Rindge Official: Voters can’t be trusted to vote how we want

Selectwoman Roberta Oeser Photo by Nicholas Handy of Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

 

By Kimberly Morin

A video published on Thursday uncovered how one Rindge Selectwoman feels about voters and the law. Selectwoman Roberta Oeser admitted in front of others and on video that she doesn’t want to put a new budget expenditure on a warrant article to be voted on by her own constituents because “people vote with their pocket books.”

The question is about hiring a new police officer in Rindge. The town applied for a federal grant (aka taxpayer dollars) from a program called COPS. The town was awarded the grant but taxpayers will still have to put up more money to hire the new police officer in order to receive the actual grant.

NH laws permits town to accept “unanticipated” revenue in the form of grants; however the size, duration and matching funds requirement of the grant, demand that it be voted on by the residents of Rindge. Apparently Oeser doesn’t think that’s a good idea. Oeser actually said the following during the meeting:

That’s why it can’t go to town vote because people vote their pocket books.

Oeser would prefer to figure out a back end way around the law and residents to make this happen. Unfortunately for her, this was caught on video. If she and the board of selectman were to actually go around the voters to push this grant, they would be violating New Hampshire state law. State law is very specific when it comes to warrant articles and budgeting. From New Hampshire General Court:

32:6 Appropriations Only at Annual or Special Meeting. – All appropriations in municipalities subject to this chapter shall be made by vote of the legislative body of the municipality at an annual or special meeting. No such meeting shall appropriate any money for any purpose unless that purpose appears in the budget or in a special warrant article.

And then there is the rule about expenditures:

32:8 Limitation on Expenditures. – No board of selectmen, school board, village district commissioners or any other officer, employee, or agency of the municipality acting as such shall pay or agree to pay any money, or incur any liability involving the expenditure of any money, for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated by the legislative body for that purpose, or for any purpose for which no appropriation has been made.

What Oeser doesn’t talk about is that the “grant” is only for three years and the taxpayers of Rindge will indeed have to cough up cash during those three years since the grant is only covers a percentage of the salary and benefits. According to the COPS grant application:

2016 CHP award will cover up to 75 percent of the approved entry level salary and fringe benefits of each newly hired and/or rehired full-time sworn career law enforcement officer over the three-year (36-month) award period, with a minimum 25 percent local cash match requirement and maximum federal share of $125,000 per officer position. CHP award funding will be based on your agency’s current entry level salary and fringe benefits for full-time sworn officers. Any additional costs for higher than entry level salaries and fringe benefits will be the responsibility of the recipient agency.

The total amount of the grant for the 3-year period is $125,000. The total amount a new officer position will cost the taxpayers, including benefits is $228,576. Clearly the taxpayers will have to dole out cash right away in order to pay for the position. After 3 years, taxpayers will be fully responsible for budgeting that position for at least an additional 12 months.

It does appear that many citizens actually agree with hiring a new officer; however, Oeser still doesn’t trust them to make that decision. Even though it’s taxpayers who will employ that officer and it is money from their pockets that will be used to pay for that officer, Oeser doesn’t want to follow the statutes and put out a warrant article or call for a special meeting.

Oeser is a symptom of a huge problem around New Hampshire, she believes she knows what’s best for the people. How dare anyone demand she follow the laws? She was elected to represent the people of Rindge. In that capacity, she was also elected to follow the laws. How is Oeser representing the people who elected her by trying to circumvent the law and their right to vote on all appropriations that are paid for with their hard-earned tax dollars? If Oeser can’t trust voters, how can voters trust her?

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