Governor signs Law to create an Ombudsman to resolve Right to Know complaints

Recently, Gov. Sununu signed into Law HB481 to establish the office of the right-to-know ombudsman and creates a simpler, less expensive, and faster alternative process to resolve complaints under RSA 91-A.

As an alternative to filing a petition in court, a citizen may file a written complaint with the office of the right to know ombudsman.  The ombudsman will then require the public body/agency to provide an answer to the complaint within 20 days citing any justifications for their refusal to or delay in producing the requested governmental records, access to meetings open to the public, or otherwise comply with the provisions of the Right-to-Know Law (RSA 91-A).

In reviewing the complaint, the ombudsman is authorized to:

(a) compel delivery of governmental records to the ombudsman within 30 days for review, 

(b)  compel interviews with both parties and order attendance at hearings within a reasonable time, if hearings are necessary

(c)  Within 30 days after the receipt of responses from both parties, provide written notice of any findings and order any other remedy to the same extent as provided by the court under RSA 91-A:8.

This bill has a sunset clause and will automatically be repealed on July 1, 2025.

RTKNH would like to thank the following sponsors of this bill:  Rep. DiLorenzo, Rock. 17; Rep. Langley, Hills. 8; Rep. G. Sanborn, Graf. 6; Rep. Hopper, Hills. 2; Rep. Cushing, Rock. 21; Rep. M. Smith, Straf. 6; Rep. Weyler, Rock. 13; Rep. Ulery, Hills. 37; Sen. Rosenwald, Dist 13; Sen. Giuda, Dist 2

Additional Background Information:

The origins of this bill come from the recommendations of the 13 member Legislative Right-to-Know Study Commission created by HB 178.  

The Study Commissions Final Report can be read at http://www.orol.org/rtk/rtknh/2017-10-31-HB178-Commission-Report.pdf

FREE webinar on the Right to Know Law

Right to Know NH will conduct a FREE virtual webinar titled “Introduction to the Right-to-Know Law” on Tuesday, December 28th from 6:30pm – 7:30pm.

David Saad, RTKNH president, will be presenting and will include time for Q&A.

Registration is free but required in order to receive a Zoom invitation.

To register click here: https://forms.gle/p5eGhDkvp3x5WNmRA

Questions? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at righttoknownh@gmail.com

Right to Know NH (RTKNH) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen coalition working to improve access to NH state, county, and local governments. We advocate strengthening NH state laws, particularly the Right-to-Know.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 12/18 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, December 18, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills for the upcoming legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 11/20 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, November 20, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills for the upcoming legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

Learn the Open Meeting Laws Webinar Nov. 8th @ 7:30 pm

The School District Governance Association in partnership with Right to Know NH will conduct a FREE webinar on the Right-to-Know Law regarding Public meetings and non-public sessions. Webinar will be held Monday November 8th 7:30-8:30PM via zoom. David Saad, RTHNH president, is the presenter and will include time for Q&A.

Registration for this webinar is free, but required in order to receive a zoom invitation.

To register click here

RTKNH meeting Saturday 10/16 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, October 16, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills for the upcoming legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 9/18 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, September 18, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills for the upcoming legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

Hudson citizens using Right-to-Know Law in fight against town officials stonewalling access to records

What would you do if a huge warehouse and distribution center was being developed on an old golf course in your neighborhood?  You’d get involved, of course!  You’d go to meetings and ask for public records about the project.  What would you do if your town stonewalled giving you key public records?  You’d have to take your town to court.

This is where several citizens of Hudson who informally call themselves SaveHudsonNH are now.  And with the money behind such a big project, this Right-to-Know case is far from typical.  Their case started pro se, without a lawyer, but quickly got too complicated.

Some aspects of the Hudson case are typical.  They asked for email records and is often the case Hudson did not provide the attachments.  Of course, for a big building project, the key details are in those attached studies and plans.  So, not getting the email attachments means they don’t have the details they need to hold Hudson and the developer accountable and make sure the interests of the citizens of Hudson are kept in mind.  And, they didn’t get emails from lots of personal email accounts used by many Hudson officials evaluating the project.

A typical Right-to-Know case is pro se and doesn’t involve any discovery.  There are no depositions or subpoenas for records.  Discovery can be imposing and expensive, which is why Hudson and the developer are needlessly pressuring the citizens of Hudson with discovery against them.

Further, there are a flurry of complicated motions back and forth, making the case more complicated and again more expensive.  Right now, there is a hearing scheduled for November 1, 2021 for 6 different pending motions: Motion to Compel, Motion to Amend Complaint, Motion to Dismiss, Motion for Evidentiary Hearing, Motion for Rule 29 Protective order, and Motion for Summary Judgment.

While this case in Hudson is more complicated than the typical Right-To-Know case, it highlights that going to court to get access to public records is always a burden.  This is just another example of why Right to Know NH is supporting House Bill 481 to add a Right-to-Know Ombudsman to keep these cases out of the courts and provide greater access for all citizens at less cost to everyone.

Amicus Brief filed in support of releasing a report on excessive force allegations against a Canaan police officer

New England First Amendment Coalition and Union Leader Corporation filed an Amicus Brief in Supreme Court in support of releasing a report on excessive force allegations against a Canaan police officer who is now a state trooper (Samuel Provenza v. Town of Canaan).


Video summary of Amicus Brief by New England First Amendment Coalition

Governor Signs HB471 to have DOJ maintain a list of police officers with a record of wrongdoing

Governor Chris Sununu signed HB471, into law on 8/25/21 and it becomes effective 9/25/21.  This law allows the Department of Justice to voluntarily maintain a list of current and former law enforcement officers with complaints and misconduct records known as the exculpatory evidence schedule (“EES”).  This schedule will be a public record available under the Right-To-Know law.  This bill also requires police disciplinary hearings to be open to the public unless certain confidential information may be revealed.