RTKNH receives First Amendment Award

We couldn’t be more proud.  On Thursday night, October 5, 2017, the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications awarded Right to Know NH its First Amendment Award. The award is given annually by the school to those who have “gone above and beyond to uphold” First Amendment Freedoms.

1sr amendment award group

RTKNH, including founding members and officers Harriet Cady, David Saad and David Taylor were honored at a gala at the Palace Theatre in Manchester for its work in advancing the public’s right to know in New Hampshire.

A 5 minute video about RTKNH was shown at the award ceremony followed by a speech by David Saad,  RTKNH president.

The keynote speaker was Garrison Keillor, creator and star of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show, who spoke of everyday threats to our First Amendment rights, not least of which is our own indifference and reluctance to act.

Since it began in 2013, Right to Know NH has been devoted to strengthening the Right to Know law in New Hampshire.  Through legislative action, education outreach and mentoring citizens in obtaining public information, the grass roots organization has grown to become a notable advocate for open government in the state.

We are honored to be recognized by the Nackey S. Loeb School and are delighted that attorney and First Amendment specialist, Greg Sullivan, was also recognized with the school’s Pen and Quill award.

The Nackey  S. Loeb School of Communications’ mission is to “promote understanding and appreciation of the First Amendment and to foster interest, integrity and excellence in journalism and communication.”

Articles by the Union Leader and Concord Monitor provide more information.

 

Advertisements

NH Right to Know Articles of Interest

Here is a list of links for news articles published and other documents found on the internet related to Right to Know in New Hampshire for October, November & December 2018.

Top stories 2018 | No. 8: NH’s Right to Know Law tested

Nashua school board member may have to pay for Right-to-Know request

Timberlane board member questions meeting minutes’ legal limbo

House Bill 103 to establish an Ombudsman violates Study Commission recommendations

Author: David Saad, RTKNH President

Last year, SB 555 was drafted in response to the recommendations of the 13 member Legislative Right-to-Know(RTK) Study Commission created by the passage of HB 178.  I was one of the 13 members on the Study Commission.  I was also one of the members tasked with writing the Final Report published by the Study Commission and I contributed to the drafting of SB 555.

After 2 months of meetings, the study commission unanimously agreed that citizens needed a grievance resolution process which is easier, cheaper, faster and results in less cost for all parties.  Establishing an independent Ombudsman and a Citizens’ Right-to-Know Appeals Commission was the recommendation after considering a number of alternatives.

While HB 103 includes some of the original language of SB 555, the bill includes many changes which violate the recommendations of the commission.   Specifically, this bill:

  • Adds a $300 fee to file a complaint with the Ombudsman and removes the language that citizen’s initiated appeals shall have no filing fee or surcharge. The Study Commission recognized the need to ‘provide the public with an easier, less expensive… process to resolve complaints’.  The $300 fee is higher than the cost to file a petition in court so it more expensive not less expensive.  Any fees should be nominal since many times the citizen is fighting to prove a RTK violation which is a violation against all citizens and in the public interest.
  • Eliminates citizen oversight of the Ombudsman. The Study Commission agreed that the Ombudsman should be established with oversight by a citizen’s Right-to-Know Appeals commission. The Right-to-Know Appeals commission would serve a critical role which includes establishing policies and procedures for the Appeals process and educating interested parties on the Right-to-Know Law to increase awareness, compliance, and minimize future violations.  They will also compile statistics and make recommendations to the legislature concerning proposed changes to the law.
  • Attaches the ombudsman to the department of justice. The Study Commission spent a great deal of time deliberating on the need for the utmost need for impartially by the Ombudsman.  The study commission believed the Attorney General’s Office would not be a viable option since the Attorney General’s Office represents state agencies in Chapter 91-A disputes and the Attorney General’s Office itself is the recipient of many right-to-know requests which would be a conflict of interest.  For these reasons, and out of concern for citizen’s perceptions, the study commission determined the Attorney General’s Office may have difficulty performing the impartial role of grievance resolution.

RTKNH strongly supports the need for an ombudsman to handle Right-to-Know complaints, however, we oppose HB 103 because it goes against several of the recommendations of the Study Commission.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 1/19 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, January 19, 2019 at 9:00 A.M. in Concord, NH at 8 North Main Street in the office of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills which have been submitted for the upcoming 2019 legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us.

Right to Know training to be held January 16th in Gilsum NH

On Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 7 PM, Right to Know NH President David Saad will present a Right to Know training event at the Gilsum Public Library in Gilsum NH. A Powerpoint presentation covering an overview of the Right to Know Law (RSA 91-A) will be followed by a question and answer session. Officials from area towns as well as all interested citizens are encouraged to attend this free event. Light refreshments will be provided. The Gilsum Public Library is located at 650 Rte 10 in Gilsum. RSVP is encouraged for seating but not required by emailing Vicki Ayer at victoria.ayer@yahoo.com

RTKNH seeks your support for bill to require written reasons for denial of records

The majority of Right-to-Know complaints have to do with records requests either being delayed, denied, or records being redacted without sufficient justification for the redaction.  Bill LSR-2019-0403 addresses the issue by requiring the public body to furnish reasons, in writing, for the delay or denial of records.    When records are denied, it further requires the specific exemption relied on for the denial.  Currently, many public bodies error on the side of denying records because they don’t have to justify their denial to the citizen.  This bill requires them to justify, in writing, why they are denying records.

Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo, Sen. Bob Giuda, Rep. Robert Renny Cushing, Rep. Jordan Ulery, Rep. Timothy Horrigan, Rep. Kurt Wuelper, and Rep. Jason Janvrin have sponsored this bill (LSR 2019-0403).  Please contact your legislator and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor for LSR 2019-0403.

RTKNH seeks your support for bill to insure inspection of records at no cost

In 2016, HB 606 was passed which was intended to provide for inspection of records at no cost when the citizen does not request a copy.  Now, another bill is needed because public bodies, under some circumstances, continue to charge citizens to inspect records.  For instance, if there is a need to redact some information, the public body will charge for copy costs, even though the citizen only wishes to inspect the record.  The public body claims that they have to make a copy of the redacted record, so they charge for the copy.  In some cases, when the record is an electronic record (i.e. email or database record) public bodies state they have to copy the record in order to redact information.  Again the citizen is charged the cost of the copy even though the citizen never requested a copy.  This bill clarifies that when the citizen requests to inspect a record at the public body’s place of business, there will not be any charge to do so.

Rep. Mike Sylvia has sponsored this bill (LSR 2019-0665).  Please contact your legislator and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor for LSR 2019-0665.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 12/15 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 9:00 A.M. via Conference Call.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills submitted for the upcoming 2019 legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us.  Send us a message to receive details on how to join the conference call.