I am certainly hoping so because if you fail to live by the law, you die by the law. Or in this case, the City Charter Commission will die by the law. A judicial injunction is being filed (or is already done) against the City of Manchester for blowing off the law. Why?
If you can’t read a calendar and an NH RSA that governs your behavior, you should get screwed over by that RSA. Are you listening Mayor Joyce Craig? To wit, Manchester resident (and NH State Rep) Mark Warden doesn’t think that scofflaws should be rewarded for their bad behavior.
Complaint against city of Manchester and Manchester City Clerk for violating election statute for November 2019 ballot regarding election of charter commission members.
House Bill 544 from 2019 passed into chartered law when the governor signed it on July 10, 2019. HB 544 requires the city of Manchester to establish a Manchester School District Charter Commission. The commission:
- shall be made up of 9 members
- shall make recommendations to amend, revise or replace the Manchester school district charter
- members shall be elected in November 2019 elections
The bill specifically says that:
“The election of charter commission members shall be held in conjunction with the regular November elections in 2019 in accordance with RSA 49-B:4.” (Emphasis added.)
RSA 49-B:4 states:
“…(b) Members shall be elected in the same manner as the municipal officers except that they shall be elected at large and without party designation. The names of the candidates shall be arranged on the ballot in an order determined by lot, publicly selected by the city or town clerk.
Declarations of candidacy for the commission shall be filed as provided in RSA 669:19, except that the filing period shall begin on the fourth Wednesday before the election and end on the Friday of the following week.”
This is the smoking gun right here. The filing period was supposed to be fourth Wednesday before the [November] election and end the following Friday, the dates of which were October 9 through October 18, 2019.
I, Mark Warden, went to the Manchester city clerk’s office on October 7th to inquire about filing for the charter commission ballot. I was told by the office (confirmed by two people there) that the filing period had passed; it was back in July with other city officer election positions.
The city and city clerk directly violated the letter and intent of this law. I don’t know if it was done intentionally and willfully or not.
I filed a complaint with Wm. Gardner, Secretary of State. He agreed that by the clear reading of the statute, the filing period should be in October.Charter commission challenge
The complaint was forwarded to the NH Attorney General’s office. I was contacted by an Assistant Atty. General that my complaint had been received by the AG’s office. I was later contacted, on October 18, 2019, by same AAG to tell me that the Manchester city solicitor had spoken with the AG’s office regarding this matter and that the Manchester city clerk’s office and city solicitor were not going to open a new filing period and not going to stop the election. They were standing by their July filing period. He said the AG was siding with the city and that my only recourse would be to seek private counsel.AG acknowledgement
I would like to see the charter commission election stricken from the November ballot since the city did not follow the law. Further, the absentee/early ballots that get mailed out should not contain any reference to charter commission election.
References and Links:
RSA 49-B:4 language, partial
49-B:4 Charter Commission; Membership; Procedure; Preliminary Report. –
I. The charter commission shall consist of 9 members, all of whom shall be registered voters of the municipality and elected as hereinafter provided.
Within 5 days after the deadline for requesting a recount of a vote confirming the establishment of a charter commission, or within 5 days after the recount if a recount is requested, the municipal officers shall meet to order a special election to be held on a Tuesday not less than 35 days or more than 60 days after such meeting for the purpose of electing charter commission members provided, however, that in a municipality with biennial elections, the special election shall be held on a Tuesday not less than 25 days or more than 133 days after such meeting. For purposes of this subparagraph, the provisions of RSA 40:4-c relative to recounts shall apply, except that a recount must be requested no later than the first Friday following the vote.
Members shall be elected in the same manner as the municipal officers except that they shall be elected at large and without party designation. The names of the candidates shall be arranged on the ballot in an order determined by lot, publicly selected by the city or town clerk. Declarations of candidacy for the commission shall be filed as provided in RSA 669:19, except that the filing period shall begin on the fourth Wednesday before the election and end on the Friday of the following week.
Link to RSA 49:B: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/iii/49-b/49-b-mrg.htm
Link to HB 544 docket: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/Bill_docket.aspx?lsr=405&sy=2019&sortoption=&txtsessionyear
Link to HB 544 text: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billText.aspx?sy=2019&id=405&txtFormat=html
Link to municipal election filings from July 2019: https://www.manchesternh.gov/Portals/2/Departments/city_clerk/elections/2019_Filing%20Book_201 9-07-19.pdf?ver=2019-07-19-171113-733
Bullet points on why this whole scheme stinks:
- The Manchester city clerk blatantly disregarded the statute RSA 49-B:4
- There was only one sponsor on HB 544, Patrick Long. The whole point of establishing a charter commission in Manchester is to be able to revise or replace the Manchester school district charter without legislative approval, with an end goal of being its own taxing authority separate from the Alderman. It’s a power- and money-grab by union leaders in Manchester to be able to raise taxes.
- Pat Long filed to be a charter commission member on the first day of filing, July 8, two days before the bill became law! He (and the city clerk) likely knew that the governor was going to sign the bill. How did he know? Why did the governor sign this awful legislation?
- By not opening the filing period in October, my constitutional and statutory rights to run for office have been violated.
- The city of Manchester appears to be getting a favorable shrug from the state AG’s office. The Secretary of State agrees this is a clear violation of statute, so any complaint must be directed to Attorney General’s office. The AG did nothing but defer to the Manchester city solicitor. Keep in mind that Manchester is mostly run by Democrats.
- The governor’s attorney likely knows about this complaint and likewise appears to have taken sides of Manchester. Why?
- There are many appearances, if not outright evidence, of political cronyism at several levels.