Rye Civic News

RCL March 10th BOS meeting March 10, 2014

HTML Version for the Civic News:     RyeBOSrclNotes031014revBfinal


Final Revision B – Provided by the Rye Civic League 

            Present:  Selectmen Jenness, Mills and Musselman. Also present:  Michael Magnant, Cyndi Gillespie.  Also present:  Town Moderator Bob Eaton (left near end of discussion about ballot privacy), Fire Chief Skip Sullivan, Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy, Building Inspector Peter Rowell.  Not present:  Police Chief Kevin Walsh.

            Members of the public present included:  Susan Anderson, Rosalie Powell Andrews, Cecilia Azzi, Victor Azzi, Mae Bradshaw, Peter Crawford, Joe Cummins, Jaci Grote, Otto Grote, Natasha Goyette.


  1. Selectman Mills shouts at resident who, he alleges, questioned his integrity by requesting that Selectmen not be stationed adjacent to the ballot counting machine because of the possibility that marked ballots could be observed.
  2. Ambulance billing rates were simplified.
  3. Rosalie Powell Andrews was appointed as Administrative Assistant in the Building Department.
  4. Policies for Committees and Subcommittees were discussed, including a requirement that meetings occur in town facilities, and that alcohol not be served.Editor’s note:  For ease in finding particular sections using the archived video and audio on the Town website, the elapsed time is indicated.  Use the slider and the elapsed time indicated at the bottom of the video window to fast forward to the desired section.  Videos on the Town website may currently be accessed at www.town.rye.nh.us by clicking on “Town Hall Streaming” at the bottom left of the screen.  Follow the link for “Town Hall Live Streaming,” then find the meeting by date under “Previous.”

    The video begins at 6:26:52 p.m. (0:00 elapsed), however, the audio was not turned on until 6:30:55 (2:03 elapsed).  Times are based on the black bar at the top of the video which is several minutes slow relative to the clock in the courtroom and does not match the announcements of times made during the meeting.

    Call to order and presentation to Little League (3:25 elapsed)

    As the meeting was about to begin, the players and coaches of the Rye Little League team gathered at the front of the room.  Selectman Mills then called the meeting to order, with Selectmen Musselman and Jenness, as well as Mr. Magnant and Ms. Gillespie sitting in the audience.  Selectman Mills pointed these other individuals out as he opened the meeting.  He then presented the awards to the Little League team for winning the State Championship, with none of the other Selectmen participating.

    Approval of minutes (14:49 elapsed)

    After a recess while the Little League players filed out, the meeting was reconvened with the Selectmen, Mr. Magnant and Ms. Gillespie seated at the table.  The minutes of the February 10, 2014 meeting were approved without changes.  The minutes of the non-public session on February 19, 2014 were approved with a misspelling of a name noted.

    Letter regarding ballot privacy (15:50 elapsed)

    Selectman Mills indicated that this item would be taken out of order as the Town Moderator was present.  He then asked Mr. Crawford whether he would like to address the letter.  Editor’s note:  The letter and the response to it from Bob Eaton, Town Moderator, are attached to the official minutes of the meeting.

    Mr. Crawford stated that, during the last two or three elections, he had observed that there was typically a Selectman stationed adjacent to the ballot counting machine. He had observed both Selectmen Mills and Selectmen Jenness adjacent to the machine.  As he was being instructed regarding how to insert the ballot in the machine, it had occurred to him that the ballot was potentially visible.  He does not think that anyone intends this.  His review of a manual from the Secretary of State indicates that privacy folders are strongly recommended.  He explained that these folders would ensure that ballots would not at any point be visible.  While the folders have been available, they have not been widely advertised and Mr. Eaton has written to him that only about two people in any election have used them.

