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With Shaheen's help, Acworth man gives parents a Senate-floor salute

Not long ago, Warren “Bill” and Jane Allen of Spofford, both 97, got the surprise of their lives. They learned that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen had honored them before the U.S. Senate in mid-December. She lavished praise upon the couple, who are World War II U.S. Marine Corps veterans, for their military service, their love story and their subsequent lifelong community leadership.

Her statement, quoted exactly as originally spoken, now remains a permanent part of the prestigious Congressional Record, the official printed account of the proceedings of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

“When Americans today talk about the ‘Greatest Generation’, remarkable individuals like Jane and Bill Allen are exactly who they have in mind,” Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a news release. “It is a great honor to be able to celebrate these Granite Staters’ incredible story of love, service to our nation and innumerable contributions to their community and state. It is critical that heroes like Jane and Bill receive the recognition they deserve, and I wish them all the best in the years ahead.”

The Allens knew nothing about the honor until their son, Tom, recently shared the news with them, and gave them a framed certificate of the Congressional Record resolution in January.

“They were very surprised,” said Linda Brenneman, the couple’s daughter-in-law. “Very humble and disbelieving.”

Brenneman, a retired educator, has been married to Tom Allen for 20 years. They live in Acworth.

At the start of World War II, Bill and Jane, like many of their peers, quickly heeded the call to serve their country. Both joined the Marines. Bill, who originally hailed from Georgia, enlisted in 1942. About a year later, Jane, a Spofford native, joined the newly formed U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserves. Both trained as air traffic controllers, but at different locations in the country. Eventually, the two wound up stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, N.C.

There Bill excelled at directing aircraft traffic, and soon became a supervisor. Jane worked in the station’s clearance center, keeping track of all arriving and departing aircraft. By chance, in late 1943, they finally met on the job following a nerve-wracking air-traffic event. Instantly attracted, they started dating and married five months later in April 1944.

The following January, Jane was honorably discharged from the Women’s Reserves, after learning that they were expecting their first child. Bill, a technical sergeant, served in the Marine Corps until 1946, re-enlisted a year later, and was honorably discharged in 1952 from the Reserves.

Soon after, they relocated to Spofford, and bought a house. In ensuing years, they raised two sons and a daughter there. Tom Allen is the oldest. Walter Allen lives in Massachusetts and Katy Vincent lives in Westchester County, N.Y. Now married 76 years, Bill and Jane’s family also includes six adult grandchildren, in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The couple, who will both celebrate their 98th birthdays within a few months, live independently with support from Tom and his wife, as well as Vincent and other family members and friends.

Once settled in New Hampshire, the couple didn’t like to travel but preferred to stay home, although they drove to Georgia and Tennessee to visit friends, and visited Ireland and England.

“Jane grew up in Spofford. When they came back, she moved across the street,” Brenneman said. “All her life, Jane has lived on that little spot on earth.”

In Spofford, the Allens thrived and led an idyllic life. Initially, they owned the local general store, and then Bill launched a career in banking. In 1993, he retired as president of the Savings Bank of Walpole. Jane earned a degree in home economics at Keene State College, and they also plunged headlong into community service.

Bill served as assistant town moderator, and on the town budget committee for many years. He also was a captain in the volunteer fire department, and helped with the Boy Scouts. Meanwhile, Jane was instrumental in founding the Chesterfield Historical Society, and in raising funds for a new library. Besides that, the pair were passionate supporters of the Keene State College basketball teams (both men’s and women’s) for decades. Bill was the official scorekeeper. After 35 years, he was honored for his role with a special presentation.

“Tom has the Norman Rockwell childhood story,” Brenneman said. “He had wonderful parents, and a fun, fun childhood”.

Tom, who recently retired as general manager of Kasi Infrared of Newport, which provides infrared systems for trucks, agrees. And he wanted everyone to know.

“I just know what wonderful people they’ve been,” he said. “They are the greatest generation. I wanted them honored. They were wonderful parents.”

To that end, in late October, he emailed Shaheen’s office, requesting help to meet his goal.

