At least somebody in the Town of Sandwich, NH is paying attention.
Opening bids for a public project in this economy is fraught with litigation danger if it is not done properly, and that means under RSA 91-A.
But then, conservation commission members often consider themselves above the law in their tiny eco-Luddite souls.
Sandwich town government far from as transparent as it should be
To the residents of Sandwich:
I noticed with interest, while reviewing the online minutes of the April 30, 2012 Selectmen's Meeting an agenda item "Opening of bids: Town Hall Painting, Beede Falls Bank Restoration, SCS Generator." It was reported by a Conservation Commission member at this meeting there were four bids for the Beede Falls Restoration opened at the Conservation Commission meeting on Wednesday, April 25.
I was present at that meeting and there were no bids opened at that meeting. What was discussed near the end of the meeting was choosing a time the next morning at which the bids would be opened. At the end of the meeting, as some of the members left, I stepped outside to the Town Public Notice Board and no such meeting was posted. I went back in and asked the chairman if the group meeting tomorrow was a subcommittee of the commission and the reply was yes. I informed the chair that meeting was not posted properly and therefore would be illegal. Meetings must be noticed 24 hours in advance. Proper procedure involving bids is that only sealed bids are accepted, time and place for opening is posted and noticed to insure public's opportunity to participate,
Another issue at the Conservation Commission meeting that night was the conduct of a member who had communicated with a state agency which oversees land easements that the "town" believed there to be a violation of an easement. Both the Board of Selectmen and the Commission had been reviewing the issue with all parties concerned but no decision had been reached at this time.
Based on the conversation with the Commission member, the state agency sent a letter to the town in support of its decision concerning this particular easement. The town notified the state agency that the issue was still being discussed and no vote was taken yet which prompted the agency to withdraw its letter. Both the Board of Selectmen and the Commission, at their respective meetings, by vote, concluded that there was no violation of the easement.
A member of any town board or commission speaking on behalf of the town without proper approval is unacceptable. This same member had issues with an item to be taken up at previous Commission meeting which the member was unable to attend, so the member sent e-mails informing the other commissioners of this members feelings on the issue, a clear violation of the law. The town can not afford to have town officials (elected or appointed) conduct themselves in a manner which can leave the town open to lawsuits, At the very least the selectmen should not reappoint repeat offenders to any town commission or board.
One other issue which I noticed was that a selectman was present and sitting with the Commission, participated in all discussions and voted on all issues before the Commission. The RSA's allow for seven members plus alternates, none of which are selectmen, seemed odd to have eight votes on a seven man commission.
WE SHOULD ALL DEMAND OPEN AND TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT, AND HOME RULE. IT'S OUR RIGHT!
(re-printed with permission)