January 31, 2005, 12:00 P.M.
The Pretenders: If Dick Breton and his supporters can't see how, with or without a legal opinion, there is an obvious conflict of interest in his serving on both the City Council and the Water Commission, they are blinded by their agenda. The state statute cited by the Mayor at the last regular council meeting, NH RSA 47:2, clearly and unequivocally prohibits Mr. Breton from serving in both capacities. Further prohibition against holding both offices can be found in part 2, articles 94 and 95 of the New Hampshire Constitution and in the City of Laconia Code, Article V, Code of Ethics, Section 5-86.
There are some issues in determining whether or not an individual can serve in several capacities within the city government which are nuanced. This is not one of them.
In Mr. Breton's case, he was clearly appointed by the Laconia City Council to serve on a board that operates directly under the jurisdiction of the City Council. The Water Department is clearly a city department, although it operates under the control of an appointed board. The City Council may be asked to rule on issues that directly bear on the operation (or even existence of) the Water Department.
Not only did Mr. Breton fail to recognize this apparent and obvious conflict, he clearly expressed his intent to participate in discussions and rulings regarding the Water Department if appointed to the Council. He would not even recuse himself. There is no logical or reasonable stretch of the imagination that can suggest that this does not present a direct, tangible and obvious conflict of interest. If Mr. Breton can't see that, he is not fit to sit in either seat.
The recent chicanery surrounding Mr. Breton's appointment to the City Council is further evidence of the fact that he was put up for an accepted the nomination to sit in that seat to further a particular agenda. Mr. Breton was not the popular choice of the people in his ward. In fact, Mr. Breton had not even moved in to the ward at the time that he was appointed. Mr. Breton did hang a mailbox on a post and put a lamp in the window. At least of the beginning of this farce, he was not a resident. He should have had the integrity to come forward and disclose that and express his desire to serve anyway. In this case he chose the low road.
Mr. Breton further places his integrity in question when he publicly chose to leave the council rather than resign his position from the water commission (following a vote supporting the Mayor's position that he could not serve in both positions). Mr. Breton, approached by his supporters, apparently thought better of his resignation the next day. To say, however, that he had not resigned is disingenuous. Councilors Bolduc, Cowan and Krahulec clearly support Mr. Breton because they know that he will support them and vote with them on issues that they feel are critical. Unfortunately, no one has bothered to ask the voters of Ward 3 whether or not they are of the same opinion. The voters of ward 3 have been given no consideration by Bolduc, Cowan and Krahulec at any time in this process.
The recent purported special meeting is nothing but a blatant disregard for the law, for procedure, for honesty and for the citizens of the City of Laconia. Mr. Breton was not a councilor at the time the meeting was purportedly convened, and the actions pretended to be taken at that time were illegal and probably violated the oaths of office of each of the three participating councilors. They have participated in an illegal meeting, and that should be grounds for their removal from office. Couple that with their joining as named plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the City and, by extension, the body with which they serve, their recall and removal should be a thought foremost on the minds of every citizen and voter.
It has been said by the participants that the most recent Tardif v. City of Laconia lawsuit presents questions of procedure. Certainly, the net effect, if Mr. Tardif is successful, will be an increase in taxes to the tune of approximately $1 million and therefore no one can argue that its really about the money. The councilors who joined that lawsuit have both individually and collectively indicated that it was a matter of principal and procedure, not money. These recent activities surrounding the Breton appointment, resignation, resurrection, and illegal meeting ought to be about the same thing. It seems that Cowan, Krahulec and Bolduc want things run their way or no way, procedure and law be damned.
These four people, Cowan, Krahulec, Bolduc and Breton have made a mockery of our city. What is perhaps most disturbing to me is that these people claim to speak for their constituents. I hope that their constituents will speak loudly, strongly and publicly to them about their recent actions, both now and in November. I also think that we ought to settle the Tardif litigation, raise the extra million dollars and put it toward the McIntyre property and a new school, but, hey that's just me.