A Citizen’s First Step towards Government Accountability

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THIS BLOG POST IS ONE OF SEVERAL GUEST EDITORIALS THAT WILL BE PUBLISHED DURING SUNSHINE WEEK, HIGHLIGHTING THE NEED FOR MORE GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY.  

Author: Patricia Rodrigues

In 2013, NHDOT allowed historic 1848 easement rights in my property deed to be incorrectly utilized and documented in 2 contracts it has with a private family corporation, to improperly access public lands abutting my property – the Historic Cheshire Rail Trail -and this was done without my knowledge nor input and neither the public’s.

Since that time, in my attempts to find out, after-the-fact, how this had happened, and how it can be considered legal, I have filed numerous right to know requests with NHDOT, NHDES, and the towns of Westmoreland and Walpole. Sometimes these various government agencies have fully complied with my right to know requests, but mostly, they have not.

NHDOT has, after being requested three times over 2.5 years, to supply critical documents missing from these contracts concerning my private property and the abutting public property, simply stated they “cannot locate the documents”. In the spring of 2016 NHDOT performed a survey which proves the incorrect representation of my property deed’s 1848 easement rights – even with the documents which are not missing from the contracts.

After paying many thousands of dollars to attorneys since 2013 to pursue other various legal avenues, I have no further resources to take the state of NH to court to produce the missing documents requested via right to know – but they are the final key to further proving that the contracts signed by the state are fraudulent.  This proof would be in addition to other false representations which are already documented and proven within the contracts, as stated above.

The right-to-know law should be the “poor man’s” mechanism to obtaining what should be freely available documents.  These documents and evidence proving government impropriety is only the first step – because then you have to make the government acknowledge what the obtained information shows and, apparently, the truth from right to know obtained information is ignored, and there still is no accountability.

That said, passage of HB 178, which would form a commission to study alternate methods to reduce the burden and costs for ‘ordinary’ citizens like myself, to utilize, besides the only currently available and expensive step of filing in court to make governmental bodies comply with right to know laws, is a critical first step for governmental accountability. Citizens could then save their financial resources for hiring an attorney to fight for citizens’ property and other rights.

To read more information about my case, and to defend all NH citizen’s constitutional rights to defense of property, and all the public’s rights in public lands, and its heritage, please see Facebook pages ‘Cheshire Rail Trail – Keene To Connecticut River’ and ‘CT River-Cheshire Rail Trail’, which include the online petition found at the following link – http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/314/876/815/

As this matter involves the improper use of public lands – The Historic Cheshire Rail Trail – I ask all citizens to contact me to learn how you can help me resolve this injustice and abuse of our public lands, as we all have a right to know.

Patricia Rodriques is a member of Right to Know New Hampshire and resident of Westmoreland.  She can be emailed at patrodgoog@gmail.com

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