The following article, written by Daymond Steer, appeared in the Conway Daily Sun.
Ossipee—May 10, 2023—The newest member of the Ossipee Board of Selectmen resigned Monday following a tense meeting during which his fellow selectmen said he violated his oath of office and would seek his ouster in court if he didn’t leave voluntarily.
That sentiment was echoed by other town officials and members of the public who also urged R. Christopher Templeton to leave office without a fight.
Templeton, who last served as selectman in the 1980s, defeated incumbent Selectman Jonathan Smith at the polls in March, 157-117. His departure came after serving less than two full months in office.
At the outset of the meeting, chair Martha Eldridge read a lengthy statement outlining the various accusations against Templeton, as fellow selectman Sue Simpson listened.
“The board has received seven affidavits from seven town employees and officials regarding statements and actions taken by Mr. Templeton,” said Eldridge. “The allegations in these affidavits are serious and cannot be ignored.”
The allegations include his “demanding” confidential police records involving his nephew’s ex-girlfriend on April 14; threatening to fire any police department members who refused to turn over the records; “disrupting” town hall for nearly a day over his “aggravation” at being denied the records; threatening an employee’s job for pursuing a zoning action against his relative; misleading the Superior Court about a selectman’s decision; and trying to rope an employee into a bribery scheme involving Crystal Geyser, a bottled water company.
The selectmen said Templeton told a couple of employees he wanted a gun and police power, but he countered that while he considered getting a gun, he decided against it.
“I think it takes incredible courage to stand up to corruption and abuse of power,” Town Administrator Matt Sawyer told the Sun following Templeton’s resignation.
“I’m incredibly proud of the bravery and fortitude of the people here who have done that.”
During the meeting and to the apparent consternation of those in attendance, Templeton seemed to waffle back and forth on whether he would quit.
“I think you should make it quite clear right now: Are you going to resign or are you going to fight? Because I can’t tell what you’re saying,” resident Dallas Emery said to Templeton about 47 minutes into the meeting.
Templeton responded he “cannot work with these people,” referring to Eldridge and Simpson. Emery replied, “That’s not an answer.”
Sawyer then said if Templeton didn’t present a written resignation, the town would take him to court. Templeton said if they took him to court they would lose because they didn’t have a case.
But an hour and 12 minutes into the meeting, he walked out of the gym where the meeting was taking place. It was unclear what he was doing, but apparently, he went upstairs in the town hall to write his letter of resignation, which was given to clerk Kellie Skehan after the meeting adjourned.
“Though not in agreement with what’s apparently believed of my character, I cannot continue to serve as selectman due to health concerns, which I must take into consideration,” wrote Templeton.
He was not given a copy of the complaints against him in advance and accused the board of “ambush politics” by presenting him “a list of preposterous things” that was too lengthy to keep track of in his head.
Templeton said he is a “laid-back” person who doesn’t threaten people, but made some jokes that were misinterpreted. “If I did that, and they took that seriously, I do apologize for that,” said Templeton. Templeton, who wore sunglasses throughout his time at the meeting, gestured frequently, at times pointing at selectmen and the audience. He also seemed ill at ease, often leaning back or hunching forward in his chair. Meanwhile, the other two selectmen appeared stoic.
Templeton denied the accusation that he was trying to get a bribe from Crystal Geyser but was just trying to get the town to consider a possible new water source.
Eldridge responded to Templeton’s apparent refusal to step down by moving to petition the Superior Court to seek Templeton’s ouster, and Simpson joined her in voted in favor.
Library Trustee chair Patrica Pustell challenged Templeton’s assertion of being an amiable person. She cited a case where he was asked to leave the library because he made staff uncomfortable.
“I’ve never met you personally, I’ve never had any interaction, but there are documented cases that you’re not getting along with people,” said Pustell.
“So, I support their movements to go to the court and follow the procedure. If you can defend yourself, fine. But I trust the leadership that we have elected in the majority here.”
Templeton replied that a few years ago, he came to the library while using a cane. He raised his hand while making a point and he inadvertently raised the cane, too.
Deputy Treasurer Brian Keyes echoed selectmen’s call for Templeton to step down. “A lot of these employees are my friends and the way you acted to the police department, the words you’ve said to the highway crews, are embarrassing. I call for your resignation.”
Templeton said the accusations were “hearsay and innuendo.” But Sawyer replied that the affidavits would actually be presented in court as evidence.
Resident Greg Howard said he voted for Templeton and now regretted his vote and accused Templeton of being condescending. Resident Brian Ames, who is on the planning board, called Templeton out on his body language.
“I know you’re denying the accusations of so many stand-up people within the town, but sitting here watching your demeanor toward Martha and pointing to her and saying how disappointed you are, it’s kind of unprofessional,” said Ames.
“I hope that you reconsider voluntarily resigning rather than having us go through litigation at the Superior Court.”
Reached Tuesday, Sawyer said the topic of replacing Templeton would likely be discussed at the board’s May 22 meeting.
“My guidance to the board will be to hold a public hearing in June to seek public input including nominations or self-nominations of potential candidates for partial-term appointment,” said Sawyer. “I think the board is likely to follow that guidance.”
Asked on Tuesday by the Sun whether he would try to get his seat back on the board, former Selectman Smith had this to say: “I am not seeking the position, but if the board determines that I am the best candidate for the job, then I would gladly accept it.”
To watch a video of Monday’s meeting go to tinyurl.com/yc22h3z4.