“I didn’t expect anything in return,” he said.

Within a week, he was surprised. Shaheen’s staff responded with a phone call. Following their guidance, Tom and Brenneman interviewed Bill and Jane, wrote narratives and extensively researched military documents, which they sent to Bethany Yurek, special assistant for constituent services in Shaheen’s office, to be vetted.

The process took a couple of months, and entailed many hours of work, and frequent communication between them and Yurek, Brenneman said.

In time, after all had been checked for accuracy, Tom, who is a Vietnam veteran, requested and received a letter signed by Shaheen. She honored the couple with a statement made to the Congressional Record and presented to President Donald Trump on the Senate floor in December.

He had the certificate of resolution framed, and presented it to his parents just weeks ago.

“There are only two awards higher than this,” he said.

“It was wonderful for Jeanne Shaheen and her office to actually do this,” he said. “Right before and after the November election, they found time to actually do it. It just all seemed to come together.”

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Personnel clash threatened to interfere with Peterborough elections, records show
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PETERBOROUGH — Town officials scrambled last year to ensure a trio of elections were not disrupted by a high-profile dispute between Peterborough’s clerk and deputy clerk.

That included asking a high-ranking state elections official to help prevent the rift between Town Clerk Linda Guyette and her deputy at the time, Gayle Bohl, from affecting voters.

And it triggered a rebuke from that official, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan, for what he said appeared to be a “serious breakdown in the working relationship” between Guyette and Bohl. In a letter to Peterborough officials, Scanlan added that Guyette — the town’s chief elections officer — must have “complete control” of the absentee ballot process.

Despite tensions with Guyette, Bohl said she had assured then-Deputy Town Administrator Nicole MacStay that “[her] grievance and the election are two separate issues.”

But emails among Peterborough officials that have been reviewed by The Sentinel, in addition to interviews with several of the same officials, show those issues collided as the town prepared for municipal voting in July, the September state primary elections and the November general election. The clash between Guyette and Bohl led to concerns among town officials over who had access to a large number of ballots.

That rift escalated in July, when Bohl told the town administration she was “exhausted from constant berating and harassment” by Guyette. As previously reported, the complaint launched a third-party inquiry that concluded Guyette was “hostile and abusive” toward municipal staff and had entered the Town House June 9 after testing positive for COVID-19. (Guyette disputes that conclusion and says she received the positive test result June 10.)

Concerned about Guyette’s conduct in their shared office, Bohl worked elsewhere in the Town House for much of the summer and early fall, when she was responsible for sending and receiving absentee ballots ahead of the municipal, state primary and general elections. That arrangement led Guyette, an elected official who has served in the post since 2009 and whose current term expires this year, to claim that she did not have full control of the absentee ballot materials and that town administrators had undermined her authority.

After other officials, including Scanlan, got involved to help rectify the situation, Bohl resigned in late September. She sued the town Oct. 20, alleging that it had created adverse working conditions and failed to extend whistleblower protections to her.

Peterborough officials maintain that the Town House dispute never affected voting in last year’s elections.

Tensions heat up

The municipal election a day before Peterborough’s July 15 town meeting was its first test of the state’s temporary “no-excuse” absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic, which allowed many New Hampshire residents to vote by mail and avoid crowded polling places. (Initially scheduled for May, Peterborough’s annual sessions were postponed due to the pandemic.)

But preparations for the ballot voting were delayed when Guyette tested positive for COVID-19 in June.

Guyette told then-Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett, who retired in December 2020, in an email June 17 that she could not mail blank ballots to voters who had requested them until after inputting the requests into ElectioNet, the state’s online voter database.

“The sooner I can get back to work, the sooner I can get absentee ballots out,” she wrote.

Bohl, who joined the clerk’s office in September 2019, could not input the ballot requests, Guyette told Bartlett, because she had not yet received ElectioNet training.

Indeed, Bohl was enrolled in training sessions scheduled for March and April that were postponed due to the pandemic, according to N.H. Elections Director Patricia Piecuch. She did not attend sessions in June and July, held in-person, that were available to anyone enrolled in the earlier training, Piecuch said.

