Sunday, September 26, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: AG reportedly investigating school attorney

The state attorney general is reportedly investigating Concord School District Attorney John Teague and whether he broke the law while not identifying himself as a lobbyist during testimony before the Legislature and other potential conflicts regarding the charter commission process, has learned.
The investigation arose due to late 2008 and 2009 testimony concerning a number of bills in the Legislature which would change the school district's charter. Since the Legislature controls Concord's school district charter, the only way residents or officials can change the charter is to propose bills, get them approved by both houses, and signed by the governor.
Frustrated by the lack of accountability with the current school board, especially regarding the multimillion elementary school consolidation process and plan, a number of residents proposed bills in 2008. One bill included a proposal to force any district bonding more than $5 million to go before Concord voters for approval. Another proposed changing the way school board members were elected.
During those hearings, Teague testified against bills but never identified himself as a lobbyist, something that the law required at the time. Before the law was recently changed, lobbyists were required to wear an orange ID badge, so that both legislators and citizens knew that they were lobbying for a paid interest. Teague never wore the badge and never identified himself as a lobbyist (I know, I was there, and wrote previously about the issue here: ["Five alternative reasons why people don't attend school board budget hearings"]). Teague even argued that there was nothing wrong with the current system and that the Legislature had been doing a fine job of oversight of Concord's school board charter, much to the chagrin and giggles of everyone with a brain at the hearing.
But it potentially goes further, because Teague didn't stop there.
There was a move afoot by the House to wash their hands of all of this and give the charter back to the citizens of Concord. The bill was approved easily and then was sent to the Senate.
But in the Senate, something strange happened: At Teague's urging, state senators (who don't live in Concord, BTW) rewrote the bill and instead of giving us all the ability to change our charter, created a study commission to look at the issue.
The study commission spent months analyzing the issue with Teague repeatedly testifying and offering up more delays to the process. Instead of returning the charter to the citizens, he argued for an elected charter commission. The commission, he proposed, would be elected in November 2010 and would study the issues during the year and then return a proposal to the voters in November 2011. Shockingly, or not so, since the study commission was stacked with school supporters (["Well folks, the fix was in ..."]), by a 7-6 vote, this is what the commission agreed to do.
This delayed the process of gaining our rights back - rights that nearly everyone in the Granite State and virtually everyone in the nation has - even longer. It also put in limbo legislative initiatives forwarded by residents who were playing by the rules.
According to a source, the AG Office's has been talking to everyone involved in the charter commission study committee process as well as elected officials in Concord. Some have lawyered up, potentially worrying about whatever influence Teague may have wielded over the process.
This story is potentially huge ... it shows you everything that is wrong with some of our current elected officials, whether on the state or local level. It shows you exactly what is wrong with Concord, where a handful of connected people and one attorney can keep people from getting their rights back. And this is all breaking right on the eve of the election of the charter commission that could potentially vote to keep things as they are, with the Legislature controlling our school district's charter. If this happens, it means we have gotten nowhere ... for years. All because some attorney was able to weasel his way into the hearts and minds of people who should know better, while breaking the law.
More later ...

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