Turf vote lawsuit dismissed

HOLLIS — Say goodbye to the grass, as the $1.6 million artificial turf project for Hollis Brookline High School got the all clear in court.

For now.

Hillsborough Superior Court-South Judge Charles Temple tossed the lawsuit resident Eliza LeCours filed regarding the matter. She sued because of the recounts in this year’s Hollis Brookline Co-op annual meeting on the artificial turf warrant article.

LeCours insists her lawsuit is about much more than grass versus turf.

“This is about democracy,” LeCours said. “This is about integrity.”

Her lawsuit sought to certify the first of two recounts conducted during the March meeting. If that first recount stood as the final vote, then the school district would have failed to get enough votes to pass the $1.6 million project.

The turf article first passed after the vote at the March 15 meeting by a margin of 537 “yes” votes to 264 “no” votes. It needed 534 votes to pass with the necessary two-thirds majority for the bond.

According to court records, School District Moderator Andrew Mason announced that 10 spoiled ballots were not counted as part of the vote total. That’s when a number of residents asked for a recount.

During the March 22 meeting scheduled for the recount, Mason appointed a group of registered voters to review the ballots. This time, the vote counters included all of the spoiled ballots, and came up with fewer than 534 “yes” votes. The counters said they were trying to determine voter intent, according to the lawsuit.

After a heated discussion regarding the way to run a recount, there was a second recount. After the second recount, the artificial turf article passed, 535 to 266.

LeCours, who said she represents a group of residents, called foul over the multiple vote counts. She said Mason manipulated the voting process until he got the right number of “yes” ballots.

“Can he throw out ballots because he gets to make the rules?” LeCours asked.

Temple found Mason followed New Hampshire law in conducting both recounts, and he ruled the court has no place to intervene in this case. LeCours is still considering her options. Temple’s ruling to dismiss the case allows 31 days for her and her group to file an appeal.

LeCours could not say for certain Thursday if she will appeal the case.

“There’s a good possibility. I will know more next week,” she said.

The turf proposal came forward because the high school’s athletic fields see so much use that officials said they are just “clumps of dirt and grass.” The prospect of artificial turf initially drew environmental concerns from some in town who worried about toxins in the turf being released into the soil and water.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.