The selectmen (Lloyd Wood, Bill Marcussen, and Chip Albee) have decided to file lawsuits against a number of town residents, according to the draft minutes of a nonpublic meeting held on July 10. The selectmen have determined that the residents, who they have not yet publicly named, are maintaining illegal junk yards on their properties. According to the minutes:
The Selectmen reviewed correspondence from Attorney Sager regarding junkyard properties. Per the Selectmen’s request, Code Officer Jack Parsons joined the meeting.
After much discussion, it was agreed to bring suit against all parties recently addressed by Attorney Sager, except for Masterson.
Masterson has avoided litigation for the time being, so long as the property is cleaned up:
Masterson has stated that they will have everything cleaned up by August 15th. In the event that the issue is not resolved by this deadline then the matter will be revisited.
My understanding is that Masterson’s property is on Dame Road.
There was also discussion of the Libby property on Mountain Road across from the entrance to the transfer station.
The minutes to the nonpublic meeting on 7/10/17 were obtained through a Right to Know request despite the selectmen attempting to thwart their disclosure by improperly claiming the meeting was not subject to RSA 91-A.
Karen Koch, the administrative secretary, wrote in an email:
On Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 11:35 AM, Tuftonboro Selectmen wrote:
In response to your request today to review the non-public minutes dated 7-10, the Selectmen considered the non-public meeting of July 10th to be only a review of ongoing legal actions and hence covered by lawyer-client privilege and hence not subject to 91-A. Since your request was made we have been reaching out to Attorney Sager to confirm that those minutes are not subject to 91-A. If we find that these minutes are subject to your 91-A request we’ll happily supply them. Having not heard back from Attorney Sager this morning it may take until Monday for an answer.
However, Karen immediately sent me the minutes after I responded to her here:
On Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 12:05 PM, Maxim Ledoux wrote:
It was non-public meeting pursuant to 91-A. They had a roll call vote to go in to non-public meeting per 91-a:3:II-L:
Bill: “I move we go into non-public.”
Chip: “Non-public. Do we need to go into non-public? Do you want to take some actions…”
Bill: “To discuss these? I believe we do.”
Chip: “OK. Then I’ll second that.”
Lloyd: “Roll Call.”
Bill: “Marcussen: Yes.”
Lloyd: “Wood: Yes.”
Chip: “Albee: Yes.”
Chip: “That’s a capital L.” (Referring to 91-A:3-II-L)
Chip: “Not the lower case L.”
Max: “What’s the specific provision?”
As you know, but I’m stating here for the written record, I was just in the town office and reviewed the binder of non-public meeting minutes.
The minutes for the non-public 7/10/17 meeting were not in the binder.
RSA 91-A:III states in full:
Minutes of meetings in nonpublic session shall be kept and the record of all actions shall be promptly made available for public inspection, except as provided in this section. Minutes and decisions reached in nonpublic session shall be publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting, unless, by recorded vote of 2/3 of the members present taken in public session, it is determined that divulgence of the information likely would affect adversely the reputation of any person other than a member of the public body itself, or render the proposed action ineffective, or pertain to terrorism, more specifically, to matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of all emergency functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life. This shall include training to carry out such functions. In the event of such circumstances, information may be withheld until, in the opinion of a majority of members, the aforesaid circumstances no longer apply.
The draft minutes of the public 7/10/17 selectmen’s meeting do not record a 2/3 vote to “seal” the non-public minutes. The public minutes do record that the non-public meeting ended at 11:19AM. It has now been more than 72 hours. While the public minutes are in draft form, I hardly think a reasonable person would find it plausible that you would omit something as important as a 2/3 vote to seal non-public minutes. You take very detailed minutes, and the selectmen only ever correct very minor points, such as typos.
Please provide Bob and me with an electronic copy of the 7/10/17 non-public meeting minutes today, before close of business (4PM ET). The minutes are created electronically, so you can provide them electronically.
When I was in the office reviewing the binder of nonpublic meeting minutes, as I mentioned in the email above, I discovered that the minutes for a nonpublic meeting on May 1, 2017, were improperly missing. The selectmen are now attempting to withhold those minutes, even though, like the 7/10/17 minutes, there was never any roll call vote with 72 hours of the meeting ending to withhold the 5/1/17 minutes from public disclosure.
The public meeting minutes from 5/1/17 reveal that the nonpublic meeting was on the same subject — junk yards — as the 7/10/17 nonpublic meeting:
At 3:45 pm, Selectman Marcussen moved to enter non-public session per RSA 91-A:3, II (c) , to discuss junk properties with Code Officer, Jack Parsons[,] and Attorney Sager, seconded by Selectman Albee. Roll call vote: Wood – Yes; Marcussen – Yes; Albee – Yes.
At 4:00 pm, Selectman Marcussen moved to end the non-public session and move back into public session, seconded by Selectman Albee with all in favor. After a brief break, Chairman Wood called the public meeting to order at 4:07 pm and proceeded with the Pledge of Allegiance.
The selectmen have no more grounds for withholding the 5/1/17 minutes than they did for withholding the 7/10/17 minutes.