The life of an official government document and the words contained in the document…really does matter!

happy-face the current publication of The Messenger has an article regarding the donnybrook that broke out at Tuesday’s Select Board meeting. The Messenger’s article can be read here: messenger-article-minutes

In the article the writer mentioned I was contacted the next day, which is true, and says my “complaint” was with the town’s administrator for altering draft minutes prior to select board approval, which is inaccurate.

  There was no complaint. I requested  information to learn how documents  were created and handled. I actually research out the details before I write about them.

Be that as it may, I thought that my Wednesday October 19th blog  made this point very clear. I forwarded that blog post address to the reporter after my phone conversation.

I received two responses, one from the Town Administrator trovato-email-10-17-16-ii that clearly indicates that changes are being made outside of the Select Board members view and those changes may or may not be tracked:

” I will gladly answer your questions based on past practice.

  1.  The minutes are sent via word format so that we can make grammatical or spelling changes prior to a Board meeting.  The Selectmen meeting minutes are sent back to the recording secretary so they have the document presented to the Board at the meeting before approval.
  1. If the “track changes” is turned on then yes the changes are tracked. “

Christine Trovato, MPA Town Administrator

Anyone attempting to minimize the alteration of official records as  just “grammatical changes”or confuses the legitimacy of so called “draft” documents,  has failed to learn the lessons taught to us by the unprecedented impeachment trial of New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice David Brock in 2000. (read here)

Observers say it was that same buddy-buddy tradition that caused the courthouse  chaos. In the small, collegial atmosphere of this Supreme Court, justices have for years sat in on cases from which they were officially recused, Brock and others reported. It also was not uncommon for drafts of opinions to circulate among all justices–again, whether they had recused themselves or not.

[snip] At a news conference before the impeachment investigation began, Brock, who will not comment while the inquiry is in progress, said recused judges never attempted “to influence the merits of a decision in which they were recused,” and only edited opinions for grammar.”

Justice Brock was indeed tried (first judicial impeachment in over 200 years in our state) and was acquitted. Brock did admit he committed errors of judgment in allowing these practices: “In testimony last week, Brock acknowledged making errors in judgment and offering misstatements during the investigation. But he denied lying, and he said he misspoke once because of confusing questions.” (paragraph 12 read here)

The second response I received was from Cheery Palmisano, a town secretary indicating there was no policy for the creation of documents (minutes) and only a retention policy:

“Bruce,

I was not in the initial email regarding your Right to Know Request.

There is no policy regarding document creation.
We follow the State of NH Record Retention Schedule.
Minutes are emailed to the Town Administrator from the Recording Secretary in Word

format. Minutes are posted on the town website as a .pdf.
We currently do not have an internal policy on emails, etc.”

Best regards,
Cherry J. Palmisano
TOWN OF HENNIKER
Executive Secretary/Land Use Coordinator

The fact that we have no policy on tracking document changes is unconscionable. The additional fact that we do not know who or how many times”changes” do indeed occur is unacceptable.

Once again…this is nothing more than an outstanding example of POOR CORPORATE GOVERNANCE.

 

 

Advertisements

Why all the confusion…the answer is in the emails….hint, “REPLY ALL”!

minutesWhy so much confusion over a simple Right To Know request???

The answer lies in the emails folks. Here is the email stream that was generated by my request. email-thread

Pay close attention to the email thread. Every email of mine was sent to the Every member of the SELECT BOARD, the town administrator and secretary. The only one that included everyone in their response was Cherry Palmisano.Thus everyone knows what Cherry wrote…thank you Cherry..maybe you can teach the group how to reply all.

Unless Chairman Blomback’s responses (October 1, 2016; includes only town administrator and secretary but no board members) were printed and sent to the board, they would have no way of knowing that he responded. We in the public have no idea if these responses were indeed sent to the board members.

The most perplexing email I received was from the Town Administrator dated October 17th. In that email she chose to write to only me…and no one else. The entire Select Board was in the dark as to how she responded. There is no indication as of this writing that the Select Board has even seen this official response. trovato-email-10-17-16-ii

I think it is unconscionable that the town administrator admitted to editing minutes, for whatever reason, prior to the Select Board members seeing the first draft.

I hate to keep repeating myself about good Corporate Governance regarding board conduct.There are procedures that need to be followed to give everyone assurances that good Corporate Governance is indeed taking place. Right now, that is not happening!

