ATKINSON — Residents peppered candidates with questions in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the town’s annual candidates’ night.
The majority of the questions were directed at the candidates for the two selectmen’s races. Former police Chief Philip Consentino and incumbent Selectmen’s Chairman William Friel are vying for a one-year term.
Budget Committee members Harold Morse and Craig Schuster, as well as Scott Mitchell, are seeking a three-year term. Morse was not in attendance last night.
Consentino was asked by several residents about his dismissal as police chief last year, but he deflected the question.
“I am here tonight to answer any questions that anybody has pertaining to the present way that the Board of Selectmen are being run and how it should be run in the future,” Consentino said. “I’m not going to get into a discussion about things that have happened in the past.”
Mitchell and Schuster also were asked about circumstances related to Consentino’s dismissal, but the questions were not allowed by Jim Garrity, who was moderating the discussion.
At the beginning of the meeting, Garrity explained to the 50 residents in attendance that the event almost was canceled. Garrity said a resident had called Town Hall and alleged the event was a form of electioneering. After the Attorney General’s Office was consulted, the meeting was deemed legal because it was being hosted by the Atkinson Woman’s Civics Club, not the town.
“All the candidates were invited,” Garrity said. “It’s a nonprofit organization that is running it. All the candidates are running it and it’s absolutely legal.”
After consulting with Town Administrator Bill Innes, Garrity said, he decided to change the method of how the questions would be presented to the candidates. The original [plan called for all questions to be submitted to Garrity beforehand. But he allowed residents address the candidates directly.