    The second part of the letter relates to who it is appropriate to have adjacent to the ballot counting machine, assuming that someone needs to be there, Mr. Crawford said.  He referred to page 33 of the election manual that suggests that the Moderator should be the person stationed adjacent to the machine.  It should not be a Selectmen who is there, because of the discretionary authority that the Selectmen have over Town affairs, which could be potentially intimidating to some people who might think that they are being encouraged to vote in a particular way, Mr. Crawford said.  The RSAs enumerate the election officials who are qualified to be within the railing, and the Selectmen are among those, as well as the Supervisors of the Checklist and people from the Town Clerk’s office.  It would appear that there are a sufficient number of people available such that it would not be necessary to have a Selectman adjacent to the machine.  He requested that each of the three Selectmen not be adjacent to the machine.  They could be performing other duties, he said.

    (20:33 elapsed)

                Selectman Mills stated that he had promised his wife that he would keep his mouth shut.  He then shouted at Mr. Crawford:

    “But, when you got people like you in the audience, that question the integrity of me and Ms. Jenness, okay, that sets me off.”  Selectman Musselman added “and me.”

    Selectman Mills continued, shouting:

    “You’ve got a hell of a nerve, really, Mr. Crawford, to come in here.  You’ve been in town three years, and you’ve set everything back.  If you do what you want to do, it’s gonna cost the town more money to hire more people.  Election officials.  We do that.  We’re down there because we, that’s our duty to be there.  We don’t get paid for it.  The election officials do.  And if you’re gonna pull us away from a duty we got, then it’s gonna cost the town more money.  You must think that we’re complete imbeciles.  And you question my integrity.  Okay.  That’s number one.  When you do that, okay, you’re in big, big trouble.”

    Editor’s note:  The Secretary of State’s manual, which is available at http://sos.nh.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=27638 suggests, at page 108, that the Selectmen staff the “No Photo ID” table and lists other possible duties for them, none of which include being present at the ballot counting machine. 

    Town Moderator Bob Eaton stated that he has total supervision of elections in the Town of Rye, according to State law.  He asserted that privacy sleeves have always been available, but are not used because they are inconvenient.  Because of Mr. Crawford’s concerns, there will be a plexiglass sign on the ballot table pointing out the availability of privacy sleeves.  He is not going to force people to use the privacy sleeves, however.  They are not required by State statute, he said.

    The Selectmen are probably not at the ballot counting device that often during the day, but they have performed that duty since he has been Moderator.  He acknowledged that the Moderator is responsible for monitoring the ballot machine.  The Moderator is empowered to use any of the election officials, which include the Selectmen, as he sees fit.  It’s a long day and they don’t have that many people.  He cannot be in every place at once.

    Mr. Eaton stated that, although he will not get into the emotion that others have, he does look at Mr. Crawford’s letter as a suggestion that he does have a problem with the integrity of the Selectmen.  He has seen no issues with the integrity of the Selectmen or any indication that they have been seeking to intimidate or coerce voters.  In fact, by the time the people come to the optical scanner they have already voted, he said.  He will not change the rules because one person questions somebody’s integrity because he has no reason to believe that their integrity is not of the highest possible caliber.

    (27:09 elapsed)

    Selectman Musselman stated that he was surprised at the assertion that anyone might look at ballots.  It would be highly inappropriate and none of them care how anyone votes, he maintained.  The role indicated has been primarily played by Selectman Jenness, and he doubts that very many people in Rye find her intimidating or menacing as they leave the polling place.  The fear of that is nearly delusional, he said.

    (28:20 elapsed)

                Mr. Crawford responded, stating that he was not challenging anyone’s integrity.  The laws are clear that the voter cannot show his ballot to anybody, and election officials cannot look at any ballot.  “I’m just trying to avoid any sense that there might be some impropriety,” he said.

    Mr. Eaton stated that people know that they’re not supposed to read other people’s ballots, and he has not observed that during his six years as Moderator.

    Mr. Crawford responded that if the ballot is not in a privacy sleeve it can be looked at, and it would not necessarily be apparent that this was occurring.

    (29:36 elapsed)

                Selectman Mills stated that Selectman Jenness was going to respond because Mr. Crawford had “crossed the line.  Okay.  And you listen to what I said.  Okay.  By writing that letter, you crossed the line.  Remember that.  You and your cronies.”

