SALEM, N.H. — The Budget Committee met recently to appoint a new board member.
The board appointed Dane Hoover to fill the position vacated by Stephen Boyd earlier this year. Hoover will serve until the town election in March.
Although the meeting was public, according to Chairman D.J. Bettencourt, it wasn't broadcast live. The meeting was announced, but there was no agenda posted to the town website.
Bettencourt opened the meeting saying, “The meeting tonight is not televised but is being recorded to keep (Recording Secretary) Jerimiah (Lamson) sane because he has to continue to keep the minutes for the meeting. So everyone still stay on your best behavior even though you are not on television.”
The meeting, posted in full to the town's website, sheds light on the committee's deliberations to pick a new member, something that in the past has not been televised, according to Vice-Chair Steve Goddu.
Goddu was surprised to see the video posted online. When he first joined the board he was appointed during an in-person meeting where there "were no cameras" in the conference room at Town Hall, he explained. It was a tough decision between three very qualified candidates that essentially came down to hair-splitting, he said.
"To me, that belongs in a private room. But it’s open so it’s OK,” Goddu said.
Committee members Tanya Donnelly and Sean Lewis said that they were OK with the full meeting being posted. Bernard Campbell, who serves as the school board's representative on the committee, thought the meeting was being livestreamed.
Bettencourt pointed out that posting the meeting online made the process more transparent to the public.
"That meeting is nearly unprecedented in terms of its transparency in either ordinary times or these extraordinary COVID times," he said.
Typically board appointments are done like Goddu's — in the Town Hall meeting room with no cameras, Selectman Lisa Withrow explained. Recently the Selectmen appointed Patti Drelick to the Council on Aging with a Zoom interview, Withrow added.
For the first half of the meeting, the committee questioned the three candidates — Hoover, former selectman and state Rep. Everett McBride and Cam Iannalfo. After, Bettencourt asked the three men to exit the meeting so that the committee members could discuss who to appoint.
After saying their goodbyes, Bettencourt said, “Great, OK, so I think the only people who are still here are those who should be here.”
The board did not vote to go into a nonpublic session, which it typically would during an in-person meeting to discuss which board member to appoint.
Committee members lauded Iannalfo for his willingness to serve. However, some questioned his availability as a Navy Reserve member.
Campbell asked Iannalfo if he could potentially be called to service soon. Iannalfo said it was unlikely, and he planned to retire in 2021.
“With that being said, I am in the service, the military, and I know that we live in crazy times and it’s always unexpected if I could get called up for deployment like I did in 2017," Iannalfo said.
When it came time to make a decision, Donnelly said that she was worried he would get called for service.
“Cameron I think is great, I’m a little worried that he might be called to service, and then we may have to deal with another replacement. ... I would like some stability," she said, also expressing she wanted a more experienced person on the committee. "I’m new, so sometimes more new can be complex.”
“The drawback for Cameron is not so much the military piece, although that is a concern," Bettencourt said. "He has the bar exam coming up in Sept. (and is running to be a state representative). He’s a busy guy with a lot going on.”
Donnelly and Lewis are also running to be state representatives this fall.
McBride, R-Salem, was also recognized for his experience as a public servant serving on the budget committee and as a longtime selectman. However, Bettencourt said, “Everett’s attendance at the statehouse is abysmal."
Keller and Campbell said that McBride had good attendance at the local night meetings when he served on the boards.
After about a half-hour of discussion, Goddu recommended the board vote for Hoover because of his past experience on the budget committee as a member who suggested making cuts to the budget.
“This year that’s what’s going to be most important to voters and the town,” Goddu said. “I just like to keep a watchful eye. I think Dane is the guy to keep the watchful eye.”