However, Bohl told Bartlett on June 22 that an employee in the state’s Elections Division had walked her through the database that morning. She began filing residents’ absentee ballot requests in ElectioNet later that day.

Bohl told The Sentinel last month that Guyette “refused to help [her]” while Guyette was in quarantine.

The rift between them intensified shortly before Guyette returned to work.

In the same June 22 email to Bartlett, Bohl said she had spoken with Guyette the previous day and that the clerk was considering working in the Town House at night to avoid contact with other staff. Bohl told Guyette she was not comfortable with that plan, the deputy wrote to Bartlett.

The following day, Bohl submitted a formal complaint to Bartlett “outlining a series of concerns she had about her work conditions” under Guyette, according to her lawsuit. (The case, in the Manchester branch of Hillsborough County Superior Court, was designated last month for an alternative dispute resolution, which involves non-trial procedures, like mediation.)

Guyette returned to work June 24, when Bohl said Guyette no longer had the virus. In an apparent response to Bohl’s safety concerns, Guyette and MacStay — who succeeded Bartlett as town administrator in January — arranged for Bohl to work in the selectboard meeting room, rather than the clerk’s office, that week.

Bohl prepared and mailed about 220 absentee ballots over two days in the selectboard room, she told Bartlett in an email June 28.

Bohl expressed concern in her email that Guyette was greeting people in the clerk’s office and told Bartlett that she would feel safe returning to the office only if plexiglass barriers were installed. The deputy clerk also said Guyette had entered the selectboard room on three occasions, one time standing very close to Bohl and administrative assistant Alison Kreutz.

“Her blatant disregard for her own safety and the safety of others is incomprehensible,” Bohl wrote.

In the lawsuit, Bohl claims Guyette met with Bartlett and MacStay on June 30 and refused to consider rearranging the clerk’s office to make Bohl feel more comfortable returning to the space.

Bartlett told Guyette in an email that afternoon, however, that Bohl’s desk would be moved to a different side of the office to “accommodate reasonable separation” between the women.

The spat does not appear to have affected the July 14 ballot voting, when more than half of voters cast their ballots by mail, according to Guyette. She told The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript that day that she was not aware of any significant complaints related to the absentee voting process.

A move downstairs

The following morning, however, Bartlett informed Guyette that with “voting behind us for now,” the town administration had decided to move Bohl out of the clerk’s office.

Guyette berated Bohl in response, leading town staff to approach Bartlett for help, the Dover-based consultant Leddy Group concluded in its inquiry. Upon Bartlett’s arrival, Guyette continued yelling and told him, “You can have your f------- employee,” in reference to Bohl’s move from the clerk’s office, according to a summary of its findings.

Guyette apologized to Bartlett that evening for her outburst.

Bohl said she moved again Aug. 19 — to a workspace downstairs, near the planning and building office — because state auditors were using the selectboard room.

“I continued working in the lower level after that so that I would not have to constantly move my work space every time the meeting room was needed,” she told The Sentinel in a written statement last month.

While downstairs, Bohl handled the town’s absentee ballot operations for the Sept. 8 primary elections because she did not need to be in the clerk’s office for that task, she said. That meant entering requests into ElectioNet, mailing blank ballots and filing completed ballots, she explained in her statement.

Bohl said that each night, she returned the blank ballots to a locked vault in the clerk’s office. The ballot request forms and completed ballots remained downstairs, where the door to the Town House’s main level was locked at night and an exterior door remained locked at all times, she said. (Bohl later told The Sentinel that she left only the forms downstairs overnight; Guyette claims the ballots were sometimes kept there, as well.)

Guyette took issue with that arrangement.

Noting in an email to The Sentinel on Wednesday that like all election materials, absentee ballots are the clerk’s responsibility, she argued that Bartlett allowed the completed ballots and the request forms to be kept in an office inaccessible to her “without authority or permission.”

Bohl and MacStay dispute Guyette’s claim that the deputy clerk’s workspace was inaccessible.

