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What have we learned in 2013?

Looking back on the past year, our eyes have been opened a little more, as our seemingly safe and quiet bubble here in the Monadnock region was more than once pierced.

Downtown Peterborough, we’ve learned, is not immune to armed robbery in broad daylight. In 2013, we saw the daytime robbery of Hobbs Jewelers at gunpoint in January. And more recently in November, the GFA Federal Credit Union near the intersection of routes 101 and 202 was held up at gunpoint. A loaded gun brought to school by a ConVal High student in October was also a reminder of our vulnerabilities. In April, residents of the region attending the Boston Marathon had some close calls when two bombs went off near the finish line, though, thankfully, none were seriously injured. In June, there was a drive-by shooting in both Milford, where a house was hit, and Wilton, where the Department of Public Works took gunfire. Again, no one was hurt.

This year also brought to light abuses, or at least suspected abuses, of power by some of our public employees.

Part-time Rindge police officer, as well as ConVal employee, John Vargas-Cifrino was charged in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old in March, shocking the community he had worked in and lived in for years. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail. In August, Peterborough Fire and Rescue Clinical Director Jeremy Bouchard of Antrim was charged with possession and theft of narcotics from the ambulance. The case brought to light an alleged history of theft from the ambulance, allegedly involving Bouchard, as well as previous suspensions of Bouchard. State Senator Peter Bragdon (Milford, R) resigned his post as Senate president in August amid concerns that his new job with the Health-Trust, linked to the Local Government Center, posed conflicts of interest. The issue put a spotlight on Bragdon’s decisions as Senate president in the days and months leading up to his accepting the job post as Health-Trust executive director. In September, the heat was back on the Peterborough Fire and Rescue, as firefighter and EMT Gregory J. Potter faced arson charges in Durham, where the lives of residents of the five buildings set on fire had been put at risk. The sudden resignation of ConVal Athletic Director Jon Hall and his assistant in late September raised questions, too, as school administrators released very few details, telling the public only that some money was missing — about $1,000 from student activity funds. The Mascenic School District announced in November an independent audit had revealed some holes in the district’s financial controls, but just who is was at fault, if anyone, is unclear as officials remain tight-lipped.

A lack of transparency was a theme we saw in 2013, not in every case, but often where public officials were involved. We hope 2014 will bring more willingness on the part of officials to be upfront about the things that matter most: safety and accountability from our public servants.

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