Playing with other people's money sure is fun. That is what the New Hampshire Local Government Center (LGC) did for more than a decade. Last August the Secretary of State's Office ordered the LGC to repay the money ($17.1 million from one account and $36 mllion from two others). Instead of complying, the LGC spent another $2.2 million - of other people's money - on a legal challenge. Incredible.
In 2000, the LGC created a Property and Liability Trust, which provided workers compensation services to municipalities. It lost money every year. The LGC transferred $17.1 million from other insurance pools to the liability trust to keep it in the black. The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire challenged that transfer in court and won, and the LGC was ordered to repay the money. Instead of settling or complying, it has fought the repayment orders in court, racking up the $2.2 million bill, which it has paid with taxpayer funds collected from its municipal customers.
This is the mess the LGC's interim executive director, George Bald, a former state economic development commissioner, inherited after the previous director's firing. For our Thursday story on this massive legal expense, Bald said, "Certainly, I'm saddened we've had to spend that amount of money." He said he hoped to "move us out of the legal arena so we're not spending so much money in legal defense."
Bald seems to get the absurdity of the situation. As firefighters president David Lang said, "To use over $2 million of other people's money to prevent them from getting their own money back makes no sense to me." Here is to hoping that Bald can swiftly steer the organization in another direction and stop the continued wasting of other people's money.