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NH Supreme Court agrees with decision on Derry petitions

Union Leader Correspondent

October 05. 2015 7:56PM

DERRY — The New Hampshire Supreme Court Monday affirmed a Rockingham Superior Court’s decision to order the Town of Derry to schedule an election on eight referendum petitions.

A group of residents opposing various budget cuts approved on May 19 by councilors had filed the petitions on June 11. The cuts involved staff reductions for police and fire, the elimination of the human resource director’s position and the closure of a fire station. The cuts reduced the tax rate by $1.21.

Councilors voted recently to not recognize the petitions filed by the residents opposed to the budget cuts.

Three residents — former Councilor Neil Wetherbee, Brian Chirichiello and Jenna Paradise — stepped forward to file a lawsuit against the councilors’ decision to not recognize the petitions and seek an injunction. If the move was successful, an election could then be held on the petitions.

Derry had appealed to the Supreme Court the Sept. 14 decision of Judge David Anderson that ordered Derry to hold the election by Sept. 30 on the eight petitions. The election was later postponed until Oct. 13.

In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Derry had not demonstrated “reversible error.”

“Based upon our review of the trial court’s well-reasoned order, the Town’s challenges to it, the record submitted on appeal, and the relevant law, we conclude that the Town has not demonstrated reversible error,” the justices ruled.

In reacting to the news of the unanimous decision, Wetherbee said he and the other two plaintiffs are “ecstatic.” He said the effort to hold the election was never about just them but the residents who turned out repeatedly to oppose the budget cuts.

He added, “Finally, finally the people are going to be heard.”

In another development, a national political group is backing an effort to help Derry residents who support the budget cuts in the upcoming election.

The group Americans for Prosperity is assisting some residents who want to call other local residents and remind them to vote to organize, Councilor Mark Osborne said Monday. The practice is known as “phone banking.”

“I think what they are doing is trying to facilitate an environment for people who are opposed to the tax increases to get together,” Osborne said.

Greg Moore, New Hampshire director of Americans for Prosperity, said Monday that Osborne and several other Derry residents had reached out to him recently concerning the upcoming election.

“This is an issue that AFP does care about. Obviously reducing taxes — that’s a priority for us,” Moore said.

Moore said the organization will invite some like-minded residents to make calls to their neighbors encouraging them to get out and vote. The group will provide the technology and a list of people who are highly oriented on the issue of taxation.

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