Danville selectmen to seek ouster of fellow board member involved in assault
By JASON SCHREIBER Union Leader Correspondent
Selectmen have warned fellow board member Russell Harding of their plans to take legal action to seek his dismissal, but they're not saying whether it's directly related to his assault on a local teenager.
Selectman Shawn O'Neil, board chairman, told Harding at a meeting Monday night that the board plans to file a petition in Rockingham County Superior Court asking that he be dismissed for allegedly breaching his oath of office.
O'Neil would not comment Wednesday on whether the petition is connected to the assault case.
Harding, 36, of 23 Coburn Hill Road, pleaded guilty to a simple assault charge on June 12. He admitted that he grabbed a 13-year-old boy by the back of the neck during a town movie night at Day Field last August.
The charge, a Class A misdemeanor, resulted in a 60-day sentence in the Rockingham County jail that was suspended for a year, assuming he stays out of trouble.
Contacted Wednesday afternoon by phone, Harding declined to comment on the situation and his status as a selectman because he said he was "at work."
Harding was arrested in September and took a leave from the board. Selectmen asked him to resign after the assault was reported, but he refused.
Because he is an elected official, selectmen don't have authority to remove him from office.
Harding began attending board meetings again in March.
On Monday, selectmen asked if he planned to resign. O'Neil said he told them "no."
Harding also didn't want to discuss his guilty plea at the meeting when O'Neil asked if he had anything he wanted to say.
"He's brought shame to our town and he's brought shame to the board itself, and his continued presence is a slap in the face to his constituents," O'Neil said.
At a selectmen's meeting following the assault, Harding told the board that he "touched" the teenager, but in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, he admitted that he pushed the boy away from town movie equipment because he thought he was going to tamper with it.
"All I know is I made a mistake that night. For that, I'm sorry," Harding told selectmen at that meeting.
In addition to his suspected jail sentence, Harding was also ordered not to go near the teenager or his family and must receive an anger management evaluation. He must also complete five hours of community service as well and was given a $645 fine, most of which was suspended.