At Bedford’s Monday night Planning Board meeting, the Bow Lane apartment project was approved. [Union Leader]
It is still unclear whether the School Board has had its own numerous demands met with regard to allowing the project to tie into the high school’s sewer and water system.
One board member admitted that he’d already made up his mind before attending the meeting.
This approval does not come as a surprise since the project is grandfathered and thus not subject to new zoning rules that were passed in March.
What was surprising however, is the fact that Planning Board member Kelleigh Murphy recused herself from the vote, citing in part due to a text message she received from one of the developers. The text message was apparently sent to her while she was still a sitting Town Councilor in January of 2019. (The Town Council is an elected board with voting held in March of each year.)
The message from the developer seemed to contain a veiled threat regarding the renewal of the lease on her’s and her ex-husband’s restaurant, Murphy’s Taproom.
“I know you are not running. If you were, I couldn’t support you after the Shorty’s issue. You crossed the line as an elected official, and a legal line as well. Keith might have some fence-mending to do with Dick when his lease comes up…”
In addition, the text seemed to suggest that because two other councilors (Chris Bandazian and Melissa Stevens) had “clean hands” with regard to his project, they were under his control, but that another Councilor, Catherine Rombeau, might find next year’s race for re-election to be “bumpy”.
We are not sure what he was referring to when he suggested that Murphy crossed the line “and a legal line as well” since councilors have no obligation to vote any other way than in a manner they perceive to be correct.
The law in NH states:
RSA 640:3 Improper Influence:
(a) A person is guilty of a class B felony if he:
(i) Threatens any harm to a public servant, party official or voter with the purpose of influencing his action, decision, opinion, recommendation, nomination, vote or other exercise of discretion; or
(ii) Privately addresses to any public servant who has or will have an official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding any representation, argument or other communication with the purpose of influencing that discretion on the basis of considerations other than those authorized by law; or – 14 –
(iii) Being a public servant or party official, fails to report to a law enforcement officer conduct designed to influence him in violation of subparagraph (a) or (b) hereof.
(b) “Harm” means any disadvantage or injury, to person or property or pecuniary interest, including disadvantage or injury to any other person or entity in whose welfare the public servant, party official, or voter is interested, provided that harm shall not be construed to include the exercise of any conduct protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or any provision of the federal or state constitutions.
Would contacting the employer of a voter with the intent of getting that person in trouble in order to silence them (as we saw in the case of the letter to Kevin Gagne’s employer) be covered by part (i) of this law?
Would privately attempting to influence a public servant by suggesting the the renewal of her lease might be jeopardized (a pecuniary interest) be covered by part (ii) of this law ?
Perhaps this is something the NH Attorney General should look into.
You can hear Ms. Murphy’s full statement at around 49:00 minutes on this video of the actual public meeting and make up your own mind.