last year in hopes of constructing his facility.

“So far I’ve had three offers (to buy it),” he said. “One of them, of course, being from Norm (Carlson).”

Carlson is the founder and president of MadgeTech, Inc., the high-tech firm located adjacent to Miller’s property. He led the legal fight to defeat the firearms facility proposal, so the Miller admitted to having some reservations about his offer. “I’m not the emotional type but, it (selling to Carlson) certainly wouldn’t be my first choice.”

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

 

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Sportsmen Club, others, can move forward with Wild Goose appeal

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – The fight to develop a public boat launch site for Lake Sunapee on the Wild Goose property is moving forward.

The long-delayed Department of Environmental Services (DES) project suffered a major setback last year when Gov. Chris Sununu urged the executive council to remove it from its list of proposed 2018 projects in favor of finding and developing a new site. He appointed a commission that’s considering other possible locations, including the Sunapee State Beach, while the DES refused to apply for an five-year extension for the project’s wetland construction permit.

But the chairman of the DES’ wetlands council has given new life to supporters of the Wild Goose site. He’s rejected the state’s formal request to dismiss an effort by the Sullivan County Sportsmen and others that would have required the DES to reverse course and apply for the permit extension. The Sportsmen’s group, which includes the New Hampshire Bass Federation, the Mountain View Gun Club, and several other nonprofit organizations and individuals, says the DES should have followed its usual protocol by seeking to extend the permit as its done previously since it’s already approved the construction project, rather than acquiescing to Sununu.

The Sportsmen’s group says the DES should have followed its usual protocol by seeking to extend the permit… since it’s already approved the construction project.

 

In a decision handed down January 11, George W. Kimball, chairman of the council, addresses the state’s two main arguments for dismissing the Sportsmen’s appeal.

One is that the organizations don’t have any legal standing in the case because they are neither abutters nor one of the original groups involved in the long-running legal dispute. Kimball wrote that the groups – which include fisherman and others with recreational interest in Sunapee – should be considered as a part of the general public that has a stake in the use of the project, just as the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA) has been allowed a voice in opposing the Wild Goose development.

The second argument states that extending the construction permit does not guarantee that the Wild Goose project will be developed. Kimball wrote that the group is only asking that the construction permit be extended to keep that option open, rather than follow Sununu’s lead. “(They) merely request that the permit be granted the five-year extension, an extension they assert was unlawfully and unreasonably denied,” he writes. “The appeal may be futile as an attempt to construct the project but the (group) states that it might save the state money and time later.”

Whether or not the effort turns out to futile is not a factor in request, he concludes.

The state purchased the 3.3-acre Wild Goose property off Route 103 in 1990 with plans to develop it into a public boat launch that would meet the state’s requirement to provide access to the general public.

But Newbury town official joined with the LSPA and others in opposing the idea, saying the facility would create significant traffic and environmental problems.

Supporters say that the property has already been approved by the DES and that current access is inadequate.

The dispute has faced years of litigation and Sununu said he hoped to move public access issue forward by abandoning a “flawed and controversial idea that has not gone anywhere in 20 years.” The 15-member Lake Sunapee Access Commission that he appointed has been holding a series of public meetings and is planning to make a recommendation next month.

Attorney W. Howard Dunn of Claremont, who is representing the Sportsmen’s group, said he’s encouraged by the recent decision because the language that Kimball used in his ruling may indicate that he’s favorably disposed to the concerns raised by the Wild Goose supporters.

But he acknowledged that the question is not entirely resolved. Since Kimball’s ruling, he said, the state has filed an appeal of his decision, and Dunn has filed a response to the appeal.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

 

Sunapee Access commission reviews history of long-running dispute

By Ray Carbone

CONCORD – At last week’s meeting of the governor’s new Lake Sunapee Public Assess Development Commission, the 15-member group began probing the history of the 25-plus-year dispute about where to put a public launch on the state’s sixth largest lake.

The two-hour meeting began with several people testifying on behalf of the two major proposals that have been considered over the last two decades. The state-owned Wild Goose property in Newbury would be too expensive to develop and its location would create serious traffic problems in town, according to its critics. Supporters say the site has already passed several legal requirements for the required state-owned-and-operated facility, and that the proposed alternative Sunapee State Beach site is too small.

At the conclusion of the hearing held in the Legislative Office Building last Thursday, the commissioners listened to remarks made by fellow commissioner Glenn Normandeau, who is executive director of the state’s Fish & Game Department.

‘My own personal opinion is that it (turning the Sunapee State Beach into a primary boat launch) is not permit-able.’

NH Fish & Game Dept. Commissioner Glenn Normandeau 

When Normandeau mentioned the estimated costs of dredging the state beach for a launch site, Chairman Neil Levesque asked if the commissioner could bring that kind of specific data to the group for review. “Get as many (related) costs as possible to this commission,” Levesque urged.

The chairman also asked Normandeau to look into the question of whether the state has a valid right-of-way on properties adjacent to the state beach property that may impact the development of a boat launch there, and the Fish & Game official said he’d comply.

Lévesque said that Gov. Chris Sununy had asked the commission to consider other possible sites that could be used for a boat launch. “Have you looked at all the (available) spots on Lake Sunapee,” he asked Normandeau.

“Unless something has come up for sale that I’m not aware of, I can’t imagine there’s anything else,” the commissioner answered.

Earlier in the meeting, June Fichter, the executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA), said that her group had previously funded a conceptual plan for developing the state beach site as an alternative to the Wild Goose property.

“I’ve never seen this plan,” said Tom Quarles, a member of the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board who is on the commission. “Why haven’t we seen that?”

Fichter said that she would “absolutely” provide the paperwork to the group. “It is more than a plan,” she explained, but the document is not a detailed proposal. While it includes “some narrative research about how various regulatory” and other relevant issues could be addressed, it doesn’t make a specific proposal.

“It’s not our place to design a full-up plan,” she told Quarles.

Normandeau gave the longest testimony of the day, reviewing several issues related to developing a suitable public boat launch. When Fish & Game first took over the Wild Goose property, the Governor’s Council indicated that it was “going to be primary boat access on Lake Sunapee,” he said. But when it appeared that the state might acquire the George’s Mill launch property in Sunapee, state officials began considering utilizing Wild Goose simply for canoes, kayaks, etc.

After Sunapee residents rejected the George’s Mill transfer, the state’s attention returned to developing the Wild Goose property.

In 2008, Normandeau said that state officials met with LSPA officials at the state beach site to review the property. The state subsequently paid for extensive research on developing the small boat launch area there into a larger facility.

“My own personal opinion is that it’s not permit-able,” the commissioner said. He explained that dredging would be “a constant maintenance” issue and that there would likely be strong opposition from abutters. (Normandeau said he thought the current state beach launch site would be best suited for canoes, kayaks, etc.)

In 2010-2011, “a raid was made” by state officials on funds that were designated for the boat ramp project and “there’s never been much talk about putting (the money) back,” Normandeau told the commission.

The commission will hold its public next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, 9 a.m., at the Legislative Office Building.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 19, 2017.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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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