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My Turn: Should these towns really be suing?

Re “Here’s why Concord and others have gone to court” (Monitor Forum, Aug. 10):

I’m no fan of the Local Government Center, but the column claiming the ruling by state hearing officer Donald Mitchell was unfair to former LGC member towns and cities just doesn’t pass the smell test. Take a look at the facts and then decide whether these towns are victims or coconspirators.

In 2003, the Local Government Center reorganized its operation, and over a period of years, there were many missteps. We now know the actions its board of directors took to reorganize were illegal. We also know these actions were contrary to New Hampshire laws that regulated risk management pools. We know that taking money from one trust and giving it to another trust was a big mistake. We know that you can’t take the real estate assets from one trust and transfer them to an umbrella organization without compensation. And the big one: You can’t keep surplus funds and use them for future rate stabilization.

The hearing officer’s ruling that is being challenged is based on bylaws that state unless you are a current member of the health trust, you do not share in any distribution of surplus money. Remember that for many years the LGC did not return surpluses to municipalities that were members of its health trust, instead using that money to lessen the impact of future rate increases for those communities.

The hearing officer ruled there was $33 million in surplus that had to be distributed to health trust members. However, some towns had left the LGC’s health trust and therefore were not eligible for sharing in the distribution of the surplus. The towns say: Since we paid into the insurance pool, we should receive a portion of the surplus – regardless of whether we are still members.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The LGC bylaws that prevent past members from sharing any surplus were never contested by representatives from the communities that are suing. The same representatives from the municipalities who approved a transfer of money from one trust to another trust (against the recommendations of the LGC’s former executive director Maura Carroll) are now claiming they are also owed a portion of that money.

It sure seems like a case of having your cake and wanting to eat it, too. They can’t have it both ways. Just like the LGC claiming the rules it had written and that had become state law regulating risk management pools didn’t apply to them, former board members are now claiming bylaws that they either approved or concurred with shouldn’t apply to them.

There are many facets to the LGC case, and one of them revolves around conflict of interest. You have municipal administrators and elected officials purportedly representing their communities and also board members of the LGC. Who were they representing, the LGC or the towns they were paid by or elected to represent? We see by the actions of the LGC as approved by its board of directors that you can’t serve two masters. All too often LGC, board members approved actions that were contrary to the best interests of their communities.

Now, these communities are claiming the LGC did them wrong. No, the members of the board of directors from your towns and cities did you wrong. They placed the interests of the LGC ahead of their own communities.

So after years of supporting the LGC and its bylaws, these towns now claim they were done wrong. They’re right. They were done wrong by those they selected to represent them. They were done wrong by employees and elected officials who placed the well-being of the LGC above their own communities.

Sue because you don’t like the outcome of the hearing officer’s final order? Better yet, how about placing those who represented these communities in stockades – in the public square – for all to see just who it was who placed the LGC’s interests above yours.

(Allan Herschlag lives in Concord.)

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