BRENTWOOD — Rockingham County Commissioner Kevin Coyle moved out of the district he was elected to represent with more than a year left in his term, but he insists that he isn’t breaking any residency requirement laws.
Coyle, who represents District 3, said he sold his house in Derry in July and moved to Portsmouth, which is located in District 1 and is represented by Commissioner Kevin St. James of Kingston.
The move should not have come as a surprise, Coyle said.
“I have been very clear for at least the last year that this was my last term because we were moving to Portsmouth, which is in Rockingham County, I might add,” he said Monday.
Before the move, Coyle, an attorney who spent most of his life in Derry, said he researched the state law for holding an elected county office, which is known as RSA 655:9.
According to the law, candidates seeking the position of county commissioner, sheriff, county attorney, county treasurer, register of deeds, or register of probate, must reside in the county and live in the district from which they’re elected “at the time of his election.”
Coyle said he believes it’s legal for him to continue to represent District 3 because that’s where he lived when he was elected. The district serves Auburn, Candia, Chester, Deerfield, Derry, Londonderry, Northwood, Nottingham and Windham.
Because the law states only that the candidate must live in the district “at the time of his election,” Coyle argues he hasn’t violated the law by moving out.
“I have been a Derry resident for almost 50 years. My work is in Derry. I’m in Derry almost every single day. I’ve worked hard for the people of Derry,” Coyle said.
The county’s legal counsel has also reviewed the law and sent an email to commissioners Monday supporting Coyle’s interpretation that he only needed to live in District 3 at the time of the election.
If legal counsel felt it was a violation, Coyle said he would have been willing to move back to a different property he bought a few weeks ago in Derry.
“I believe that I faithfully and diligently represent my district for which I was elected,” he said, adding that if there’s confusion over the law, then the Legislature could easily change it to make it clear that the person must live in the district throughout the term.
Coyle is up for reelection in November 2020 and is not planning to run, he said.
Meanwhile, Coyle accused the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, specifically Maj. Chris Bashaw, of making an issue of his residency to harass him because they’ve been at odds.
“This is ongoing bullying on the part of the sheriff’s department. I call a bully when I see a bully and Christopher Bashaw is a bully to the detriment of the sheriff’s department,” Coyle said, adding that Bashaw has been “on a tirade and has come after the commissioners.”
But Bashaw claimed that Coyle is the “bully and is very used to pushing people around.”
“It’s clear that they don’t like anyone challenging their authority,” Bashaw said.
He added, “I absolutely have concerns about his residency issues, but his accusations against me of harassment are stemming from previous issues where I brought forth information about potential unethical activity that he has been engaged in.”
When asked about the allegations of any unethical behavior, Coyle responded, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.”
Tension between the commissioners and the sheriff’s office flared up last week as well when the three-member board sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office seeking an investigation into an allegation that Sheriff Charles Massahos “fixed” a speeding ticket given to a county employee by a sheriff’s deputy. Massahos has denied the allegation.