    Selectman Jenness stated that people have a right to say what they think.  She was surprised at the assertion that she has a chilling effect on voters.  While the letter asserts that the Selectmen station themselves adjacent to the ballot machine, it must be understood that they are assigned to do whatever they are doing within the rails.  It’s a little silly, she said.  She doesn’t really think anyone could read a ballot if they tried, she asserted.

    Jaci Grote stated that she had not, in 13 years of voting in town, asked for a privacy sleeve.  She has full faith that no one is reading her ballot.  Respecting ballot privacy is part of the “code of conduct” of citizenship.

    (32:42 elapsed)

                Joe Cummins stated that it disheartened him to hear Mr. Crawford yelled at.  Most of the time spent by Selectmen Mills and Musselman, and by Mr. Eaton, was “hectoring over a straw man, which is the questioning of the integrity.”  Some people, most likely wrongly, might feel intimidated if a Selectman is standing there.  He reminded Selectman Jenness that he was one of the two people who had asked for a privacy folder.  He had jocularly asked her to stand back when she had been at the ballot machine.  Selectman Jenness stated that she did not recall that.

    (35:15 elapsed)

    Mr. Eaton stated that he would like to wrap it up by saying that he had received Mr. Crawford’s letter, had responded to it, and will do as he sees fit at the election pursuant to his statutory powers.

    Cecilia Azzi stated that it was not a question of integrity but of the way it looks if a Selectman who is running for office is standing where ballots are deposited.  Mr. Eaton and Selectman Musselman interrupted and said that Mr. Mills would not be present.  Editor’s note:  Selectman Mills was a candidate for Selectman in the election the next day.  Ms. Azzi stated that she had been voting in town for 25 years and was not aware of the availability of the sleeves.

    Selectman Mills responded, saying that “I think if I go back and look at the list, I think you and your husband, several years have voted absentee.  So then you wouldn’t see the sleeves if you’re voting absentee.”   Ms. Azzi started to respond that she had voted absentee only once, but Selectman Mills interrupted, saying “because I have them all.  I keep them.”

    Susan Anderson stated that she had frequently worked at the table where the ballots are handed out, and has always advised people of the availability of the privacy sleeves.

    (38:26 elapsed)

    Victor Azzi, Old Ocean Blvd., pointed out that he had been voting in Rye for 30 years, and his wife for 22 years.  He continued, saying:

    “So, if you’re pointing out that, maybe once, she, or I, or we, have used absentee ballots what’s the point of that?  That we don’t know how to vote? … Or you don’t know how to count?  … Do you keep a dossier on every voter in this town as to how often they vote one way or another?  Do you also keep a dossier showing the results of their votes?”

    Jaci Grote interrupted, saying that this is ridiculous and juvenile.  Mr. Eaton asked whether anyone else had anything for the Town Moderator, as he was not going to sit there and listen to this.  He then walked out.

    Public hearing on ambulance billing rates (41:35 elapsed)

    Fire Chief Skip Sullivan stated that they were proposing a minor increase in the rates, which had not increased since 2010.  They are proposing a bundling of the rates to conform with how Medicare likes to see them.  The rates are slightly more than Medicare allows and in line with what some private insurers allow.  Everything will be bundled except for the mileage at $10 per mile.

    Selectman Mills asked whether the taxpayers were paying for the purchase of the ambulance.  Chief Sullivan responded that the cell tower fund provides for that, but around $100,000 of taxpayer funds is spent annually for training and overtime, and retirement on the overtime hours.

    Joe Cummins, 990 Washington Rd., asked how much the revenues would be increased.  Chief Sullivan stated that it would be a wash.  Mr. Cummins asked about the average response time.  Chief Sullivan responded that it was 4.5 to 5 minutes after the “tone goes out.”  Selectman Mills stated that it used to be 16 minutes.

    Natasha Goyette, 750 Brackett Rd. related how the ambulance had arrived quickly for her two year old and they were great.  Her daughter is fine, she said.  Selectman Mills interjected that he monitored the calls and that he had heard that one come in.  There had been two calls, he said.

    Selectman Musselman moved to adopt the proposed rates, effective April 1.  The motion carried unanimously.

