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Lawyer: Politics at play in McLeod brouhaha

Union Leader Correspondent

February 24. 2012 11:00PM

WINDHAM - Accusations against Selectman Ross McLeod, currently under investigation by the Attorney General's Office, may have more to do with the local election season than with fantasy football season, his lawyer has said. But not everyone in town agrees with his assessment.

'It's all related to Windham town politics,' said attorney Roger 'Rusty' Chadwick.

McLeod initially resigned his position as a county prosecutor in the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office amid allegations that he ran a fantasy football league from his county email. He rescinded the resignation and continues to work in the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office.

Corey Lewandowski, state director of the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, said he stumbled across the fantasy football information in a batch of emails he received through the state open records law while looking for evidence of electioneering.

Lewandowski is running for Windham town treasurer. McLeod, chairman of the board of selectman, is seeking reelection to the board.

Town politics were not a consideration, Lewandowski said. The issue is gambling and the misuse of county time and resources, he said.

'I have never asked for or intend to seek email as they relate to his position as a town authority,' Lewandowski said.

Bruce Breton, vice chairman of the board of selectman, said he doesn't believe the request was politically motivated. The action was made by a resident looking out for his tax dollars and holding officials accountable, he said.

'It's just making sure that town and county workers are doing what they're paid to be doing and nothing else,' Breton said.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he can't speak to whether Lewandowski's actions were politically motivated.

'If it turns out that it was politically motivated it sends a very damaging message to anybody seeking office,' Hohenberger said.

Most people would think twice before putting themselves in a position that could damage their reputation or their private lives and it's not the type of politics that should be brought to the local level, Hohenberger said.

Activists have taken a strong role in an election season marked by close scrutiny of the town's elected officials. Two resident petitions to adopt new ethics ordinances will appear on the ballot, and candidates night was peppered with questions about conflicts of interest. The proposed ordinance petitions would tighten up the town's existing conflict of interest policies. Lewandowski believes it's a sign that people are fed up with business as usual.

'I think it's time for it,' Lewandowski said.

Breton said he applauds any individual who stands up for what they believe in, whether it be Americans for Prosperity or people submitting citizens petitions.

'It's a democracy and they have a constitutional right to put anything on the ballot,' Breton said.

Breton said it may be time to review and refine the ethics policy currently in place.

Board member Kathleen DiFruscia said the town has had an ethics policy in place for some time and board members attest to the fact that they received a copy. She has long felt that the policy should be reviewed and possibly some changes made. She offered to help petitioners revise the current ethics policy when town counsel Bernard Campbell expressed legal concerns about their proposed petition.

'As an attorney, I felt that it went beyond what was permitted by RSA,' DiFruscia said.

She said she does not question McLeod's ethics. He has served the town well in a number of positions. The accusations made are serious and could damage his career, DiFruscia said.

'I believe he's a person of integrity,' DiFruscia said.

The town will be hard-pressed to find volunteers for public office when people witness this kind of scrutiny and possible consequences, Chadwick said.

'The very idea that a hardworking prosecutor and town official could lose his job over fantasy football is a chilling and sad state of affairs,' Chadwick said.

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