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No charges in Keene election day dispute

Union Leader Correspondent

December 21. 2011 10:17PM

KEENE - A state police investigation into a city councilwoman's behavior at the polls on election day is closed, with no charges filed, but investigations by the city attorney and the state attorney general continue.

Det. Sgt. Joseph DiRusso said Friday his investigation confirmed the incident took place, but 'the incident didn't rise to the level of a criminal offense.'

City Council candidate Dorrie Faulkner O'Meara accused At-Large City Councilor Ruth Venezia of yelling and screaming at her and shoving her outside of a polling location on Nov. 8.

O'Meara was a candidate for the at-large seat, which she lost to incumbent Venezia.

In a Nov. 9 letter to Mayor P. Dale Pregent, O'Meara alleges Venezia 'screamed' and 'yelled' at her and shoved one of O'Meara's own signs into her chest while she was standing outside the polls at the Keene Recreation Center shortly after 4 p.m. on election day.

According to O'Meara's letter she was standing outside of the center holding a sign and talking with Bettina Chadbourne when Venezia drove up to the curb, got out of her car, and shoved an O'Meara political sign at her.

O'Meara said Venezia told her ''this is the second one of your signs that I pulled out that was put in front of mine and we don't (expletive) play like that here.''

O'Meara said when she responded she had over 300 signs and did not put all of them out personally, Venezia yelled at her saying ''then your representative's should have (expletive) known better.''

O'Meara's written account of the incident continues with further expletives and screaming from Venezia.

The letter ends with a request for Venezia's removal from city council.

Chadbourne supported O'Meara's claims in a letter to the mayor and city clerk on Nov. 15.

'I heard Ruth say something like 'Get the (blank) out of town…' then I heard Dorrie say 'Councilor, did you just drop the 'F-bomb,'' Chadbourne wrote.

Another witness, Elisabeth Jarvis of Keene, also reported the incident in a Nov. 14 letter to the city clerk. She wrote she was in the parking lot heading back to her car after she had voted when she 'heard raised and angry voices.'

'I stopped and looked back towards the driveway and saw Ms. Venezia screaming at Mrs. O'Meara. I heard Ms. Venezia say 'Everyone wishes you would just go the (expletive) away.''

Jarvis said in her letter she was compelled to come forward after reading Venezia quoted in a local newspaper saying ''nothing happened.''

According to O'Meara, Chadbourne is another candidate she met at the polls that day and Jarvis is a woman she sort of knows but has never socialized with.

Keene police referred O'Meara's report of the incident to state police to avoid any perceived or real conflicts of interest. The Attorney General's Office then opened up an investigation into the allegation of removal of political signs, which is a violation of state law.

When O'Meara attempted to address the matter to the City Council's Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee Nov. 22, the committee closed the hearing on the matter so that it could be investigated by the city attorney's office.

Both the city and attorney general's investigations are still open and ongoing, according to the Keene City Attorney's Office and Assistant Attorney General Matt Mavrogeorge.

Cynthia Georgia, chairwoman of the Finance, Organization, and Personnel Committee, said Wednesday she does not expect to hear back from the city attorney until sometime next year.

'They just were unable to finish it this year,' she said. 'I image they'll try to get that handled as soon as possible; nobody wants that hanging over them.'

Elections Keene

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