 

 

 

Wait a….minute! More hennikerleaks for your enjoyment….

confusion-iIt has come to my attention that the select board discussed (without notice) my request for information regarding the creation and editing of official minutes of select board meetings, at their meeting on Tuesday October 19,2016. minute-creation-request

Since the online agenda made no mention of discussing my request, I decided that I would rather spend the evening with my wife who had just returned home from a two day conference. Apparently, the board took advantage of this and decided to discuss my request without proper notice…too bad for me I guess! I will have to wait for the minutes to know for sure??????

My request was made so I could have an understanding of how minutes of select board meetings are created and how their contents are edited.

Town Administrator made it quite clear in point [1.)] in her email to me how the SELECT BOARD MINUTES are edited prior to the select board members open review. trovato-email-10-17-16

My attention was drawn to the following response provided by Town Administrator Trovato on October 17, 2016:

       I will gladly answer your questions based on past practice.

  1. The minutes are sent via word format so that we can make grammatical or spelling changes prior to a Board meeting.  The Selectmen meeting minutes are sent back to the recording secretary so they have the document presented to the Board at the meeting before approval.
  1. If the “track changes” is turned on then yes the changes are tracked.

        Christine Trovato, MPA

        Town Administrator

        Town of Henniker

I was deeply disturbed by the following response I received on October 6, 2016 from secretary Cherry Palmisano, which states that there is no policy regarding document creation:

—- Original Message —–

From: “Secretary” <hennikeradmin@tds.net>

To: “Bruce Trivellini” <molarsolutions@tds.net>, “Kris Blomback – Pats Peak Ski Area”  <kris@patspeak.com>, Bfrench479@comcast.ne, “dsosgood henniker” <dsosgood.henniker@gmail.com>, onehenniker@gmail.com, tiamhooper@gmail.com

Cc: “Chris.trovato@tds.net” <chris.trovato@tds.net>, secretary@henniker.org

Sent: Thursday, October 6, 2016 2:30:59 PM

Subject: RE: Right to know request Meeting Minutes

Bruce,

I was not in the initial email regarding your Right to Know Request.

There is no policy regarding document creation.

We follow the State of NH Record Retention Schedule.

Minutes are emailed to the Town Administrator from the Recording Secretary in Word     format. Minutes are posted on the town website as a .pdf.

We currently do not have an internal policy on emails, etc.

Best regards,

Cherry J. Palmisano

TOWN OF HENNIKER

It should be very disturbing to all of us that Select Board Meeting minutes are being created, sent to the Town Administrator & other employees and are admittedly edited prior to the Select Board Members first review.

It also in unconscionable that these documents are not required to have the “tack change” function on when editing.

What the heck is going on here!??????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar Wilde once said, “always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

Can we make that change! I think we can….

change-management-cartoon Once again that time of year has come when budgets for next year are beginning to be prepared. I urge all of you to start attending the Select Board meetings, School Board meetings, Road Management Committee meetings, Waste Water Commission meetings, Water Commission meetings and any other meetings that you might be interested in. Why you may ask? Because this is where you have direct input on how your tax dollars are appropriated.

In the meetings I have attended during the course of this year, I have heard or read comments from department heads or committee members in Waste Water, Water, Highway Department and Road Management. They all have spoken about large projects that have been delayed and not even considered in the past that can no longer be ignored.

In order to maximize the appropriation of our tax dollar towards these major projects we have to consider making a few changes;

  1. Optional Fiscal Year: currently the town’s fiscal year runs from January 1-December 31. We pay our taxes in July and December. This means that from January 1 to July 1 the town has to borrow the operating money from a bank in the form of Tax Anticipated Notes (TAN). We budget $10,000/year for interest on this borrowing. Now this $10,000 doesn’t sound like much but every little bit helps. By going to the Optional Fiscal Year the Town Meeting can be moved to May and we can begin collecting on the new budget in July, thus eliminating the need to borrow from the bank. Better our money goes into Henniker than to some bank. (read here for details)
  2. Stop over funding the School Budget: I want to call your attention to two aspects of the school budget. Each year the School Board puts together a slide show presentation on the school budget. Each year they have a slide that shows how much at year end the school did not spend. (see here page 17) The latest presentation shows that since 2009 to 2015 the school board saved the tax payers $730,000. This was money that was raised by taxes and not spent. Then at the end of the year the School Board advises the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) of this and the excess pays down your tax rate. That $730,000 could have been cut out of the school budget and placed in the town’s administrative budget. Those funds could have been used for the Western Avenue Bridge and we would not have had to borrow $1.2 M @ 2.7% for a total finance charge of $269,836. Review of the latest year end statement shows that the school once again was over funded and has a return of $292,550. (read here highlighted in yellow)
  3. Who thinks we should add another $300,000 to the road budget? The money can be found (see here)

It can be done. Some tough decisions have to be made, but we can do it.

