Citizens in New Hampshire currently have little recourse but to resort to the courts to enforce their right to know when public bodies withhold public information or violate Open Meeting laws. Today New Hampshire took a big step forward in rectifying a situation that has ranked us 49th in the country for public access to information by the Center for Public Integrity.
On Tuesday October 31, 2017, at the Legislative Office Building in Concord, the Legislative Commission to Study Processes to Resolve Right-to-Know Complaints finalized its report for submission to the House, Senate, and Governor. It recommended the establishment of a Citizens’ Right to Know Appeals Commission to oversee an ombudsman. The report states “In lieu of filing a petition in the Superior Court under Chapter 91-A, the citizen may appeal to [the] Commission whose administrator will immediately refer the matter to the Ombudsman.” The ombudsman “acquires and reviews materials, conducts interviews if necessary, and issues a ruling within 30 days following receipt of the parties’ submissions…”
Right to Know New Hampshire President, David Saad, was one of the 13 study commission members. “I’m very pleased with the outcome of the study commission. New Hampshire very much needs a way of resolving right to know complaints without putting citizens through the cost and burden of taking their case to Superior Court. I urge the legislature to support the legislation that will follow this report and I firmly believe that the costs of an ombudsman will be more than offset by savings to the citizens, court system, and public bodies.”
Mr. Saad went on to praise the conscientious work of all the members of the study commission. “Under the leadership of Chairman Senator Bob Giuda, all members worked very well together as we were united in our mission to develop a process to help citizens resolve right to know grievances faster, easier, and cheaper. We had very productive debates which led, I believe, to a promising outcome, if it passes in the legislature.”
Right to Know NH is a non-partisan association of citizens committed to advancing government transparency.
I joined Right to Know NH after the Tuftonboro selectmen sued me when I made a Right to Know request. The selectmen ended up spending around $20,000 in taxpayers’ money trying to make it harder for citizens to get access to public records, but they lost their lawsuit.
Pictured: members of the Legislative Commission to Study Processes to Resolve Right-to-Know Complaints.
I am approaching 1,000 doors that I have knocked on in this campaign. I believe it is important for candidates to get out and talk to people so I look forward to a positive discussion of the issues and responding to the negative attacks.
Chehames, speaking for himself and Punturieri, released the following statement:
Gary Chehames and Paul Punturieri are candidates for the two District 4 representative seats open in the NH House. In the past years, legislating solely by ideology has led to serious consequences for our District 4, New Hampshire, and Carroll County. Gary and Paul believe the benchmark for making legislative decisions should be based upon the needs of the citizens they will be elected to represent. To keep New Hampshire moving forward, they will accomplish this by being reasonable, collaborative, and using a common sense approach to governance. Feel free to contact Gary at Chehames@gmail.com and Paul at PPunturieri@yahoo.com for more information.
The Lions Club is located on 139 Old Route 109 in Moultonborough, NH.
Tuftonboro residents Gary Chehames (D) and Glenn Cordelli (R) won their contests in Tuesday’s primary elections for the New Hampshire House of Representatives. They are both vying to represent Carrol County District 4 (Tuftonboro, Moultonborough, and Sandwich) in Concord. Cordelli is the incumbent. In today’s primary, the Democrats and the Republicans chose two candidates to advance to the November election to compete for two seats representing the district.
The only other Democrat running alongside Chehames was Moultonborough selectman Paul Punturieri, who runs the Moultonborough Speaks blog. Since only two Democrats ran for two slots, they were both guaranteed to advance to November. However, that didn’t keep them both from campaigning. Chehames and Punterieri were both at the Tuftonboro Town House on Tuesday morning to greet voters.
Cordelli started the day in Moultonborough, where they begin voting at 7AM. Then he returned to Tuftonboro for the opening of the polls at 8AM. Cordelli was facing off against his fellow incumbent Karel Crawford, of Moultonborough, and newcomer Brent Anderson, also of Moultonborough.
With all three towns reporting, Cordelli is the top vote getter.
[edit: post corrected to make clear that Chehames and Punterieri were not competing against each other in the primary, but rather running for two open slots.]
Tuftonboro’s state representative, Glenn Cordelli, attended a signing ceremony for HB 645 recently. Cordelli co-sponsored the bill, which is also known as Willa’s Law, named after a four-year-old girl who died in an unlicensed day care. The bi-partisan bill changes state law to make it a felony, instead of a misdemeanor, when negligence causes severe injury or death. It also requires day cares to be licensed.
