Pearl: Legacy continued

Pearl: Legacy continued

If the Pembroke School Board thought the sudden passing of Hooksett resident David Pearl, whose daughter attends Pembroke Academy, let them off the hook for their inexcusable attempts to censor public criticism over how it and Superintendent Patty Sherman handled the arrest of Pembroke’s Dean of Students Rekha Luther for possession of heroin and anabolic steroids on school grounds, they thought wrong.  At last night’s meeting, they were presented with a seven page letter from the The New Hampshire Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union detailing how their treatment of Pearl quote “violated clearly-established free speech principles.”

Bissonnette: School board actions "impermissible"

Bissonnette: School board actions “impermissible”

The letter also took issue with the policies the board adopted at its last meeting which prohibit public criticism of employees and give the board complete discretion as to what non-agenda items may be commented on by the public were saying quote “the textbook definition of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination” and quote

“the Board cannot grant itself unfettered discretion to prohibit some non-agenda items from being discussed by members of the public, while allowing other non-agenda items to be discussed by members of the public. To do so would allow for arbitrary decision making by the Board that would effectively lead to impermissible viewpoint discrimination.”

Serafin: Absolutely laughable

Serafin: Absolutely laughable

Board Chair Tom Serafin, who said he had not read the letter because of problems with the school district’s email server, said, get this, that it’s never been the board’s intent to limit public comment.  He claimed that all the policies passed were based on New Hampshire School Board sample policies and legal advice.  Quote:  “We have never and will never intend to limit anyone to speak,” end quote.  He promised to investigate claims they violated anyone‘s free speech rights.

Present at the meeting was Marc Miville, a long time friend of Pearl’s.  He handed out fliers that read “save freedom of speech”  and told the board that Pearl’s intent in raising the issues at their meetings was quote

“to solve something that was going wrong…His main goal was – in a principled way and through his convictions – to show people the right way to do things,” said Miville.

Letter author Gilles Bissonnette, the N H C L U’s Legal Director, also let it be known, as did Pearl, that the state’s Right to Know Law does not prevent public criticism of employees, as claimed by the board, and that criticism and evaluation of public officials is held as especially important among First Amendment issues.

Concord Monitor article.  Union Leader article.

Chief Doyle: Chill, it's just a drill

Chief Doyle: Chill, it’s just a drill

The Merrimack Police Department will be in the area of Executive Park Drive today to conduct training drills, which will include low flying helicopters.  The police want residents to know that it’s just a drill, not an actual event.  If you have any questions, just give them a call at 4 2 4 3 7 7 4 if you have any questions.

News from our own backyard will continue after this.

Hassan: Signs drug court bill into law

Hassan: Signs drug court bill into law

New Hampshire took another step to address the opioid crisis when Governor Margaret Wood Hassan signed S B 4 6 4 into law yesterday.  The bill establishes a grant program that will provide matching funds to every county that operates a drug court.  The legislation was first proposed by senators David Boutin, Republican of Hooksett and Jeb Bradley, Republican of Wolfeboro and state representatives Joe Lachance, Patrick Long and William Infantine, all of Manchester, alongside Mayor Ted Gatsas in a City Hall press conference back in October.  At the time, lawmakers said they’d expected the bill to be enacted in February.

Gatsas: A long time coming

Gatsas: A long time coming

Drug courts provide an alternative sentencing option for addicts that commit crime to feed their habit.  Addicts convicted of their crimes agree to enter treatment and recovery programs supervised by the court in exchange for their sentence being suspended.  The court’s oversight typically involves weekly drug tests and update visits to determine whether or not they’re honoring the requirements.  If they’re not, the judge is supposed to impose the suspended sentence, causing the addict to serve their jail time.

Kurk: Surplus for tax reduction, but not drug courts

Kurk: Surplus for tax reduction, but not drug courts

Once a program is up and running in Hillsborough County’s Northern District, which includes Manchester and surrounding towns, Gatsas has said he has secured agreements from several local employers to provide jobs that will help those in the drug court program get back up on their feet.  Expect Gatsas and the Manchester legislators who sponsored the original bill to make a push to get the court up and running in Hillsborough North in the near future.

Long: Will try again

Long: Will try again

The Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation narrowly defeated an attempt by Gatsas and Long to start a court by using about four hundred forty three thousand dollars of county surplus.  Weare State Representative Neal Kurk argued it would be financially irresponsible to fund the program from surplus funds rather than in the operating budget.  He would, however, successfully propose taking a million dollars from the county’s surplus to lower the county’s tax rate, following the defeat of the drug court motion.

Birdsell: Senate kills another voter bill

Birdsell: Senate kills another voter bill

Along the same lines, Senators Jeanie Forrester, Republican from Meredith, and Regina Birdsell, Republican from Hampstead, have called on Hassan to sign S B 4 0 6 into law.  The bill would require prisons to use body scanners in an attempt to prevent heroin and other drugs from being smuggled into New Hampshire’s prisons and jails.  The legislation would provide the state Department of Corrections and the counties with the funds needed to purchase the scanners.  Forrester said stories of people overdosing while in prison are all too common and Birdsell said it only made sense, given all the state has done to address the opioid crisis, the state would move to prevent overdosing in prisons.

Finally on this topic, Forrester, who is also a G O P candidate for governor, held a press conference yesterday to announce her Take Back New Hampshire plan to combat the state’s drug problem.  We’ve linked to it from this news read at Girard at Large dot com.

That’s news from our own backyard!  Girard at Large hour ___ is next!