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March 18. 2013 8:20PM

Attorney general says Franklin woman can serve two roles

FRANKLIN - The state attorney general has ruled that City Moderator Tamara Feener's election to the school board is not a conflict of interest because the two positions are governed by different sets of laws.

School board officials filed a complaint with the state after the city's Oct. 2 election of Feener - who is also the wife of a city councilor - to the school board in a Ward 2 school board seat by way of a write-in campaign against the only candidate who filed, Donald A. Gagnon.

Feener won with 42 write-in votes to Gagnon's 35 votes. Feener had been a school board member since she was appointed to the board in February of 2012 by the city council after another board member resigned. She also won reelection as Ward 2 city moderator with 79 votes in an uncontested race.

Her husband, City Councilor Glen Feener, was unchallenged and was also reelected.

City officials said they checked with the city's attorney prior to the election to be sure that Tamara Feener's potential election to the school board would not be a conflict of interest.

But school officials disagreed, and said the state backed them a response to a question about the potential conflict of interest on Oct. 1, by Deputy Secretary of State David M. Scanlan, who ruled that, "To the extent that both positions exist within the same political subdivision, and the city moderator oversees school district elections, I would agree with your assessment that the positions would be incompatible (under state law)."

"In the event, a candidate finds that after an election he or she holds incompatible offices; that candidate must choose one, creating a vacancy in the other," Scanlon wrote.

In a decision delivered to the city Monday, Assistant Attorney General Stephen G. LaBonte said RSA 671:18, which states that "no person holding the office of member of the school board shall at the same time hold the office of district moderator, treasurer, or auditor."

"The above-cited statute is not applicable to the current circumstances," LaBonte wrote.

Feener was elected as town moderator under state law RSA 44:12, but was elected to the school board "in the context of the Franklin City Charter," he wrote.

Chapter 61 of the city's ordinances "provides an adequate remedy" for questions about qualifications of school board members, he wrote.

"Therefore, the City Council is the proper forum to determine whether (Feener) may simultaneously hold the office of ward moderator and school board member."

Mayor Ken Merrifield said Monday the news was fresh and it was too soon to say what would happen next with the case. School board members who challenged Feener's elections could not be reached for comment.

Merrifield said the city council has supported Feener's election to both positions and would likely stand behind the attorney general's ruling.

dseufert@newstote.com


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