Ossipee Residents Sue Town Over Beach Vote

Ossipee—January 10, 2017—Two Ossipee residents are taking their town to court because of what they claim was unpreparedness at the polls in November’s special town meeting on purchasing a beach. They claim people’s right to vote was affected by inadequate facilities and staffing.

On Nov. 28, Ossipee residents were asked to vote on buying Dianne Sheehan’s Camp Sokokis property for use as a town beach. The purchase price was $1.2 million. The property consists of 53 acres with 200 feet of beach frontage, room for 40 parking spaces and access to Route 16B from private Gretchen Road. Town officials said this would be their only chance to buy a beach on the lake.

The proposal received a 297-171 majority vote, but it required a two-thirds majority to pass.

The civil complaint was filed by Joy Gagnon and Joshua Arnold in Carroll County Superior Court on Dec. 27. They have until Feb. 10 to serve the town. Arnold is the founder of G.A.L.A. (Global Awareness Local Action).

In an email Monday, he explained: “I was one of many people who attended Ossipee’s Special Town Meeting but was unable to participate — unable to make a motion and unable to hear and consider the comments from my fellow citizens — because the room was not large enough to accommodate everyone who attended, so myself, like many others, were stuck outside in line, unaware that the actual town meeting was coming to close and moving to a vote. This should be unacceptable to anyone who believes in Town Meeting, no matter where you stand on the town beach.”

Gagnon’s 8-year-old son Isaac spoke at the town meeting, saying, “I want a beach because I want somewhere to go swimming that’s not so far away.”

Gagnon told the Sun Monday that people running the meeting didn’t realize how many had to stand outside. “They normally expect no more than 200 and there was 500 (people).”

Gagnon said the people outside not only couldn’t hear but couldn’t even get to where they could register as voters or get handouts to explain how the meeting would operate.

According to the complaint, “The special town meeting at Ossipee Town Hall, Nov. 28, 2017, was not held at a large enough space to accommodate the number of residents in attendance, as required by RSA 91-A:2.”

Arnold and Gagnon referred to the state’s right to know law, which addresses open meetings and says: “Each part of a meeting required to be open to the public shall be audible or otherwise discernible to the public at the location specified in the meeting notice as the location of the meeting.”

“The plaintiffs ask the court to order another special town meeting and revote that is held in a larger setting with accommodations for all in attendance,” wrote Gagnon and Arnold.

“Ossipee will also be ordered to design a plan to accommodate all voters in the future by finding a secondary location for town meetings.”

The town also is hoping for a second bite at the apple but for a different reason.

At a recent Superior Court hearing, the town of Ossipee was represented by Richard Sager of Sager and Smith PLLC of Ossipee, who believes Sheehan broke with implied good faith and fair dealings when she lobbied voters to oppose the sale after signing and agreement to sell to the the town. Sheehan even put up signs on her property, urging people to vote no.

Sager persuaded Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius to temporarily bar Sheehan from selling to another party. Now, Ignatius is determining whether the injunction should remain in place.

The town can ask voters at its March 13-14 town meeting to reconsider the proposal. Sager would like to prevent Sheehan from speaking at that meeting.

Meanwhile, Sheehan’s attorney, Phillip Marbury of the Law Office of Marbury and Marbury in Wolfeboro, argued that it is a First Amendment case and thus the judge should allow his client to sell.

“There is nothing in this contract that prohibits or restricts my client, Dianne Sheehan, from participating in a political process related to the town of Ossipee,” said Marbury.

“The Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of New Hampshire have emphasized over and over again there is no form of speech more highly protected than political speech,” he said

A third party consisting of John Seda and Paul Fitts are intervening. They seek to purchase the property and to have the injunction lifted.

Ossipee Residents Sue Town Over Beach Vote

8 thoughts on “Ossipee Residents Sue Town Over Beach Vote

  • January 10, 2018 at 4:56 pm
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    I have a couple of comments:

    First: A vote is a vote. As a society if you do not like a vote this does not mean you can sue the town or the Town Selectmen can sue the seller of the property.
    Second: I understand the disappointment but from what I hear the Town Beach over a Duncan Lake has been poorly maintained and if the Town cannot maintain that beach what makes you think you have the resources to maintain another beach.
    Third: not of topic but concerning why are there trailers down by the Yankee Smoke House with graffiti all over them what an awful site! can’t believe the Town of Ossipee Zoning Board allows this.

  • January 10, 2018 at 8:14 pm
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    Not for nothing but anyone could watch all the meeting and get any info they wanted. I don’t believe these people are doing this. They only allowed 30 min to talk at special meeting. And the people that spoke were all for beach. Rick Morgan said in one of the selectman meeting there was no place big ÷enough to hold vote. The vote was done and it was No . Stop spending money on law suits and picking on the Sheehans.. MOVE ON. This suit is very fishy I can’t believe that residents are doing this .

  • January 10, 2018 at 9:25 pm
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    Another circus orchastrated by the Selectman. If this was such an issue for the town meeting, the moderator should have been notified immediately and action taken.

    Dick Morgan is making the town the laughing stock of the county.

  • January 10, 2018 at 9:30 pm
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    Go back and look at the board of selectman minutes from after the vote. Morgan was coaching people, almost begging someone to essentially do this.

  • January 10, 2018 at 10:40 pm
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    I find it shocking and amusing that the person who is suing the town because the vote/town meeting wasn’t conducted correctly contributed to the incorrectness by allowing her 8 yr old son to speak at the meeting. As far as I knew, only registered voters were allowed to speak at that last meeting. Since when is an 8 year old boy a registered voter?

  • January 11, 2018 at 12:53 pm
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    Once again, the town intently working to frivolously spend the peoples money that they had no right to have in the first place. I say to the town … sure go wild, it’s not your money you waste – it’s the taxpayers. Another big “$$win$$” for the lawyers.
    I can only hope the voters really understand and see how irresponsible the Ossipee selectman are with the peoples tax money and vote in replacements that can effectively and responsibly manage the town.

  • January 11, 2018 at 2:43 pm
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    So Morgan has found 2 puppets to continue his dirty work if his (not the town but HIS) lawsuit against the Sheehan’s is thrown out. It was quite obvious at post-vote BOS meetings Morgan was grooming them. These are the same people who requested a recount. I find it odd Joy Gagnon is suing the Town for not being able to participate in the meeting when she’s clearly in the meeting room, made it all the way to the podium, and has her jacket off! Doesn’t appear she’s been waiting in the cold. Also, do you know where Joshua Arnold GALA business that he’s the founder of is located? Anywhere in Ossipee? Nope. It’s at 23 Bay St in Wolfeboro! So he owns property in Ossipee assessed at $103K and Wolfeboro at $399K. Yet he wants the taxpayers of Ossipee to pay for a beach in Ossipee while he pays substantially more taxes to Wolfeboro? I also find it suspect that their lawsuit reference specific RSAs but no attorney representing them. I can’t help but wonder who fed them that information. And if the Town lawsuit against Sheehan does gets thrown out, who’s going to represent the REAL townspeople/taypayers against this new frivolous lawsuit? Sager? I wouldn’t want him representing my pet turtle! And of course we know where the Town (aka BOS) stand on pushing a re-vote down our throats. In the words of Elsa – ‘Let it Go’ people!

  • January 11, 2018 at 3:15 pm
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    That is a. A great point. She was in the hall and I assume Voted. Heard everything that was said and the 8 year old non voter shared his opinion. So how’s that justified she can bring a suit on the town. Come on people open your eyes see who is running this show

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