    Rosalie Andrews appointed Building Dept. Administrative Assistant (50:25 elapsed)

    Mr. Rowell stated that, after an exhaustive search involving 80 resumes, he had decided to recommend Rosalie Powell Andrews for this position, at 25 hours per week.  Editor’s note:  The former assistant, Sue Dunfey, had moved upstairs to the Finance office a few months earlier.  The Selectmen noted Ms. Andrews’ strong background and that they were looking forward to having her on board.  Selectman Musselman stated that he hoped that Ms. Andrews and Mr. Rowell would work well together.  Selectman Mills noted that Ms. Andrews had been his opponent six years earlier.  Editor’s note:  Ms. Andrews had been a candidate for Selectman in 2008.

    Selectman Musselman moved that Ms. Andrews be hired for this position effective when she is able to start.  All were in favor.  Selectman Mills quipped that he would pick up the blank building permits on Wednesday.  He said that Selectman Musselman gets “bent out of shape” when he does things like that.

    Volunteer beach cleaning (53:45 elapsed)

    Ms. Goyette stated that she had a small company and was proposing to work with Portsmouth High School students on beach cleanup programs.  Selectman Jenness expressed concern that if the same area that the Blue Ocean Society cleans up is involved the counts of individual items might be rendered inaccurate.  There was then discussion about the trash bags and disposal.

    The motion to approve permitting this group to clean up the beaches carried unanimously.

    Public Works part-time employee (62:42 elapsed)

    Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy noted that the person hired for a 16 hour per week position at the Transfer Center had left after two weeks.  He would like to hire one of the runners up rather than re-advertising the position.  The Selectmen appeared to be in agreement.

    Town policy on right-to-know and alcohol use (64:18 elapsed)

    Town Administrator Magnant addressed this issue.  He referred to a 2009/2010 policy that he had found, which he had amended to provide for no alcohol use.

    Selectman Musselman suggested that there be a book of policies.  Other towns have this, he said.

    With regard to the policy on meetings, there are two important provisions, first that there be notices of committee meetings, and that the right-to-know law be referenced.  Mr. Magnant added that it was important that the meetings take place in town facilities.  Selectman Musselman stated that there had been issues in past years with members meeting at people’s houses.  He questioned whether and where the Recycling Subcommittee had been meeting as he has not seen any minutes.  Susan Anderson stated they had had three meetings, and had met at the New Hampshire Room at the Library.  Only the most recent February 26 meeting will have minutes.  She summarized a lengthy process of review before these could be published.

    Selectman Jenness raised issues about which committees are covered, in particular mentioning the Demolition Review Committee which may be a subcommittee of the Heritage Commission.  There was a reference to certain committees being exempt, including the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Historic District Commission, the Heritage Commission and the Conservation Commission.  Selectman Musselman stated that exceptions were probably listed as Attorney Donovan had stated that the Selectmen does not have purview over them.

    Mae Bradshaw, 106 Harbor Rd., stated that she is Chairman of the Heritage Commission and they had been following the rules applicable to the other Committees.

    Selectman Jenness asked about reporting procedures to the Town Clerk.  There was discussion about that as well as the attendance records and the process for removal of members who do not attend.  There is a provision for the Selectmen being informed if a person misses 25 percent or more of the meetings in a year but no process to gather the information.

    Selectman Jenness asked about the applicability of the rules to the Museum, which is privately owned, but is on Town Land.  Selectman Musselman stated that inside the building is not Town property, but outside is.

    Victor Azzi asked about the applicability of the policy to the Library.  Editor’s note:  Mr. Azzi is one of the Library Trustees.

    Brian Helfrich, resignation from Mosquito Control Commission (90:42 elapsed)

    Selectman Musselman noted that his schedule had filled up with a new child and job responsibilities.  The motion to accept the resignation and thank him for his service carried unanimously.

    E-mail from Chris Vlangas regarding use of upper church parking lot (91:17 elapsed)

    The proposal was to use this as a rest stop for cyclists.  Concern was expressed regarding an interfering church activity and whether an event permit had yet been approved.  The matter was tabled.  Chief Sullivan stated that the Public Safety Building, with its rest rooms, could be used.