“Linda had complete access to any of the material at all times,” Bohl told The Sentinel. “The only persons that had access to any of the material were trusted employees that worked at the Town House who had a key and knew the alarm codes.”

Nearly 2,000 Peterborough residents voted in the Sept. 8 primaries, and 1,019 of them cast absentee ballots, per the town’s Weekly Dispatch the next day.

When the polls closed that evening, Guyette pulled aside state Rep. Peter Leishman, a Peterborough Democrat currently in his 11th term. According to Leishman, Guyette told him that “interference” by Bartlett and MacStay was affecting her ability to perform her duties as clerk.

“She seemed very upset,” he said Nov. 30. “I’ve known Linda a long time.”

Leishman said he met with Scanlan, the deputy secretary of state, the next day to share Guyette’s concerns, in an effort to prevent any further problems.

“We didn’t want to be the poster child for missing ballots in the state of New Hampshire,” he said.

Two days later, Guyette asked that Bohl return the box of ballot request forms to the clerk’s office at the end of each day, “effective immediately.” Bohl said she responded that, due to her asthma, carrying the boxes upstairs would be a “medical hardship” but that she welcomed the clerk to retrieve the materials herself.

“Linda did not do so at any time that I am aware of,” Bohl told The Sentinel in a separate written statement last month.

Meanwhile, the group of people trying to mediate the dispute grew larger.

Scanlan visited Peterborough on Sept. 17 to meet with Guyette, Leishman and Town Moderator L. Phillips Runyon about the situation in the clerk’s office, according to Leishman. He said in November that the meeting was intended “to bring [Scanlan] up to speed” and to have him meet with Guyette in person.

In a letter to Scanlan the following day, Runyon said Guyette must have “sole possession and control” of Peterborough residents’ absentee ballot requests. Runyon, who also shared the letter with Leishman, Bartlett, MacStay and the selectboard, said Guyette needed help executing her duties as clerk and urged the local officials to “put personal interests aside and to pull together to conduct this process in the best way possible.”

Runyon told The Sentinel in an interview Dec. 8 that he does not believe town officials were confused about who was responsible for election administration, though he acknowledged that tensions between Guyette and Bohl “kept them from interacting well” in the fall.

“I never saw any indication that that adversely affected either the applications or the sending out of absentee ballots,” he said. “… My concern was just that it be resolved somehow so the process could go smoothly.”

In a Sept. 22 email to Guyette, Bartlett, MacStay and the selectboard, Runyon expressed frustration that “all the records concerning absentee ballot applications have not yet been turned over to” the clerk. He requested that they confirm the next day that all absentee ballot materials had been returned to Guyette, adding that he thought the situation could be handled internally without further involvement from state officials.

MacStay responded that she would “personally take the absentee ballot request forms” back to the clerk’s office each day “to ensure that it is being done.”

In a Sept. 23 email to Runyon, MacStay explained that the town administration had been “managing a serious personnel matter” since the spring and that Guyette’s behavior led to Bohl’s move downstairs. She added that while the clerk supervises the deputy clerk, the selectboard and administration are responsible for ensuring that the deputy, a town employee, has a “safe and respectful workplace.”

MacStay also said she was not aware that Guyette ever complained about the absentee ballot procedures to the selectboard or administration.

“We have interpreted her silence on this matter as her approval,” she wrote.

Still, MacStay offered to meet with Guyette about her concerns, writing, “This election is too important to leave room for any doubt with regards to how it has been managed by both elected officials and staff.”

MacStay told The Sentinel in December that she brought the absentee ballot materials from Bohl’s workspace downstairs to the clerk’s office each night, starting Sept. 23. Bohl returned the materials that week at MacStay’s request, she said in her Jan. 13 statement.

Guyette confirmed Wednesday that all the materials were returned to her after Scanlan got involved.

On Sept. 25, a Friday, Guyette met with Runyon, Bartlett, MacStay and the Peterborough selectboard to discuss the town’s absentee ballot process and her needs as clerk.

