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Cheshire TV members gut board of directors in contentious session

The Cheshire TV membership ousted nearly half of its board of directors Tuesday night in a meeting filled with arguments, interruptions and requests for someone to explain what was going on.

The Zoom session was the culmination of months of tension, stemming from accusations originally put forth by former CTV Executive Director Lee Perkins, who had taken issue with the way the board was conducting business. Perkins, who left his post in 2014 but is a member of the organization, said last year that the board had been failing to follow the bylaws, had fired two employees for improper reasons and skipped two elections.

Cheshire TV is a public-access station that serves the communities of Keene, Swanzey and Marlborough. The organization is made up of members — people who are involved with Cheshire TV and produce content but are not on the board of directors.

The nonprofit was originally funded via a cable franchise fee paid to the city of Keene by area cable providers. But in January 2019, the city executed a new agreement, in which Cheshire TV receives a flat rate of $15,150 each month.

During Tuesday’s meeting, board Chairwoman Jodi Turner and board members Kristina Germano, Robert Milliken, David Payson and Conan Salada were all voted out by a majority of the more than 40 members of the organization in attendance by videoconference. Four CTV members had called for the meeting in an Oct. 15 letter to the board for the purpose of taking a membership vote on whether to remove board members.

Turner, who had served on the board since the fall of 2019 and became chair in mid-2020, acknowledged in October that the board of directors hadn’t always adhered to the bylaws and that elections had been missed. But she said at the time that the board has been working to fine-tune its procedures. The 12-person board also held a meeting last week, during which CTV members elected five new board members, none of whom were removed Tuesday.

Tuesday’s meeting involved a great deal of back-and-forth about how to properly conduct the session but lacked discussion about what the board members in question were believed to have done wrong. Participants also expressed uncertainty about how to proceed once the vote to remove Turner left the board without a leader and the attorney representing Cheshire TV questioned the vote’s legality.

“I frankly have never seen a meeting like this,” said attorney Bradford Cook. “You seem to have a lot of people participating who, under your articles [of incorporation] ... weren’t qualified to vote. So I question whether what was done tonight was legal.”

Cook said that while it would require an analysis, he thought that there may have been a number of people participating in Tuesday’s meeting who aren’t residents of Keene, Swanzey or Marlborough, the three communities Cheshire TV was created to serve. He said the organization’s articles of agreement with the state stipulate that membership be made up of residents from those three communities.

But since its inception in 2006, Perkins said, Cheshire TV has always had members from outside Keene, Swanzey and Marlborough.

“We have always had members, including appointed members, who were not residents of those three communities because they are stakeholders in the region,” Perkins said.

David Kirkpatrick of Antrim was the sole member Tuesday to say he doesn’t live in the specified area. Kirkpatrick, who was fired from his position as a field production manager over the summer, has said he feels he was terminated because of a Facebook post he made complaining about conditions at the station. Turner has adamantly denied this is why he was let go.

Several members of the organization, including a few who said they’re new, said Tuesday that they didn’t have enough information about why members were being asked to vote to remove the board members and asked for more discussion about why the meeting was taking place. Kirkpatrick replied that “the board has failed in their duties to do the business that they’re here to do,” such as giving notice for meetings, keeping minutes and having meetings that are easily accessible to the public.

“It goes on and on,” Kirkpatrick said. “If you’re not tuned in, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention for a long time.”

One removal that sparked quite a bit of discussion was Milliken’s. He was the appointee to the board from N.H. School Administrative Unit 29, which, along with Keene State College, Keene and Swanzey, has the right under the bylaws to appoint one member to the board. Marlborough also used to appoint a board member but no longer participates.

Cook, the lawyer, advised against removing members appointed by outside organizations, noting that they can just be reappointed and calling the removal an “empty exercise.”

There was also some confusion and disagreement about when it would be possible to fill the newly vacant, non-appointed seats. One person argued that the members could do it within 30 days, the minimum time required after providing notice of a special meeting, while Cook said that, according to CTV’s bylaws, they would have to wait six months.

“You will be working with a lame board again,” Germano said after she had been voted out, “because there’s so much work to be done.”

