One year ago this month this newspaper reported Bow’s loss in court of the tax appeal by Public Service Company. The January 2017 paper reported on my review of the cases from the court I served on for over eight years as follows:
“The statistics from utility tax appeals in the New Hampshire Supreme Court for the last 35 years reflect no reversals at all in similar cases.” Bow Times, January 2017, page 1.
Now it is 36 years of no reversals.
In the editorial a year ago I said:
“While the town has appealed, the effort seems futile given that most of the judge’s decision was based on lack of credible evidence from the town’s expert on valuation of utility properties. The Supreme Court does not make new determinations of credibility.”
So what did the court say in its opinion this month?
“Credibility, of course, is for the trial judge to determine as a matter of fact… We find no reason to disturb the court’s assessment” because the Public Service Company’s expert was credible, Bow’s was not.
I pleaded personally with Harry Judd a year ago to settle this loser of a case before it was decided by the Supreme Court. Harry is an energy company lawyer not a litigator. Now we have to settle with a foot on our throat and we have wasted a year of interest at about $400,000 plus the cost of transcripts and attorney fees. The result? An opinion brushing off Bow in a little over four pages and not one single cite to an exhibit or a single page of testimony in the six-day trial.
I hate to say I told you so but a year ago at page two of The Bow Times newspaper I said:
1. Get a new town counsel
2. Get an attorney that specializes in tax cases
3. Settle as soon as possible
Thanks for blowing $400,000 on a frivolous appeal.
As local towns, cities and school districts began preparing budgets for the spring, it is worth remembering that in this state, RSA 98-E extends to every public employee, at any level, “a full right to publicly discuss and give opinions as an individual on all matters concerning any government entity and its policies.”
In 2012, a Merrimack County jury awarded a state employee $150,000 for having his freedom of speech interfered with when he was publicly critical of his employer, the state prison, for some of its policies and procedures that posed a threat to the safety of the corrections officers.
In other words, you must speak out as an individual and not in your official government capacity, but once you do, any interference with your right to freely criticize or disclose matters of interest to the public may not be interfered with. If your rights are interfered with you may seek damages as well as attorney’s fees.
Also, everyone should be reminded that the Whistleblower Protection Act, RSA 275-E:2 provides that no employer may intimidate, threaten or fire any employee because that employee in good faith reports what he or she believes is a violation of a law or rule adopted by any government entity. Thus, public employees should ignore orders by higher-ups to shut up and not comment on matters the public should know about.