RSA91-A for Vendetta

Rick Watrous was in Merrimack Superior Court yesterday trying to pry public documents from the City of Concord regarding their Concord Cable TV program under the Right to Know Law RSA 91-A.

And that was the argument before Judge Conboy yesterday - was Concord cable TV a city controlled entity.

Let’s see. It was formed when the cable company came to the City of Concord to sell cable access inside the city limits.

A committee was formed by Concord to investigate the plan, and a non-profit, Concord Cable TV, was formed by the city to run the operation. It has City Councilors on the Board of Directors.

Concord Cable TV is run out of Concord High School and the school picks a member of the CCTV Board.

The money to run CCTV comes from a franchise fee that the city collects from cable users. What does not get spent on CCTV goes into the City of Concord general fund.

The whole purpose of CCTV is to provide a public access TV station and studio to Concord residents.

Oh, and another purpose CCTV is for the City Council to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars from the CCTV budget to use for other purposes in Concord and to provide a good job now and then for sitting or former City Councilors.

And one other thing. The “right” people can use the CCTV studio on weekends when it is closed to the public to make their own programs. Because CCTV’s operational contract is not put out to bid it has become the personal plaything of the elite in town.

Back to pro se Rick Watrous before Judge Conboy.

Rick made his case methodically and logically, using about ten different exhibits, until it was the turn of the City of Concord attorney who sat through the whole morning and Rick’s case with a big cardboard box in his lap. It contained an overflowing three inch binder full of what looked like minutes of a non-profit cable TV organization - to the untrained eye.

It was Concord’s turn to show under RSA 91– A why they did not have to show records of meetings they have been having. Their attorney sprang from his seat. Here is what he used as an argument:

He told the court that Rick Watrous has a vendetta against the City and is constantly asking for documents.

That pretty much sums up what the City of Concord paid a lawyer to tell the judge in a Superior Court case. How’s that for the burden of proof required under RSA91-A for a public body to withold documents. Rick has a vendetta.

Judge Conboy is not what you call a consistent judge. But she should take into consideration a recent State Supreme Court decision regarding this same issue—Manchester Firefighters Assoc. v. The NH Municipal Association.

NHMA claimed it did not have to surrender documents to the MFA because it was a non-profit. But the State Supreme’s found that it had a board of directors made up of public employees and elected officials, its sole purpose was a public one, and its only customers were municipalities.

They lost. It was found they were quasi-public and had to comply with RSA 91-A.

We await Conboy’s ruling.

You won’t see this in the Concord paper I would guess.