DERRY — After what officials called a last-minute bungle of proposed charter changes by the state Attorney General's Office, the town has called upon the governor to look into what went wrong.
After a Charter Commission snafu came to light earlier this month — right before the primary election — town officials decided to move forward with a legal strategy to charge the state to investigate what happened.
Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse told the Town Council last week a letter would be sent to Gov. John Lynch, protesting the actions of the Attorney General's office, along with the secretary of state's office and the Department of Revenue, all parties involved in Derry's charter muddle.
The town also will ask a court to put the now defunct Charter Commission back into action.
Only days before the Sept. 14 primary, state officials told Derry councilors to remove the proposed charter change question from the ballot, saying some of the proposed changes did not meet state law.
But the timeline as to when the state received Derry's charter documents soon came into question.
That put the Town Council into emergency mode, with two emergency meetings planned to map out what to do so close to the election. Councilors voted, 6-1, to pull the charter question ballot, with only Councilor Kevin Coyle voting against doing so.
"We wasted hundreds of hours of people and $20,000 because of the Attorney General's office," Coyle said "The state has put us in this bind."
Deputy Attorney General Orville "Bud" Fitch attended the council's emergency meeting. He said the state wanted to work with Derry to make things right.
"There was a failure in the system," Fitch said, adding documentation was not processed properly. "This is the very least we could do. This is not normally how we provide service."
The nine-member Charter Commission was elected in a special election in 2009. That body was charged with reviewing the entire town charter and make recommendations about any changes or clarifications.
After months of work, the proposed changes were sent to the state in a final report earlier this year — under strict deadlines. But state officials later said they did not receive the information in a timely manner and told Derry to pull the charter question from the ballot.
The decision last week to move forward to find out what went wrong could eventually reinstate the Charter Commission. The group would then continue work on the charter for a possible ballot vote in March.
Charter Commission member Doug Newell voiced anger at councilors for voting to remove the charter question ballots. Newell's son had already voted by absentee ballot.
"You cover up for the attorney general," he said. "You threw away my son's ballot and that annoys me greatly."
Stenhouse said if all goes as planned, the courts could reinstate the Charter Commission and will ultimately "reset the clock" to put the group back to work. He added town counsel Brenda Keith will work with Fitch to move the legal action along.
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to derrynews.com.