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County seeks update on probe

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 9/1/2021 3:48:07 PM

Belknap County commissioners will ask the Superior Court to keep it apprised of any court activity by a special County Delegation investigative panel that is looking into the handling of county finances.

The commissioners on Thursday said they would be sending a letter to Belknap Superior Court asking that it notify them if the committee requests a hearing or makes any other court filings.

The committee voted last Monday to hire an attorney to assist it in its investigation of budget transfers that have occurred in past years. On Aug. 12 the full delegation authorized the committee to spend up to $5,000 on the probe, but under state law none of the funds can be expended without a judge’s prior approval.

Funds associated with the investigation would cover such expenses as payments to the attorney and a stenographer hired to produce a verbatim transcript of any testimony, as well as the costs associated with the serving subpoenas on witnesses called to testify before the committee.

The committee has identified seven county departments which it says it wants to look into, chief among them the County Nursing Home, the county’s largest department.

“I think the commissioners should notify the court that if there’s to be a hearing we want to be notified and we want to be heard,” Commissioner Hunter Taylor said.

Commission Chair Peter Spanos repeated his opposition to the inquiry, saying it “lacks purpose, lacks clarity, and lacks certainty.”

Some members of the delegation, including Investigative Committee chair, state Rep. Norm Silber, have said they suspect county officials may have broken the law by transferring funds from one area of their budget to another without the delegation’s approval.

The commissioners acknowledge there was a transfer last year to cover higher-than-expected expenses for medical and pharmaceutical expenses at the nursing home. Since they have admitted that occurred, there is no need for an investigation, the commissioners have said.

“If there is anyone who thinks they’re going to find a smoking gun, they’re going to be disappointed,” Spanos said. “The integrity of this board is unimpeachable.”

The commissioners disputed the investigative committee’s assertion the commissioners have been uncooperative.

“We have communicated several times to meet (with the delegation) and communicate openly,” Commissioner Glen Waring said. As to the committee’s charge that the commissioners have been antagonistic toward delegation or the panel, Waring added, “I see the opposite. The committee has been extremely adversarial to us.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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