The group was even unable to agree on when to adjourn the meeting when, after the votes to remove both Turner and Salada, the board found itself without a chairperson or a secretary. While member Kyrston Clouse, Perkins’ daughter, volunteered to serve as acting secretary to read the roll call for the remaining votes, there was some debate about whether or not to appoint an acting chair as well.

The matter was ultimately left for the next time the gutted board meets.Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson

Republicans in Congress defecting from Trump

WASHINGTON — As President Trump denied responsibility for the U.S. Capitol assault that left five people dead, the FBI vowed Tuesday to prosecute hundreds of his supporters who took part in the attack and several House Republicans — including the No. 3 GOP leader — announced they would vote for impeachment.

It marked the starkest Republican defection yet and could open the door for other GOP House members to join Democrats in Wednesday’s historic impeachment vote.

“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Vice President Mike Pence — responding for the first time to Democratic calls that he take constitutional steps to remove Trump from office — declined to do so, and implored House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democrats not to pass the resolution urging him to invoke the 25th Amendment.

“I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment,” Pence said in a letter. “Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. I pledge to you I will continue to do my part to work in good faith with the incoming administration to ensure an orderly transition of power.”

But the House passed the resolution anyway by a vote of 223 to 205 including one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

“The facts are very clear,” Pelosi said in a floor speech. “The president called for this seditious attack. ... He and his family cheered and celebrated the desecration of the Capitol.”

Earlier in the day, Trump, making his first public appearance since the Jan. 6 attack, denied inciting his supporters and denounced the move to impeach him a second time.

“The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country,” Trump said in Alamo, Texas, where he visited the border wall. “It’s causing tremendous anger, division and pain, far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the USA, especially at this very tender time.”

He insisted his speech to supporters shortly before the melee was “totally appropriate.”

It was not the contrition some Republicans had hoped to hear, and seemed to accelerate Trump’s loss of power and influence in the final days of his presidency.

By late afternoon, Rep. John Katko, a moderate Republican from upstate New York, became the first in his party to announce he would vote to impeach Trump. Cheney became the second, followed by Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan said he would vote to impeach later in the night, pronouncing “enough is enough.” Nearly a dozen others are thought to be considering a vote for impeachment.

That’s a stark contrast from 2019, when no House Republican dared vote to impeach Trump for his pressuring of Ukrainian officials to investigate then-presidential rival and now President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. That unity was long a source of pride for Trump.

Even Republicans who sided with Trump avoided defending his actions. They instead warned that punishing him could further divide the nation.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, portrayed efforts to remove Trump as politically motivated. “Continuing calls to impeach the president or remove him with the 25th Amendment … one week before he is set to leave … is, I don’t think, very healthy,” Jordan said during a House committee meeting earlier in the day.

Democrats lambasted Jordan for continuing to cling to the false claims of widespread election fraud that inspired the violent mob.

Democratic lawmakers have prepared a single article of impeachment, accusing the president of inciting an insurrection. With Democratic control of the House and the GOP defections, Trump is all but certain to become the only U.S. president to be impeached twice.

Amid heightened security concerns, metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the House chamber Tuesday night. Lawmakers were also subject to scanning with metal-detecting wands, yet another ignominious first in the Capitol in response to widespread concern of renewed violence surrounding the vote and next week’s inauguration.

The new security procedures became a point of partisan tension itself, with some Republican members expressing outrage. At least a dozen of the lawmakers pushed past the police or walked around the detectors, including Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who refused to let the police search her bag after she set off the metal detector.

“I am legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, D.C., and within the Capitol complex,” Boebert later tweeted, even though House rules specifically prohibit firearms in the chamber. “Metal detectors outside of the House would not have stopped the violence we saw last week — it’s just another political stunt by Speaker Pelosi.” House rules prohibit carrying weapons in the chamber.

The FBI warned Monday that Trump supporters were planning armed protests at all 50 state capitols and the U.S. Capitol in the coming days.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they had opened a broad investigation of possible sedition and conspiracy in connection with the attack on the Capitol. More than 170 case files have been opened by the FBI, with charges already filed against over 70 people.

Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, said at a news briefing that the number of people charged would probably “grow into the hundreds.”

“We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition” and conspiracy that could carry prison terms of up to 20 years, Sherwin said.

In an extraordinary message to all members of the armed forces Tuesday, the military’s top leadership called the Jan. 6 Capitol attack “a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building and our constitutional process.”

