Donna Green of Sandown NH, a member of RTKNH, appeared at the House Judiciary Committee hearing and testified in support of HB460.
Here is her testimony:
I’m Donna Green. Currently I represent Sandown on the Timberlane Regional School Board and have served in various capacities in local government for 9 years.
I’m in support of this bill.
There are four aspects of this change to the Right to Know law that I believe will improve local government in our state.
1) It will make minutes more honest by requiring the recording of 91-A objections by members present.
2) It will encourage members to speak up to save themselves from personal liability
3) It will allow members of the public to learn when something was done that did not seem in compliance with the law, at least in the judgment of one elected member
4) This requirement will in itself put a damper on willful violations because public bodies will be afraid of being called out by more conscientious members and having that necessarily captured in the minutes.
From my own personal experience, especially in non-public meetings, I can object all I want about a topic not being permissible for a non-public discussion, for instance, and that objection will never be noted in the minutes – nor will the minutes disclose the nature of the non-permissible discussion.
When public bodies do not function well, their minutes become highly political and less than fully honest. It is a sad fact that legislation needs to protect those who are trying to comply with the law but this bill has the happy consequence of protecting those while encouraging others to comply.
To be maximally effective, this bill should say that all objections will be noted in the public minutes even when the objection takes place in a non-public meeting. This is to prevent less than conscientious public bodies from sealing minutes simply because a member objected to a 91-A violation.