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.

Amicus Brief filed in support of releasing a report on excessive force allegations against a Canaan police officer

New England First Amendment Coalition and Union Leader Corporation filed an Amicus Brief in Supreme Court in support of releasing a report on excessive force allegations against a Canaan police officer who is now a state trooper (Samuel Provenza v. Town of Canaan).


Video summary of Amicus Brief by New England First Amendment Coalition

Governor Signs HB471 to have DOJ maintain a list of police officers with a record of wrongdoing

Governor Chris Sununu signed HB471, into law on 8/25/21 and it becomes effective 9/25/21.  This law allows the Department of Justice to voluntarily maintain a list of current and former law enforcement officers with complaints and misconduct records known as the exculpatory evidence schedule (“EES”).  This schedule will be a public record available under the Right-To-Know law.  This bill also requires police disciplinary hearings to be open to the public unless certain confidential information may be revealed.

 

Governor Signs HB108 to require a list of nonpublic minutes

Governor Chris Sununu signed HB108, into law on 7/30/21.  This law:

I.  Requires that for meetings in nonpublic session where the minutes or decisions were determined to not be subject to public disclosure, a list shall be kept which shall include certain information.  The list shall be made available for public disclosure.   

II.  Exempts materials falling within the attorney-client privilege or attorney work product doctrine from the provisions of RSA 91-A. 

III.  Establishes a committee to review authorizing governing bodies of municipalities to hold virtual meetings and to study remote access to meetings under RSA 91-A.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 8/21 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, August 21, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bill ideas for the upcoming legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

State of Emergency has ended and so has executive order to expand use of meetings by electronic means

The State of Emergency declared by the Governor is no longer in effect as of June 12th.

This means the emergency order which was in effect regarding allowing electronic meetings are no longer in effect.

All public meetings must now be conducted according to the requirements outlined in RSA 91-A.  Specifically,

  • Except in an emergency, a quorum of the public body shall be physically present at the location specified in the meeting notice as the location of the meeting.
  • Each part of a meeting required to be open to the public shall be audible or otherwise discernable to the public at the location specified in the meeting notice as the location of the meeting.
  • No meeting shall be conducted by electronic mail or any other form of communication that does not permit the public to hear, read, or otherwise discern meeting discussion contemporaneously at the meeting location specified in the meeting notice.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 6/19 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, June 19, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference.  We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills for the current legislative session and organizational goals for the next 12 months.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 5/15 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, May 15, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference. We will hold elections for several board positions and discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills for the current legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

RTKNH meeting Saturday 4/17 @ 9 a.m

Right to Know NH will meet on Saturday, April 17, 2021 @ 9 AM by Zoom video conference. We will discuss Right to Know (RSA 91-A) bills for the current legislative session.  The public is welcome to join us. If you’d like to join us, click on “Send us a message” under CONTACT US to the right and ask for the zoom conference meeting link.

Videos of Sunshine Week Events Available

Video of “The Story of the Keene State Five: A Fight for Public Access” is now available.

The City of Keene denied the Right-to-Know requests of five Keene State College journalism students made as part of a an annual classroom assignment. The students decided to fight back.
Their teacher, Dr.Marianne Salcetti, who represented them, and David K. Taylor, Vice President of Right to Know NH, who helped them, tell the story. The case took the team from the classroom, through the Cheshire County Superior Court, and to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Learn how they did it, and how you can use the Right to Know law in your own community. Moderated by Attorney Gregory V. Sullivan, the pro bono legal representative in the 2020 NH Supreme Court case.

Presented by The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and Right to Know NH.
Dr. Marianne Salcetti was honored with the 2020 Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications First Amendment Award for her leadership in this case.

Video of “Keeping the Light On: Holding Government Accountable” is now available.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for the “right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”   But what does that mean and how does it work?   The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications are celebrating Sunshine Week with an online expert panel discussion called Keeping the Light On: Holding Government Accountable. The webinar will examine the values of open and responsive government and how all citizens play a role. 

Speakers Include:
GILLES BISSONNETTE Legal Director for the ACLU of New Hampshire  
THE HON. N. WILLIAM DELKER New Hampshire Superior Court Justice  
CASEY MCDERMOTT (moderator) Reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio  
EMILY GRAY RICE City Solicitor for the City of Manchester, New Hampshire  
GREGORY V. SULLIVAN First Amendment Attorney at Malloy & Sullivan