The email message, signed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley and the uniformed heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force and National Guard, emphasized that Biden would be inaugurated next week and become commander in chief.

The military leaders told troops that their job was to “support and defend the Constitution,” adding that “any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”

During his brief public appearances Tuesday, Trump insisted that “we want no violence.” He said there was nothing wrong with his speech at the rally outside the White House last week, when he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol as Congress was conducting the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes to formalize Biden’s victory.

“They’ve analyzed my speech and my words and my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody just thought it was totally appropriate,” Trump falsely claimed.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, released a statement blaming Trump and saying the president would also bear responsibility for further violence in Washington and at state capitols if he does not explicitly and unambiguously address the nation and urge his supporters to stand down.

As lawmakers worried about the prospect of more violence, they also struggled with exposure to the coronavirus. The attack on the Capitol threatened to become a super-spreader event, as lawmakers were forced together in close quarters in safe rooms where some refused to wear masks. By Tuesday, several House members had tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The outbreak moved House leaders to impose rules during Tuesday’s debate that included fines for failing to comply with their mask requirement on the House floor. Lawmakers could be slapped with a $500 fine for a first offense and $2,500 for a second offense. The mask rule touched off further anger and protest from some Republican lawmakers.

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Cheshire Medical postpones certain non-urgent procedures

Cheshire Medical Center is again postponing certain nonessential procedures, in large part due to the recent surge in the community’s COVID-19 transmission.

Non-urgent procedures that require an overnight stay at the Keene hospital will be delayed, according to spokesman Matthew Barone, while those that don’t will be performed as planned.

Postponements started last week, Barone added, as part of the hospital’s contingency planning for increases in COVID-19 cases.

To date, 878 Granite Staters have died of complications from the disease, and 53,148 have tested positive for it, according to the state health department’s latest data. As of Tuesday morning, 287 people were in New Hampshire hospitals for COVID-19.

All necessary procedures, surgeries and urgent care at Cheshire Medical will still continue, Barone noted.

“Across NH, and here at Cheshire, there is limited in-patient bed capacity, requiring the postponement of some procedures down to half the normal volume for now ...,” he said in an email. “This contingency planning happening now for elective procedures is essential in order to keep beds available for more urgent patient care.”

Once the state’s COVID-19 rates begin to decrease or stabilize, Barone said the hospital will “feel more comfortable returning to 100% on elective surgeries.”

Routine procedures were postponed nationwide at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, as hospitals worked to squirrel away personal protective equipment, make room for COVID-19 patients and limit the number of people inside the hospital.

The resulting revenue loss — coupled with fewer in-person visits and the costs of additional safety equipment — left hospitals across the state and beyond financially hemorrhaging. New Hampshire hospitals collectively lost $575 million in revenue between March and July, according to a report in the Concord Monitor.

By early May, the state lifted its restrictions on elective procedures, and Cheshire Medical and Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough began to bring back slowly those that were time-sensitive, starting with ones that had been canceled in the months prior.

Then, in July, as the number of active COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire continued to subside, both hospitals began offering all elective procedures again to patients.

While Cheshire Medical has begun delaying these procedures once more, Monadnock Community Hospital has not, according to spokeswoman Laura Gingras. She said the hospital is monitoring the situation daily.

Elective procedures are not always optional; the term just refers to those that can be scheduled in advance and address issues that aren’t life-threatening. Examples are cataract surgery, carpal tunnel surgery, joint replacement, hysterectomy and sinus surgery.

Cheshire Medical’s Barone said there isn’t one specific type of elective procedure being put off.

“We’re simply spacing them out to keep beds available should we see a surge in [COVID-19] patients,” he said.

During the pandemic, Barone said the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system affiliate has had up to 16 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at one time.

And while he described this high point as “manageable for day-to-day operations,” Barone said the 169-bed hospital needs to prepare for the possibility of a sharper increase in numbers.

Cheshire Medical’s decision to suspend certain nonessential procedures is also due to staffing challenges, according to Barone.

He explained that the hospital, like many across the nation, is seeing scarcities in the health-care workforce because of COVID-19 exposure. These employees must quarantine, he added, which “impacts staffing levels at times.”Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.