    Town website link to Farmers Market (92:50 elapsed)

    Mr. Magnant stated that this was doable. Selectman Musselman moved to approve and Selectman Jenness seconded, however the discussion was interrupted before there was a vote and then proceeded with the next item.

    Resignation of Lisa Moll from the Recycling Education Committee.(93:30 elapsed)

    Selectman Musselman moved to accept the resignation and thank her for her service, which motion carried unanimously.  There was discussion with Susan Anderson regarding who might fill this position.

    Road races (94:30 elapsed)

    Mr. Magnant indicated that the Police Chief was not present and that discussion on item (B) should be deferred.  There are ongoing discussion with the North Hampton Selectmen, he said.  Editor’s note:  The agenda, item (B) under Old Business refers to a LOCO Sports marathon for October 26, 2014.  Mr. Magnant stated that he would address item (A), which is the Eastern States race.  The Police Chief is happy with the route.  Approval is needed as the event is right around the corner.  The motion to approve the race carried unanimously.  Editor’s note:  The agenda has the race occurring on March 30.

    Appointment of Tom Aspinwall to the Mosquito Control Commission (96:00 elapsed)

    Selectman Mills stated that Mr. Aspinwall is interested in rejoining the Commission.  There was a letter from Ted Merritt.  There was discussion as to whether Mr. Aspinwall would replace Mr. Merritt or Mr. Helfrich.  Mr. Magnant stated that Mr. Helfrich’s term expires in 2014 and that his resignation letter indicates that he would serve until the end of March.  The motion was clarified that to state that it was to appoint Mr. Aspinwall through April 2017.  All were in favor.

    Town flag design (99:50 elapsed)

    Selectman Jenness noted that the competition had not been fair as there had been submissions from both adults and children.  As an art teacher, she is against having one winner and 49 losers.  There were a total of 64 submissions, 3 of which were from adults.  She passed out some of the designs that she had done.  Selectman Mills asked whether she would get credit if one of those was selected.

    There was discussion about whatever they do needing to be student inspired and dark green being preferable to the blue used on the State flag.  After significant inconclusive discussion, Victor Azzi suggested that they not adopt something with so little support.  It was agreed that the matter would be brought up again in two weeks.

    Right-to-know session and discussion of filing system improvements (122:00 elapsed)

    Mr. Magnant stated that on March 26 at 3:00 Town Attorney Donovan would give his right-to-know presentation to all committees and commissions.

    Fire Chief Sullivan suggested that those coming to the building look at the archive room and note the job that Dyana, Cyndi, Joanne and the company that had been hired had done with the files and the system.  He said it was a great job and some of the best money had been spent.  Editor’s note:  This is an apparent reference to Finance Director Cyndi Gillespie, Dyana Ledger who works as a transcriptionist under contract to various committees, and Joann Drewniak of the Assessor’s office.

    Non-public session (123:13 elapsed)  

    Selectman Mills noted that this was regarding collective bargaining.  Mr. Crawford noted that the unsealing of minutes was on the agenda and asked whether any unsealed minutes would be available the next day.  The Selectmen responded without a definitive answer.

    The video stops at 8:33:50 and 124:58 elapsed and resumes at 9:11:15 p.m.

    Unsealing of minutes (125:00 elapsed)

    Selectman Mills made a motion to reseal the non-public session minutes of 1/6/14, 11/13/13, 5/14/12 and 9/12/11.  The motion carried unanimously.  The motion to unseal the minutes of 5/14/12 (A2) and 1/9/12 carried unanimously.  Ms. Gillespie noted that there were two sets of minutes for 5/14/12.

    Selectman Musselman stated that review of the six sets of minutes had taken half an hour.  At this rate, unsealing of 240 sets of minutes would take 20 hours.  Selectman Jenness noted that there had been a collective bargaining discussion as well.  Selectman Musselman asserted that most of the time had been devoted to the discussion of the unsealing of minutes

    Adjournment (127:08 elapsed

    The motion to adjourn carried unanimously and the meeting adjourned at 9:13:25 p.m.