MacStay summarized the group’s conclusions in an email to them later that day. Among them, MacStay said that at Guyette’s request, Bohl would be relocated to the Town House foyer the following week, where she could accept completed ballots for the Nov. 3 election from the public without crowding the clerk’s office.

According to Bohl, MacStay later told her that she, Bohl, would return to the clerk’s office after the election. The former deputy clerk said MacStay added that Guyette would “not have to be nice, she just has to be appropriate.”

“At that point … I knew that Administration and the Select Board were not taking my complaint seriously and truly did not care about me as a person or as an employee and were not going to make any changes to rectify the situation,” Bohl told The Sentinel.

On Sept. 28, the day Bohl was scheduled to move to the foyer, she resigned.

Lines of authority

That same day, Scanlan sent the letter to Peterborough officials explaining that his office had reviewed the situation and found an “apparent usurpation” of Guyette’s duties in handling absentee ballots. (The letter was posted on the town’s website along with other correspondence to the selectboard before its Oct. 6 meeting.)

“If these clear lines of authority and responsibility are not clearly understood, the result will be a dysfunctional office,” he wrote. “It would appear to me that this situation is playing out in the Town of Peterborough.”

Scanlan did not respond to multiple requests for more information about his review.

In an Oct. 2 letter to Scanlan, selectboard Chairman Tyler Ward said the town’s absentee ballot procedures had continued under Guyette’s supervision “without delay” since the Sept. 25 meeting and that approximately 1,400 ballots had already been sent to voters.

“[I]t is our highest priority to ensure that all measures are taken to support the Town Clerk in whatever she needs to provide a successful election for our citizens,” Ward wrote.

More than 70 percent of Peterborough’s 6,335 registered voters cast a ballot in the Nov. 3 general election.

That turnout was the highest Runyon could recall in more than decade as moderator, he said in December. He said that there was no indication “the process didn’t work the way it’s supposed to” and complimented Guyette on overseeing the election.

“I don’t think most people have any appreciation for how difficult it is to pull off an election like that … There’s just so much more to the whole process behind the scenes, and we were so lucky to have Linda organizing and supervising that.”

States redistribute hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses unused by nursing homes

The federal government allocated too much vaccine to elder-care facilities,and many states are now redistributing hundreds of thousands of the unused doses to others — a move expected to expand vaccinations to more people, more quickly, according to officials involved in the effort.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said Thursday he is redirecting 170,000 doses of unused vaccine intended for long-term-care facilities. In Texas, health officials said they would redistribute 126,750 doses. In Illinois, the state is redirecting about 97,000 doses. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, announced on Twitter last week that the state was reallocating 37,800 doses to vaccine providers. “These surplus vaccines should be made available to members of the general public right away rather than at the completion of the [long-term-care] program,” McMaster wrote. In Maine, the state is initially taking about 4,000 doses from nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other locations.

“We’re not letting those doses go to waste,” said Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a briefing for reporters.

“I’m frustrated,” he said in a subsequent interview. “We have more doses than we needed [for long-term-care facilities]. We’re starting to take them.”

Any additional doses will help increase supply, Shah added.

The additional doses come at a time when state officials say demand is far outstripping supply as the slow and often-chaotic vaccine rollout enters its second month.

“This latest step by the federal government — to work with states to transfer doses back to the general state supply — should help to alleviate a barrier many have complained about,” said Jennifer Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It’s understandable that some recalibration would be needed. But, at two months into the rollout, they hopefully can pivot quickly, given the stakes.”

When the vaccine began rolling out last month, states could sign up to have CVS and Walgreens inoculate residents and staff members in long-term-care facilities. Every state except West Virginia chose the program, overseen by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doses were sent directly to the pharmacy chains, which coordinated with the facilities to schedule vaccinations. The doses were counted as part of the state’s allotment.

But they were allocated by the number of beds, not the actual number of residents, in each facility, leading to the provision of more than needed. Workers in long-term-care homes also turned out to be far less willing than expected to be vaccinated, adding to the surplus. Still more became available when people administering the vaccine found they could get six doses out of each vial of Pfizer’s product, rather than five.