Asked for comment, Cordelli said, “This is a great example of why I enjoy serving in the New Hampshire House as your representative. After the tragic death of this little girl, we discovered a loophole in the law that we were able to remedy. It makes the time and effort worth it.” Cordelli represents Tuftonboro, Moultonborough, and Sandwich in the New Hampshire house of representatives and is running for re-election in the upcoming September 13 state primary.
The good folks at Right to Know NH report that Governor Hassan has signed HB 606 and HB 285 into law:
Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB285, so this bill is now law. The law is chapter 280 of this year’s session and it took effect June 21, 2016, the date it was signed. This law allows non-public meetings to consider verbal or written legal advice. Right to Know NH opposed this bill.
Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB606, so this bill is now law. The law is chapter 283 of this year’s session and it took effect June 21, 2016, the date it was signed. This law clarifies that no fees may be charged to inspect or deliver records when no copies are made. Right to Know NH supported this bill.
As previously reported, while Tuftonboro in practice has been making electronic copies available at no charge, the selectmen still need to revise the official policy.
The Tuftonboro selectmen hastily scheduled a May 13 public meeting in order to consider written legal advice from their attorney, Rick Sager. While they have refused to reveal the content of his memo, the meeting’s minutes state that he advised them to “divorce” themselves from the operation of the town cemeteries. The selectmen required Sager’s legal advice because they broke the law on April 25 by usurping the cemetery trustees’ authority to operate the town cemeteries. The selectmen’s ordinary practice is to send out an email to a list of subscribers giving notice of scheduled meetings. (Anyone can sign up for the list at tuftonboro.org.) However, for this non-regular meeting on May 13, the selectmen did not send out an email. As a result, no member of the public, not even the videographer, attended that meeting. That was undoubtedly the selectmen’s intent in breaking with their normal habit of sending out an email with a meeting agenda. To be clear, the selectmen met the letter of the law by posting a paper notice at the Tuftonboro General Store Post Office. When asked on June 6 if the selectmen had simply forgotten to send out the email notice due to the May 13 meeting being an impromptu, non-regular meeting, chairman Carolyn Sundquist robotically replied multiple times that the meeting had been properly noticed.
With HB 285 now signed into law, the selectmen will be able to hold non-public meetings to review verbal or written legal advice, and will not have to go through the kabuki theater of holding a “public” meeting that they engineer in such a way that no members of the public show up.
Tuftonboro’s own Glenn Cordelli has received a 100% rating in the Americans for Prosperity — New Hampshire 2016 Legislative Score Card. For that A+ rating, AFP-NH dubs Cordelli a “Protector of Prosperity.” The score is based on 12 key votes that took place during the 2016 session. Cordelli, a Republican who represents Tuftonboro, Moultonborough, and Sandwich in New Hampshire’s 4th House District, recently filed to run for re-election.
Reached for comment, Cordelli said, “I am very proud of the recent A+ rating from Americans for Properity for 2016.” He elaborated:
They look at bills based upon limiting the growth of government and creating economic growth — both vital to the future of New Hampshire. As government expands, our liberties and freedoms shrink. As a member of the House Education Committee, I have seen it from the federal and state levels. What we need is more “education freedom” for parents and their children. As our economy grows, opportunities grow — opportunities for employment or to start or expand a business.
Americans for Prosperity’s New Hampshire State Director, Greg More, further explained how the score card is created:
There were a number of key issues before the Legislature this year that will impact economic freedom and growth. From maintaining taxpayer funded ObamaCare coverage to able-bodied adults to continuing e orts to provide tax relief to employers, this was a session replete with important policy matters.
The 4th district elects two state representatives to send to Concord. In comparison with Cordelli, our other representative, Karol Crawford (R-Moultonborough), who is also running for re-election, received an F rating of 40%, or “Opponent of Prosperity.” Her low rating is undoubtedly a direct result of having missed seven of the 12 votes that were scored. However, she also voted against AFP-NH’s position on three of the five votes that she did take. Crawford has not yet responded to an email requesting comment, but this post will be updated when she does.
Cordelli and Crawford are facing off against newcomer Brent Anderson of Moultonborough in the September Republican primary. (The Granite State News failed to include Anderson’s name in an article last week about the candidates.) The top two vote-getters in the primary will go on to the November general election to square off against the two winners of the Democrat primary. Tuftonboro’s Gary Chehames, previously the chairman of the Tuftonboro budget committee, has filed to run for state representative as a Democrat.
AFP-NH also scored the state senate. Tuftonboro’s senator, Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), received a D rating of 67%, or “Neglector of Prosperity.” Bradley serves as the senate majority leader.