Some group called the Right To Know Commission has for over three years tried to gut RSA 91-A in every fashion imaginable.
No one trustworthy is on the Commission I know of. Some whom I do know do not belong on it.
The Right To Know Commission is somehow aligned with the New Hampshire Municipal Association which should disqualify it altogether - if you are familiar with NHMA you now why the RTKC exists.
They have pretended that "fixing" the Right To Know Law is some venture worthy of being rewarded with a golden fleece. They spin tales of how impossible the mission was from the start.
But the mission as they see it is to allow officials who violate RSA 91-A a free ride to continue to do so. Here is what they have done in past incarnations of a 91-A "fix":
- The RTKC has tried to exempt three person elected boards.
- They have tried to enshrine illegal sequential meetings into law.
- For the RTKC it would be all right to meet secretly without taking notes and then report at the next meeting what was done at the secret meeting. Of course the next meeting could be a secret meeting, and the next, and the next, and so on.
Well today we were back at it. Testimony before the municipal arm of the State Senate was taken in Concord until all the elected officials and lobbyists were finished speaking, then time ran out. We peons who know something about 91-A were left to wait it out until May 15 when the re-convened meeting will supposedly take our peasant testimony.
Here is what they should do: Make all outside communications of public officials in violation of 91-A and add penalties such as removal from office. Add to this, removal from office for failing to surrender public documents.
Simple, clean, effective.
Here is a nit-wit argument for banning outside communications: The selectmen would not even be allowed to call a meeting! Boooo Hoooo.
So let me set this straight for you. The supporters of gutting 91-A say that local government would end because we would never be able to communicate. Under this twisted logic selectmen couldn't pick up the mail!
In pretending to be that stupid, 91-A gutters want you to fall for the foolishness that "outside communications" means "any contact whatsoever".
"Outside Communications" means conducting town or school business, as in deliberations, planning, decision making, not signing a check, opening mail, posting a notice, answering a phone, or any number of things you need to do to conduct business. They know the difference.
Here is their premier argument against having penalties for violating 91-A:
"It makes criminals out of people who are just trying to do public business".
I doubt that very much because some of the people we use 91-A to expose ARE criminals. We simply have a conflict of perception and reality here.
If you use 91-A to catch a town clerk not collecting taxes from a relative for, lets say six or seven years, THAT is not MAKING the tax collector a criminal, its catching a criminal.
The RTKC has not, even in one word, sentence, nor paragraph, shown the slightest inkling that they will ever put teeth into the RTKL.
The smart move for the Senate is to throw this latest mess out just as they did the last one and let 91-A alone. It was not perfect as it was but it at least was written in English and had some credibility. This latest mess does not.