Here we go again.
RSA 91-A, The Right to Know Law, a result of an amendment to our NH Constitution, is under attack from - the Right to Know Commission.
Sound strange? This is NH remember. What is common sense in the real world is just the opposite in government in Concord.
Here is the scam.
Two attorneys on the RTKC have been working feverishly from the inception of this group to subvert the intent of 91-A by allowing what is NOT ALLOWED! The ultimate object of their desire is to establish, by direct or indirect new language, an amendment to the law which would include “sequential meetings” between public officials.
Meeting sequentially by phone, email, smoke signal, OR IN ANY OTHER MANNER, one on one, without having a quorum assembled or letting the rest of the group know all at once, is the perfect way for a public body to GET THINGS DONE so much easier.
This is exactly what RSA 91-A was created to prevent. It is exactly what the RTKC has been searching for.
And who are these lawyers?
Let’s start with Attorney Peter Smith of Durham who on Thursday this week told the House Judicial Committee reviewing RSA 91-A that if we did not do something soon the COURTS would do it for us. That is a phony scare tactic. Let them. The State Supreme Court never mentioned gutting RSA 91-A when it suggested in Hawkins v. NH HHS that the law should include updated ways to store electronic data. This sequential meeting scheme is purely the creation of some lawyers on the RTKC and the NH Municipal Association.
I believe Attorney Smith is so animated as to make up this court nonsense because he may have a personal issue with sequential meetings.
A few years ago he was subject to much ridicule in the press for, along with the rest of the Durham Town Council he was on, for attempting to hire a new Durham employee by sequential emails between council members. The local papers got hold of some of the emails and printed them for everyone to see. Now he is the one trying to make this legal?
Several of the first incarnations of this commission’s tampering with 91-A actually described how sequential meetings could be held. These attempts were foiled in the State Senate. Now they are back with less specific, sneaky language. Here is how the scam works.
Sequential meetings fly in the face of public disclosure. These secret meetings are not specifically mentioned in RSA 91-A NOW because the current language in the law prevents them. This commission has new language that says "sequential meetings are not to be used to subvert the intent of the law".
In legal mumbo jumbo this clearly means that you can have sequential meetings as long as they do not subvert the law. Any lawyer can drive a truck through RSA 91-A with a willing judge and this language change. NH being NH there is about a 99% willing judge rate when it comes to bucking a school board. Sorry, that is the way it is.
If you want to prevent sequential meetings here is how you do it: “Sequential meetings shall be prohibited.” End of story.
When a judge is faced with “shall be prohibited” and a recent change by the Legislature to ADD that language, taxpayers are protected. Change the law to include even a mention of sequential meetings without a prohibition and you have a neat little loop-hole just like this commission wants.
For the three years the RTKC has been fooling with this law they have shown that the last thing they want to see is the inclusion of prohibitive language.
No State Representative, State Senator, or Governor should vote for this bill’s change until it includes this language.
There are more problems with the bill I will detail in my next article.
CNHT will suggest some real improvements to RSA 91-A if that is the intent of this commission and the legislature. Until then we will oppose any weakening of the Right to Know Law.