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Cheshire GOP Facebook posts hinted at possible violence in D.C. before last week's riot
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In the days leading up to last Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, posts were made on the Cheshire County Republican Committee’s Facebook page indicating that those planning to attend President Donald Trump’s rally scheduled that morning should be prepared for something more than just a typical day of protesting.

On the evening of Jan. 3, the committee’s Facebook page posted a message telling people planning to attend the protest, which gave rise to a violent insurrection that left at least five people dead, what supplies they should bring to fend off any responding police. The post urges “Patriots going to Washington DC on January 6” to bring four bottles of water, “2 for hydration rationing throughout the day, 1 to wet a towel down with, and one for triage” as well as a hand towel or spare T-shirt and safety goggles.

“I am convinced that the police will show up in riot gear and attempt to disperse the crowd,” said the post’s author, who is identified only as Patriot One Six and does not appear to be from New Hampshire. “When this does not happen, tbey [sic] will launch tear gas and smoke canisters. Having seen this happen in my town of Louisville this past summer, a wet hand or dish towel or a wet tshirt ove [sic] the nose and mouth will help, and the tight sealing goggles will protect your eyes.”

The post adds: “Going into this rally you need to determine what level of civil disobedience you are willing to undertake.” The post also advises participants to bring a rain poncho, “in case they use water hoses to disperse the crowd.”

Marilyn Huston, who served as chair of the Cheshire County GOP at the time this and other posts about the rally were made — Richard Merkt has since been elected to that role — said Tuesday afternoon that she hadn’t been on the committee’s Facebook page since some time before the breach at the Capitol and wasn’t aware of the posts, noting that her computer has been down. If she had seen them, she said, “they would have been down in an instant.”

Huston deferred a question about who operates the committee’s Facebook page to Merkt, who said the page is run by a volunteer but declined to identify that person. He said the committee supports only lawful activities and will review its protocols for posting to Facebook.

“CCRC will review its website posting procedures to assure that future postings are vetted,” Merkt said in an email Tuesday evening. “CCRC is certainly not looking to ‘trigger’ anyone, including [The Sentinel’s] readers; that’s not its mission. That said, CCRC does not subscribe to the notion of political censorship. It believes that vigorous political debate is essential to a functioning democracy.”

Huston said she never expected last week’s rally to turn violent and she believed the goal was simply to stand in support of President Trump. She said there is a lot of hate coming from both sides of the political aisle and urged Americans to “tone it down.”

“What I want to say to all Americans is that this has to stop,” Huston said. “We all want what is best for this country. We may have different ways of getting to what is best, but this vitriol is horrific, and I think this is what is frightening people and making them act in a way they probably never would have done. It’s just deplorable what happened.”

Huston added that there are many who must be held responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection, and said she’d like to know why there weren’t enough officers to de-escalate the crowd. She pointed to the widespread protests over police brutality and racial injustice during the summer that turned riotous in several major cities and said what she called the “radical left and the radical right” are not speaking for mainstream Americans.

Another post, an image of a flier, was shared on the Cheshire County GOP’s page Jan. 2. It was seeking to sign people up for a bus trip from Concord to Washington to participate in last week’s rally. The post urges people to make the trip to “Stop the Steal,” a battle cry popularized by Trump’s supporters as well as the moniker for last Wednesday’s rally. Since his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, Trump and his allies have made unfounded claims of massive voter fraud, none of which have stood up in court.

“Let’s put the fear of God into these Demo-Corruptionists and their RINO (Republican in name only) allies in Congress, and take back AMERICA,” the flier says.

The post directing people on what supplies to bring to the rally and how to defend against police has since been removed from the Cheshire County GOP’s page, though the flier for the bus trip was still visible there as of early Wednesday morning.

Throughout the past few weeks, the Cheshire County GOP’s Facebook page makes several references to unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from Trump.

A post made by Merkt and shared by the committee the day after the Capitol insurrection suggests that the states call for a convention to make changes to the U.S. Constitution, in accordance with the provisions laid out in Article V of that document, saying that many have lost faith in the federal government and view the institution as corrupt.

His post says an Article V convention “would allow the states to take matters out of Washington, DC’s hands and revise the Constitution based on our 240 years of practical experience as a democratic Republic. New safeguards of liberty could be added to counter the inherent tendencies of central government to expand its powers and disregard constitutional limits.”