LONDONDERRY — On the eve of the town’s biggest celebration, the longtime chairperson of the annual Old Home Day celebration is defending her all-volunteer committee and its operating procedures after what she called a personal attack by a local newspaper.
Kathy Wagner wants to set the record straight following a lengthy story in the Aug. 8 issue of the Londonderry Times claiming the Old Home Day Committee wasn’t following state laws about financial reporting and meeting minutes.
Wagner heralded the hard work of the Old Home Day Committee with the five-day event underway this week.
“This drama is completely fabricated,” she said. “This whole thing is a joke, other people on the (OHD) committee are working very hard, preserving something really important. There’s no problem with the records. We are a bunch of volunteers putting on Old Home Day.”
According to the story, the newspaper submitted a Right to Know request for three years of Old Home Day financial documents and questioned how money was handled and also how committee meetings were done. The article stated that the Old Home Day records did not give “explicit details of where the income came from” or what the expenditures were for or who made them.
The Times article did not give examples of the information that is missing. According to Wagner, there are no improprieties with the financial documents and anyone who wishes to view them is welcome to.
“All the money goes to the town, we don’t accept cash, everything is a check,” Wagner said. “We wanted to make sure everything was done right.”
Wagner said they keep records on who paid for what, check numbers, with everything signed off by town finance officials.
“They double-check. They have to have receipts,” she said.
According to Wagner, the article erroneously connects Town Clerk Sherry Farrell to the financial documents. Wagner said Old Home Day checks were processed through the town clerk’s office, but Farrell never signed off on any finances.
Farrell said she was never contacted by the newspaper to verify the information, a standard practice.
“Sad that people are singled out in a local newspaper and sad that they are not contacted to verify information that our residents trust in a local paper to be true and honest,” Farrell said. “It’s sad that because of behavior like this people are afraid to volunteer, sad that so much space and time is spent deliberately trying to hurt good people that love our communities.”
The Times also noted that at the June 20 Old Home Day Committee meeting, the reporter attending was asked to keep things “off the record,” something the article said could not be done at a public session.
Wagner said the only reason the committee asked for information to be held was so the annual Old Home Day parade grand marshal Richard Zacchilli could be notified of his honor prior to anything being published in the paper. She said there was also an issue about the fireworks location that had to be worked out before information was published.
Meetings and minutes also came under scrutiny in the Londonderry Times article. Wagner said the only thing the committee did not do correctly was to list everyone in attendance at a meeting, as per state rules for meetings and minutes.
“That’s the only thing we did wrong,” she said.
Wagner said that the entire article feels like a personal attack.
“And all the records are available at Town Hall,” she said. “We are not under the direction of the town, we are just a willing group of volunteers trying to do a good thing. There are no concerns with the record keeping of Old Home Day.”
Wagner added that if the Times wanted to lodge a personal attack, it shouldn’t be aimed at the entire Old Home Day Committee
“Other people on the committee are working very hard, presenting something important,” she said. “Take it up with me, and not go after the whole committee.”
The Town Council created the Old Home Day Committee in 2001. The committee was charged as a “willing group of volunteers that will represent the Town of Londonderry” and shall “determine its own rules and order of business, unless otherwise provided by law or Town Charter,” according to the minutes of that meeting.
The duties and responsibilities officially listed include holding meetings in accordance with RSA Chapter 91-A, coordinate and plan Old Home Day, develop and monitor an annual operating budget and seek alternative funding sources such as corporate/business sponsorships and registration fees, maintain a permanent project file that includes but not limited to committee minutes, promotional materials, correspondence and other materials.
The committee was also charged with providing periodic reports to the Town Council and the media.
The committee also has different factions that handle certain aspects of Old Home, like the parade, Kidz Night, or the Town Common activities.
“The parade alone costs $10,000,” Wagner said, adding the town votes to support Old Home Day’s budget, but there are also donations and sponsorships that support the event.