Hudson citizens using Right-to-Know Law in fight against town officials stonewalling access to records

What would you do if a huge warehouse and distribution center was being developed on an old golf course in your neighborhood?  You’d get involved, of course!  You’d go to meetings and ask for public records about the project.  What would you do if your town stonewalled giving you key public records?  You’d have to take your town to court.

This is where several citizens of Hudson who informally call themselves SaveHudsonNH are now.  And with the money behind such a big project, this Right-to-Know case is far from typical.  Their case started pro se, without a lawyer, but quickly got too complicated.

Some aspects of the Hudson case are typical.  They asked for email records and is often the case Hudson did not provide the attachments.  Of course, for a big building project, the key details are in those attached studies and plans.  So, not getting the email attachments means they don’t have the details they need to hold Hudson and the developer accountable and make sure the interests of the citizens of Hudson are kept in mind.  And, they didn’t get emails from lots of personal email accounts used by many Hudson officials evaluating the project.

A typical Right-to-Know case is pro se and doesn’t involve any discovery.  There are no depositions or subpoenas for records.  Discovery can be imposing and expensive, which is why Hudson and the developer are needlessly pressuring the citizens of Hudson with discovery against them.

Further, there are a flurry of complicated motions back and forth, making the case more complicated and again more expensive.  Right now, there is a hearing scheduled for November 1, 2021 for 6 different pending motions: Motion to Compel, Motion to Amend Complaint, Motion to Dismiss, Motion for Evidentiary Hearing, Motion for Rule 29 Protective order, and Motion for Summary Judgment.

While this case in Hudson is more complicated than the typical Right-To-Know case, it highlights that going to court to get access to public records is always a burden.  This is just another example of why Right to Know NH is supporting House Bill 481 to add a Right-to-Know Ombudsman to keep these cases out of the courts and provide greater access for all citizens at less cost to everyone.