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Danville selectman refuses to resign during meeting

Union Leader Correspondent

September 17. 2012 9:21PM
Selectman Russell Harding working on his laptop during the selectmen's meeting after he refused to resign at Monday night's board meeting. (JASON SCHREIBER PHOTO)

DANVILLE - Selectman Russell Harding refused to resign from the board Monday night amid charges he grabbed a 13-year-old boy by the back of his neck and forced his head into a table at a community movie night.

For the second time in recent weeks, selectmen asked the 35-year-old Harding to quit over the incident that led to simple assault charges following a state police investigation.

Harding said 'no' when selectmen asked him to resign during their weekly board meeting.

'With that there isn't much more this board can do at this time,' Chairman Shawn O'Neil said.

His refusal to leave the board followed selectmen's decision to publicly censure Harding at the meeting for 'conduct unbecoming' a selectman.

Harding came under fire after the community movie night held Aug. 18. Harding decided to hold the movie night even after Police Chief Wade Parsons had postponed it earlier in the day because he feared it would rain and the town's movie equipment would get wet.

The altercation occurred when Harding confronted the teenager because he thought he was tampering with the equipment.

O'Neil read from a prepared statement in which he reminded the public of statements made by Harding at a board meeting on Sept. 4. At that meeting, Harding told selectmen that he put himself in between the teenager and the town's movie equipment and that when he did so he 'touched' the boy.

However, O'Neil referred to comments Harding made to the New Hampshire Union Leader in an interview after the meeting in which he admitted that he pushed the teenager to get him away from the equipment.

According to the charges filed by state police, Harding allegedly grabbed the back of the boy's neck and forced his head into a table. In the New Hampshire Union Leader interview, Harding never admitted to those allegations and was not yet facing charges.

'The board is deeply concerned by the nature of these statements and strongly express the disapproval of any of its members touching or pushing any member of the community no matter what the circumstances,' O'Neil said, adding that the board 'believes strongly we must have an obligation to act appropriately at all times.'

Harding chose not to respond when given a chance to comment on the censure during the meeting.

Because he is an elected official, selectmen do not have the legal authority to remove Harding from the board.

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