HB 566 addresses requirement to disclose minutes which were previously undisclosed

 

RTKNH supports House Bill 566 with an amendment to the bill’s current language.

Minutes and decisions reached in nonpublic sessions used to discuss the acquisition, sale, or lease of property are often sealed because the release of minutes to the public could “render the proposed action ineffective”.

In this case, the information may be withheld until the circumstances that would “render the proposed action ineffective” no longer apply. This is current law.

Once a contractual commitment to acquire, sell, or lease property has been signed by all parties, the proposed action has been finalized.  Upon contract signing, the proposed action has become effective and binding on all parties so the circumstances for not disclosing the minutes no longer applies and public release of the minutes can no longer “render the proposed action ineffective”. 

The preamble to the right-to-know law states:

“Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.”

While public bodies should interpret the existing law and release minutes after contract finalization, often this does not happen.  The law needs to be clarified to make this requirement clear.

To ensure the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions, and records regarding the acquisition, sale, or lease of property,  the following amended language is recommended:

“An exception shall apply to those minutes generated from subparagraph II(d), which may be unsealed at any time but which will automatically be unsealed after one year unless a majority of the members vote that the minutes should remain sealed. closing or contract finalization.”

Additionally, any vote to continue to not disclose the minutes should be taken in public session.