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2 Croydon board members, secretary quit as police coverage remains in limbo

  • Croydon Selectboard member Joe Marko, center, speaks at their meeting in Croydon, N.H., on March 27, 2019. Fellow board members Reagan Clarke is at right and Chairman Gary Quimby listens on the phone held by Selectboard Administrative Assistant Cathy Peschke. Clarke, Quimby and Peschke have since resigned from their positions. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ian Underwood

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/12/2019 5:36:20 PM
Modified: 4/12/2019 5:36:11 PM

CROYDON — Two of the town’s three Selectboard members and the board’s administrative assistant resigned this week amid continuing controversy over whether to abolish the Croydon police chief’s job and contract with Newport for police coverage.

The changes started on Tuesday at the Selectboard’s regularly scheduled meeting, when administrative assistant Cathy Peschke announced she would step down in two weeks after tying up loose ends, saying in an emailed statement, “This work is affecting my children, and I need to give you my resignation.”

The following day, Selectmen Gary Quimby and Reagan Clarke resigned from the board, according to a Facebook post by Joe Marko, the only remaining Selectboard member.

Marko, who was elected to the board last month at Town Meeting, declined to comment on Friday. An email request to the Selectboard for this week’s meeting minutes and information about Quimby and Clarke’s resignations wasn’t returned.

In the post, Marko said when he heard Clarke was about to resign, the pair called a Selectboard meeting on Wednesday and appointed Ian Underwood to fill Quimby’s position “in order to prevent state takeover of functions” of the board.

Reached on Friday, Underwood said he was phoned in and accepted the appointment. Underwood, who ran unsuccessfully for the New Hampshire House as a Republican in 2016 and moved to Croydon in 2007 as part of the libertarian Free State Project, is married to School Board Chairwoman Jody Underwood.

Residents in the town of about 760 people are questioning the legality of the Selectboard meeting on Wednesday, and the process the board followed at Town Meeting and in subsequent meetings.

“Due process here once again has not been followed,” said resident Domenic DiMaggio, a distant cousin of the late Red Sox great Dom DiMaggio.

It’s unclear whether the meeting was posted as required by New Hampshire state law or if any members of the public attended.

DiMaggio also questioned the legality of a “friend chat” Marko and Underwood were slated to hold on Friday night at the Croydon Town Hall, a gathering that was posted in a memo at the Coniston General Store and on the town’s bulletin board on Friday morning.

“I think this meet and greet would be great if it was done with due process,” DiMaggio said. “I am coming from the angle of I want the process to be legal. And it is kind of like ‘here we go again.’ ”

Underwood said he doesn’t believe the impromptu meeting would violate state open-meeting laws.

“We won’t be taking any action,” Underwood said.

The majority of people in town agree they would like to move on from the turmoil that started with a vote on the floor of Town Meeting to get rid of the Croydon Police Department and contract out for police services. Some residents said the 48-36 vote was binding and meant the town would contract with Newport this summer, while others said it was simply a poll and was non-binding.

Several meetings have since been held and the topic hasn’t been resolved. The Selectboard accepted a citizen petition at a meeting on March 27 that asked for a Special Town Meeting to clarify the police vote, but a date hasn’t yet been set.

Now, none of the members of the Selectboard when the initial vote was taken are on the panel.

Resident Neil Smith said he thinks the prior board could have helped itself by allowing people to speak on the topic at meetings instead of pushing them off. Despite that, he said, the new board should be given a chance.

“I don’t see how you can blame the new guys,” Neil said at the store on Friday.

Norma Menard, whose daughter owns the store, said she would like to press on.

“I’d like to see some closure on some of this,” she said. “I want answers too.”

Menard said social media sites seemingly are making matters worse, with conversations turning into “bullying sessions.”

Leslie Sampson, who runs a Croydon Community News Facebook group, said she hopes Croydon and its residents soon can move forward. She said she is at the point where she doesn’t even want to attend Selectboard meetings anymore.

“This whole thing is sickening. It’s ripping our community apart,” Sampson said.

Croydon Police Chief Richard Lee said previously that the Town Meeting vote came as a shock to him. Quimby, when he was on the board, said some people in town were looking for a change in policing and had expressed complaints about the way Lee allocated his time.

Menard and Sampson are two of those people. They both said on Friday that they and others had pressed to see a log of how the chief spent his time in Croydon, but that he failed to consistently provide that. Lee has said previously that if the townspeople make an informed decision and decide they want to contract out, he can live with that.

Newport Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said on Friday he hasn’t heard anything further from a Croydon official about moving ahead with a policing contract.

DiMaggio said he too wants to move on. But he said that can’t be done until the board follows state laws governing meetings.

A group of about 15 Croydon residents with the mission of “making sure things are done properly” have been meeting informally once or twice a week, DiMaggio said.

“We want proper process,” he said. “Whatever Selectboard we end up with, hats off to them. It is a thankless job. It really is. But I want them to do it properly. ... I want someone who wants to follow the rules.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.




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