The CDC is working with 32 jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis to “transfer doses back from pharmacy partners when there is an excess,” said spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. She declined to say how many total doses are being redirected.

“The program is still ongoing, with vaccination wrapping up in skilled-nursing facilities and ongoing in assisted-living facilities ... so there is no way at this time to know exactly how many doses are still needed to complete vaccination at the remaining facilities,” she said.

In the initial weeks of the program, the CDC required that jurisdictions allocate “ample vaccine supply” to ensure that residents and staffers could be inoculated without interruption or delays, she said.

“Now that pharmacies have made substantial progress in efforts to vaccinate the long-term-care facility populations ... we are working with jurisdictions to ensure they are able to easily use any excess vaccine for other targeted populations,” Nordlund said.

States can defer or cancel subsequent allocations to long-term-care facilities, or the CDC can transfer doses back to the states, she added. Some places are choosing to leave excess vaccine doses with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate other priority groups.

Advocates for the elderly are monitoring the situation closely to make sure residents and staff are not shortchanged.

“Obviously, after months during the pandemic where older adults and the people who care for them were not prioritized, it was really heartening that CDC recommended that states prioritize older people and the people who care for them,” said Lisa Sanders, spokeswoman for LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of aging services.

“There should be enough for older adults and care workers,” she added. “We’re watching it. At this point, we have not heard of a shortfall.”

More than 58 million doses had been delivered across the country as of Friday, and more than 36 million had been administered. That includes more than 7 million people who had received both doses of the two-shot regimen from Pfizer or Moderna, according to the CDC. More than 4 million shots have been given in long-term-care facilities, with nearly 800,000 people receiving both doses. An estimated 260 million residents of the United States are eligible to get one of the vaccines.

Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Walgreens, said it became clear early in the effort that the CDC had overestimated the doses needed. The company makes three visits to each facility, so it pushed extra doses from the first clinic to the second, then from the second to the third. If the doses were thawed, they were rerouted to other locations, he said.

Even so, “we had to reallocate supply,” Engerman said.

Walgreens has administered more than 1.6 million doses at the nearly 26,400 long-term-care locations it contracted to serve, according to its website. Engerman said “thousands” of employees are working to vaccinate elder-care residents and staff, and the company hopes to have 45,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians trained by mid-February to help in the broader rollout.

Michael DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS, said the pharmacy chain had administered nearly 2.5 million vaccines at more than 40,000 facilities. “If we project our vaccine allotment will exceed what’s needed, we’ll work with a state to redirect an appropriate portion of that allocation so it’s repurposed elsewhere,” he said in a statement.

In Illinois, state officials are using surplus doses “that otherwise would be sitting in the freezer three weeks from now” to vaccinate a priority group of 3.2 million people — including 1.3 million front-line essential workers and 1.9 million residents age 65 and older, Ngozi Ezike, director of the state’s public health department, said in a statement.

In Maine, long-term-care occupancy rates were as low as 50 or 60 percent of the bed total when the vaccine arrived, said Shah. Other facilities were completely full. When the scale of the problem was recognized, the state moved to claw back extra doses from those facilities and the two pharmacy companies.

Maine has transferred 4,400 doses, with about half going to the general population. The rest are mostly being redirected to independent pharmacies to speed up vaccinations in assisted-living facilities because CVS, the state’s pharmacy partner, is not moving quickly enough, Shah said, noting that some CVS clinics are not scheduled to take place until May.

Only one state, West Virginia, chose not to participate in the federal partnership with the drugstore chains, and it has succeeded better than most at delivering the vaccine. Using a network of local pharmacies, West Virginia finished providing second doses to everyone in long-term care at the end of January, said Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, West Virginia also has seen about 60 percent of its nursing home staff accept the vaccine, a much higher rate than the national average. Marsh credited the state’s small-town nature and a push to convince everyone that inoculation is critical protection for the individual as well as family and friends. As they have seen more people get vaccinated, some residents are jumping on board, boosting the numbers, he said.

“The more people that take it, the more people that take it,” Marsh said.