We can make these changes!

 

Around and around and around we go…where the town’s headed nobody knows…..

around-and-around-we-go  before I begin I would like to thank the Temptations for allowing me to alter the title to their mega hit song Ball of Confusion. (millennials listen here)

So once again a Select Board meeting is upon us, Tuesday October 18, 2016, and those of us who wish to attend and be informed prior to the meeting are out of luck.

Both agendas have been posted (meeting agenda has been posted as minutes here) (consent agenda here). Sadly no further documents have been posted, Guess we can’t have informed residents showing up to the meetings and asking some tough cogent questions???

There are a few things on the regular meeting agenda that might interest a few people in town:

  • First reading of complete streets policy: The Select Board will be discussing a policy that will encumber future Select Boards to consider adding improvements to our streets to accommodate every segment of users who may be using our streets (walkers, bike riders, skate boarders, atv’s…and so on). I think this is pretty important…don’t you?
  • Discuss RV usage as long term housing: I would suspect that this could have  a meaningful impact on our budgets. I think  this is pretty important…don’t you?
  • Select Board member Osgood will be discussing code enforcement practices: now I realize that everyone thinks that they are the masters of their private domain and you can do whatever you want on your property…I am here to inform you of this: YOU CANNOT DO WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO! A long, long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away a legislative body here in Henniker chose to give up most of its liberty and vote in a restrictive land use ordinance commonly known as Chapter 133 Zoning (you can read it here if you like). Now Mr. Osgood wants to discuss how the town should change, modify or alter the enforcement of this restrictive document...I would say that this is really really important…wouldn’t you?

The consent agenda has some interesting items that the Select Board has chosen not to forward on any pertinent trivial facts. In fact this is so trivial they have chosen not even to discuss these matter before us! I think some of us would consider them to be important details that effect our home lives…but hey call me kooky;

  • Tax refund to a home of $2,239 and some change…I guess the reasons for that abatement must be kept secret. Too many of us knowing this loophole wouldn’t serve the purpose now would it?
  • Sewer Assessments Collector’s Warrant…assessment is even pluralized! Sounds serious…don’t you think?

Oh sure…I am really excited…let us drive this buggy a bit more around the block BLIND FOLDED!

Remember folks…only we can make it change…and that requires all of us to, in our own way, respond.

 

 

 

To the Henniker School Board and SAU 24…From 2008 to 2016 you have posted only ONE (this year’s, after I requested it) end of year financial Reconciliation to web site…WHY?

see-clip-art It should be all about CORPORATE GOVERNANCE!

Financial reports are extremely important. However, our School board sets aside very little time in reviewing these financial reports. I have come to this conclusion after reviewing the posted data on the web site and finding only ONE year end financial report….that was this year’s and only after I requested that it be posted.

You can read this year’s report by clicking here.

The year end financial report is key to how we budget for next year. It compares the budget’s estimated revenues and expenditures to actual receipt of revenue and expenditures.

Monthly financial reports are also important for the board to review. A quick look at the monthly meeting agendas since 2008 reveals virtually no time set aside each month for financial report review. Often relegated to a single sentence in the minutes;

“Reconciliation Report: Business Administrator Kathleen Sargent reported the bottom line is currently $68,118.70” (May 4, 2016)

Now we know that the board has the data, but they never really discuss it. And, they certainly have not published it for our perusal. I am wondering WHY?

So I guess we have to beg them to post the following information:

Please post the Financial Reconciliation Report for the following school years;

  • 2008-2009
  • 2009-2010
  • 2010-2011
  • 2011-2012
  • 2012-2013
  • 201302014
  • 2014-2015
  • 2015-2016

Just a note, it would be helpful to have a section entitled Financial Reports on the Henniker School Board Page menu page. Also, please post the monthly reports.

 

 

.

Why such a political fuss over the heroin problem?

heroinThe CDC has published a piece that details in 9 easy to read graphs how the heroin crisis became such a political hot button. (read here)

Clearly the CDC study shows, heroin’s biggest abusers are whites in the 18-44 age group. The uptick comes in 2010 just as American begins to realize that the economy is not rebounding but is sinking even further into the economic abyss.

This is obama’s legacy…no jobs…more drugs.