Former State Rep. David Scott of Dover had to go to Superior court to win public documents from the city. Judge Peter Fauver ruled the city must turn over the material. As of today from speaking to parties in Dover the town is still mulling its options.
Dave Scott was asking under, RSA 91-A The Right to Know Law, for the names and salaries of public employees making $60,000 or more. This same information about public employees salaries is published in town reports all over NH and has been for as long as town reports have been printed.
Now for some insider information as to what the real story is.
The Dover officials who denied the documents are doing so in hopes the court will rule in their favor. Because our NH court system is so bad they had good reason to believe they may prevail. That says something about our courts. Want proof?
Why did it take six weeks for the court to rule in Scott’s favor? A Superior Court judge has a responsibility to keep courts from spending time on frivolous cases. This should have been over with before it even had a hearing. It doesn't take a jury to hear a simple equity case involving citizens long held rights.
Dover officials know, as all officials in NH, do that RSA 91-A is one of the most powerful tools the public has to control their spending and behavior.
So how does NH press fit in? Here is a Nashua Telegraph editorial take on Scott:
“Scott, a former state representative, may be a gadfly, even a pest, to some in city government who are at the receiving end of his requests for information. But trying to finesse the Right-To-Know Law to make it tough to get information isn’t the way to go.”
Here is the Union Leader editorial description of Scott:
“IN DOVER, former Rep. David Scott surely is not popular in certain circles — namely those that operate the city. Scott is something of a gadfly, constantly pestering the government. And we are glad he is. In his latest venture he has defeated the city in its attempt to keep some important information from becoming public.”
And the Union Leader reason for this happening:
“It is a shame that citizens have to resort to lawsuits to access information that is rightfully theirs. But alas, that is the nature of government.”
It’s the nature of New Hampshire government alright!
The Portsmouth Herald boldly editorialized that people should consider changing the guard at City Hall. Impressive!
At least The Portsmouth Herald did not refer to Mr. Scott as a “gadfly.” Big of them.
No, the overall tone of the media has been, “Wow, too bad the gadfly has come up against the powerful city council. Lucky our system works and we have justice after all.”
Mr. Scott has not received the cost of bringing the case to court, something that should be guaranteed in the law along with misdemeanor charges for repeat violations and an automatic injunction against further violations by officials.
Dave Scott is a friend of mine and the best friend taxpayers in Dover could have. The resistance these officials have shown is part of the overall arrogance of many public officials these days as is theft of public funds by public employees.
Let's hope the people in Dover remember who, by withholding documents, the city council was protecting when they vote next time. And they should call their local papers and ask why the whole story isn't in the news before they take out an ad or buy another paper.
Just as you have a right to public documents you have a right to all the news.
Ed Naile, Chair CNHT