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Judge appoints new selectmen after Kensington board quits

Union Leader Correspondent

September 15. 2018 11:52PM
Kensington Town Moderator Harold Bragg swears in new selectmen Michael Schwotzer, left, and Benjamin Cole inside Rockingham County Superior Court Friday after they were appointed by a judge. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman explains the reasons why he felt he had to appoint new selectmen in Kensington during a hearing Friday morning. (Jason Schreiber)

KENSINGTON — Town employees were expecting to be paid on time Friday after a judge appointed two new selectmen following this week’s resignation of the entire board of selectmen.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman appeared uncomfortable with appointing selectmen himself because the positions are elected, but he stressed that he had no choice and that the law allows a judge to take such action in an emergency.

“We’re short-circuiting that (democratic) process here and I’m very sensitive to that,” Schulman said during a hearing Friday morning.

The town moved quickly to fill two of three vacancies because selectmen are responsible for authorizing paychecks to town employees and for making sure other town bills are paid.

Former members Norman DeBoisbriand, Robert Wadleigh and Linda Blood resigned following three months of contentious debate and accusations from a group of residents who attended meetings and took aim at them on social media.

With no selectmen in place, Town Moderator Harold Bragg filed an emergency petition asking the Superior Court to appoint former Selectman Michael Schwotzer and Benjamin Cole, who served on the school board until he resigned Wednesday in anticipation of being named a selectman.

According to state officials, this is only the second time a New Hampshire town has been forced to ask a judge to appoint selectmen because the entire board resigned.

The precedent was set in 2015 when a Grafton County Superior Court appointed two selectmen in Orange.

Cole and Schwotzer were sworn in immediately following Friday’s hearing and were expected to head to town hall to sign off on paychecks that were scheduled to be issued Friday.

The two selectmen will hold their first meeting on Sept. 24 and are expected to begin accepting recommendations to appoint a third selectman to create a full board until March.

Schulman approved the appointments after they spoke about their qualifications and heard no opposition from any residents.

He also made it clear that the appointments should be considered temporary as a way to “keep the lights on” until voters can elect a new board in March.

Schulman told Cole and Schwotzer that they need to keep the town running, but encouraged them not to take up any big projects between now and the March elections.

“I really see myself as a caretaker,” Schwotzer said.

Courts Politics Kensington

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