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Four planning board members quit in Tuftonboro

Union Leader Correspondent

July 27. 2017 1:52AM

TUFTONBORO — Four members of the Planning Board have resigned in the wake of the selectmen’s decision not to reappoint their chairman.

Following a 1-2 vote on July 24, veteran land use board member Fenton Varney announced his resignation and fellow members John Lapolla, Steve Brinser and Tony Triolo subsequently notified the town that they too were stepping down.

The issue came to a head after Chris Sawyer, who has served on the land use board since 2008 and most recently as chairman, received a letter from selectmen on July 11 thanking her for her service to the town as her term had expired.

She subsequently sent a written request to the board asking to be appointed to the Planning Board detailing her years of service, the benefits of continuity and her accomplishments, including streamlining the application process, making it more user-friendly and most recently spearheading the update of the town’s master plan.

During the July 24 meeting, a recording of which is posted on Youtube, both Varney and Triolo praised Sawyer’s leadership and work ethic on the board and urged selectmen to reappoint her. According to Triolo, Sawyer has always had the best interest of the town at heart.

“I’d like to know when the decision was made,” asked resident Sue Weeks.

Lloyd Wood, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, replied that as of July 19 the board had not received any request and that the letter to Sawyer dated July 10 was “just a letter of thanks.”

Varney said his term on the Planning Board has been extended eight or nine times over the past 30 years, and that he had never filled out any paperwork asking that he be reappointed.

Lee Ann Hendrickson, administrative secretary for the Planning Board, said in the eight or nine years of her tenure as the expiration date of a member’s term approached she asks them if they would like to continue to serve and then submits a memo to selectmen.

This year, she had been waiting for board member John Cameron to make his decision and then planned to write a joint memo containing both Cameron and Sawyer’s request for reappointment.

“If a letter of thanks was sent out to Chris did you also send one to John, as his term expired as well?,” Hendrickson can be heard asking.

Citing a lack of a motion, Chairman Wood suggests the board move on to other business.

“We just cannot just let this go away, there has to be a vote,” says Selectman Chip Albee.

Selectman Bill Marcussen commented that “there is friction” and that the chairman is aware of it. He said the board could choose to go into non-public session to discuss it. Selectmen have a fiduciary duty to protect the town, he said, and cited as an example that when the Planning Board sent a survey to residents seeking input on the master plan update instead of using the town’s postage meter, stamps were purchased locally in the belief that it would help the Center Tuftonboro Post Office and General Store.

“Is there a way beyond this?” said Albee.

“That is the question,” replied Marcussen.

Albee made a motion to reappoint Sawyer, and Marcussen seconded it. The vote was 1-2 with Albee the sole supporter.

The Planning Board is scheduled to meet tonight at the town offices at 7 p.m., but is not expected to be able to field the needed quorum.

Sawyer said on Wednesday she is most upset that the fallout from the board’s decision not to reappoint her will stall completion of the master plan update and leave the town liable for a $10,828 contract with the Lakes Region Planning Commission to assist with the work.

Two years ago, Sawyer filed a lawsuit against the town claiming selectmen had violated the state’s Right-to-Know law on 15 separate occasions.

In Dec. 2015, Judge Charles Temple sitting in Carroll County Superior Court ruled the selectmen failed to give adequate notice for an April 17 public meeting, and that the board improperly discussed town business — reorganization of the town’s transfer station — in a non-public session on June 1.

The judge found, however, that the board did not break the law in 13 other instances as Sawyer had alleged, and that in two other instances in which the selectmen violated the law, it was not done intentionally.

Local and County Government Tuftonboro

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