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Nashua wins Supreme Court case

NASHUA – A 3-2 decision by the New Hampshire Supreme Court makes it official: The city of Nashua’s spending cap that has been in place for 25 years is unenforceable.

In a ruling released late Tuesday, the majority of justices sided with the city of Nashua in the case, which was appealed to the high court after Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Charles Temple found the cap unenforceable last year.

“We affirm the trial court’s determination that the city’s spending cap is unenforceable because it does not contain an override provision,” the Supreme Court’s ruling states.

Former Nashua alderman Fred Teeboom helped craft and institute the city’s spending cap 25 years ago. He sued the city and Mayor Jim Donchess in 2017, claiming the city violated the cap by enacting a new accounting system for the city’s wastewater budget.

Reacting to the ruling on Thursday, Teeboom said he simply does not understand how three justices ruled against him.

“Those three judges … I have no clue how they came to that decision,” Teeboom said.

Writing for the majority was Chief Justice Robert Lynn. Joining Lynn in ruling in favor of the city were Justice James Bassett and Justice Patrick Donovan.

In arguments presented to the high court earlier this year, longtime Concord-based attorney Chuck Douglas III, representing Teeboom, referred to 2011 state legislation that addressed the legality and enforcability of tax and spending caps in several New Hampshire cities and towns. He said legislators spelled out that all existing caps were to be “ratified, validated, legalized and fully enforceable.”

Douglas further said the wording in the final sentence, which states all caps shall remain fully enforceable “without regard to whether they were authorized by law at the time” the caps were adopted, cements Teeboom’s argument that Temple erred last year.

Justices Gary Hicks and Barbara Hantz Marconi dissented. The dissenting opinion states: “We would reverse the trial court’s determination that the city’s spending cap is unenforceable because it does not contain an override provision and remand for further proceedings.”

For Teeboom, the loss is both bitter and disappointing. The disappointing part to him is that more people from the city did not show support for his position.

“I am a fiscal conservative. We have a very liberal Board of Aldermen now,” Teeboom said. “The city of Nashua today is not what the city of Nashua was, even 10 years ago. These are very different times.”

City officials could not immediately be reached for comment during the holiday.

Senior Staff Writer Dean Shalhoup contributed to this report.