Persistence pays off.
Municipal activism heroes Doug Lambert and Tom Tardiff won a State Supreme Court case regarding the secret appointment of the new Belknap County Sheriff, Craig Wiggin.
The Belknap County Convention – that would be the State Representatives who live in that county, chose the easy route to fill an empty county sheriff seat – by secret vote. That was held as legal by Superior Court Judge Mohl but reversed with the following Supreme Court Order.
It is short and readable:
DUGGAN, J. In these consolidated appeals, the petitioners, Douglas Lambert and Thomas A. Tardif, challenge: (1) the failure of the Trial Court (Mohl, J.) to invalidate the appointment of Craig Wiggin to the office of Belknap County sheriff by respondent Belknap County Convention (Convention); and (2) the trial court’s denial of their request for documents from respondents Stephen H. Nedeau, the Convention’s chairperson, and Angela A. Bell, the Convention’s record keeper. See RSA ch. 91-A (2001 & Supp. 2007). We hold that the appointment of Wiggin must be invalidated because the Convention was required to fill the vacancy in public session rather than by secret ballot. See RSA 91-A:2, II, :8, II (Supp. 2007). We further hold that the petitioners must be afforded access to the documents relating to the candidates’ applications for the vacancy, see RSA 91-A:4, I (Supp. 2007), but remand for consideration of whether certain personal information that may be in those documents requires redaction. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.
This is the best part:
"The purpose of the Right-to-Know Law is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people." Id. (quotation omitted). The law "helps further our state constitutional requirement that the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted." Id. (quotation omitted); see also N.H. CONST. pt. I, art. 8.
Although the statute does not provide for unrestricted access to public records and proceedings, to best effectuate the statutory and constitutional objective of facilitating access to all public documents and proceedings, we resolve questions regarding the Right-to-Know Law with a view to providing the utmost information. Id.; Herron v. Northwood, 111 N.H. 324, 326 (1971).
Thus, we construe provisions favoring disclosure broadly, while construing exemptions narrowly.
Nice work Doug and Tom!!!
Now maybe the Supremes will stick with this language when we reverse what mischief the Right to Know Commission has done to the Right to Know Law under the guise of “updating” it.