Right to Know NH is proud to have among our board members two recipients of the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award given out annually since 2013 by the New England First Amendment Coalition. The award is given to an individual from one of the six New England states who has fought for information crucial to the public’s understanding of its community or what its government is doing — or not doing — on its behalf. The recipients have shown tenacity or bravery in the face of difficulty while obtaining information that the public has a right to know.
In 2015, one of our founding members, Harriet Cady, was recognized for her tireless service to the cause of open government. Here’s what the New England First Amendment Coalition wrote about Mrs. Cady:
Harriet Cady is a frequent speaker on freedom of information concerns and recently helped to create the watchdog group Right to Know New Hampshire. The group advocates for the state’s freedom of information law and Article 8 of the state constitution, which protects public access to government meetings and records.
“Every year, there are attempts made to make it harder, or too expensive, for residents to see what government is doing,” she told the Union Leader last year. “It irritates me beyond belief. It’s a fight I’m always ready for.”
Cady has been an advocate for transparency and FOI concerns for more than 40 years. Her persistence and lengthy track-record separate her from other award nominees this year, said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director.
In her acceptance speech, Mrs. Cady spoke about two New Hampshire Supreme Court cases she won that set important precedents. Michael Miller v. Fremont School Board established the principal that deliberation cannot be done via email. Harriet Cady v. Town of Deerfield established that plaintiffs do not have to prove that a public body willfully violated the Right to Know Law.
This year, another board member, Donna Green, was similarly recognized by the New England First Amendment Coalition. They published this about Mrs. Green:
Green is a member of Right to Know New Hampshire, a state-based government transparency organization, a representative of Sandown on the Timberlane Regional School Board, and president of the newly formed School District Governance Association of New Hampshire. As a school board member, Green began her public records quest two years ago by requesting school district salary information. The superintendent’s office (SAU55), however, refused to provide this information in an electronic format. The New Hampshire Right to Know Law, the SAU argued, didn’t require this information to be released electronically even if available in that form. Instead, Green was limited to inspecting the records in person or paying 50 cents a page for paper printouts, which would have cost well over $150. Green unsuccessfully challenged that interpretation of the law in a pro se lawsuit in Superior Court. With the assistance of attorney Richard Lehmann, she appealed to the state’s highest court. In a decision last April, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Green, saying that the Right to Know Law should be interpreted broadly and facilitate the efficient and cost-effective production of records. The court found that the distribution of public, non-confidential information in commonly used electronic formats ensures the greatest degree of openness and the greatest amount of public access to the decisions made by the public officials. Read more here.
View the award ceremony here (Award to Donna Green starts at 9 minutes into video)
Antonia Orfield was an optometrist, author, professor and compassionate citizen who worked to improve public schools. She pioneered unconventional vision-related remedies to learning problems and changed the lives of many children.
Right to Know New Hampshire strives to educate elected officials about the Right-to-Know law while assisting individuals in exercising their right to know about their government’s actions and to improve government transparency.
We invite other committed citizens to join us.