Resident Seeks Richard Sager’s Invoices

Resident Betsy Frago has made a Right to Know request under RSA 91-A to inspect the invoices from Richard Sager to the board of selectmen from August, 2016, to the present. Sager is the board’s attorney. The selectmen, however, have not been completely forthcoming.

Betsy met with the selectmen at their meeting on Monday, April 24, to find out why they have not provided her access to the records yet.

Betsy has already obtained the town check register for that period and determined that Richard Sager was paid $13,961.40 in taxpayer money during that period. She would like to know what that money was spent for.

An analysis of the check register shows that since the selectmen launched a lawsuit against Bob McWhirter and me in early December of last year Tuftonboro taxpayers have paid Richard Sager $11,113.30.

Sager’s March payment, funded by taxes, was $4,244.18. Sager’s payment in the month before the selectmen sued Bob and me was for $70. In the three months before the lawsuit, Sager received on average $218 each month. Since the lawsuit, taxpayers have written Sager checks for on average of $2,778.33 each month (December – March).

The selectmen are suing me because they are attempting to illegally charge me $6.50 to inspect government records even though RSA 91-A specifically forbids them from charging a fee for the inspection of a governmental record.

 

Selectmen’s Meeting for April 10, 2017

Time stamps are approximate:

0:01 Pledge of Allegiance
0:25 Library update
Christy doesn’t like Trump’s proposed budget that cuts federal funding to libraries
Friends of the Library to donate another $10k. $40k+ over last… ten years.
new fiction book club starting
5:20 NarCan training at library on May 5
7:00 Bill asks Christy to attend emergency management debriefing on Friday
8:10 Roads department update
$5,000 over cleanup budget already
45 road events this year (29 last year)
Dame, New, and Brown Roads are in particularly tough shape
12:15 Selectmen discuss planned emergency management debriefing
13:15 Review and approve minutes
19:18 Signature file
Public employee salary adjustment for RETROACTIVE PAY RAISES
21:00 written permission to send information to auditors
23:20 copier agreement: $.13 per page (Lloyd misread: fee is actual 1.5 cents per page!)
Chip: that gives us a basis for charging for copies
25:10 Veteran’s credit for property taxes two properties
first approved, second denied — application by surviving spouse who moved to NH after the veteran died. credit only available to resident veterans and surviving spouses
31:08 tax levy gravel pit
32:00 notice to excavate
33:55 Continued Business
Board meeting schedule
40:00 Brown Road
Chip: Carolyn Sundquist told Steinmens they could put the boulders in place.
45:25 Lloyd asks for public comment
Bob & Sue both said just remove the rocks
Chip: The rocks were placed there because one selectman made a decision so we need to make a decision as a board
Max: Aren’t the rock the Steinman’s property? If the town removes them, might the Steinmans retaliate legally?
Jim: Just wants to be sure so that if we move the rocks we don’t have to do it again
52:00 Town copy policy
53:40 Bill: clear that “actual cost” not intended to cover labor!
54:45 Chip: We’re not in it for profit
55:05 Lloyd NH supreme court accepted Merrimack county Superior Court decision (Kelley v. Hooksett Assessing Office, Case No. 11-CV-266): you can’t charge for labor.
57:00 Chip: spending $275/hr for an attorney to argue about cost of copy. (Chip probably misspoke: Sager’s last known fee was $175/hour)
57:50 Chip motion to change copy fee to $.15 per page. Motion passes 3-0.
58:50 Police cruiser
59:09 Lang Pond
Review checklist (Jim Bean)
1:11:25 Jack Parsons
1:11:55 Update town contact list (?)
1:12:30 Lake Road boat ramp proposal
1:13:45 Selectmen’s update
Bill:
Planning board
cemetery trustees
old homes days committee will meet April 18 (open meeting)
Master plan update. Zoning in town.
Lloyd: Multitown roundtable April 11 at 6:30 at the fire station in Tuftonboro
1:21:00 Lloyd is recusing himself from fire department-related issues since he’s on the department
1:21:30 Correspondence
1:21:40 Brown Road correspondence
1:23:25 Lloyd wants to send $100 from the town to special olympics in honor of Steve Honeycutt (his obit. requests such donations in lieu of flowers)
1:24:50 RTK response to Ed Comeau
1:32:00 Chip felt Sager’s response was trying to pick a fight and Chip wants to avoid that.
1:34:09 Continue with other correspondence
1:42:13 Other Business
Court case continued. No hearing on April 18.
1:44:00 Public Input
1:44:20 Bob McWhirter asked about emergency management debriefing scheduled for Friday.
1:46:33 Max Ledoux asked the board to investigate using a payroll company to process employee paychecks
Joe Kowalski: Is there a fee for bringing in your own scanner to make copies of public records (No)
1:48:00 Guy Pike: Municipal estoppel (re Brown Road)
1:49:40 motion to adjourn

 

 

 

Selectmen Demonstrate That Their Lawsuit Is Frivolous

In the video at the 3:13 mark Selectman Bill Marcussen says, “When you look at what has gone on through various cases that have gone to court it’s clear that the intent is that the costs of the copies to the public cover the actual cost and it’s not intended to cover the time of the town employees that’s involved.”

Yet the selectmen’s lawsuit against Bob McWhirter and me goes into great detail about the amount of labor that would be involved in responding to Bob’s Right to Know request.

The selectmen seek to charge us a fee to inspect governmental records. We have not asked for the selectmen to provide us with copies. Instead we have said that we would use our own equipment to make copies. And yet the selectmen tried to charge us anyway, even though in the video at the 8:42 mark they concede that they cannot charge a fee for someone to use their own equipment to make copies of governmental records.

 

Selectmen’s Lawsuit Against Private Citizens Hearing Rescheduled Again

The hearing in the lawsuit that the selectmen filed against Bob McWhirter and me has been rescheduled once more. The new hearing date is April 18 at 2PM. This time it was postponed by the judge, and only by one day.

The selectmen are dragging us into court in any attempt to avoid their responsibilities under RSA 91-A, the Right to Know law.

Selectmen’s Meeting for April 3, 2017

0:45 Pledge
1:15 First appointment: Gerry Hammer / Jack Parsons
5:00 Intent to excavate permits: discussion of ordinances in light of new articles passed at Town Meeting
5:10 — Jack Parsons
7:00 — Chris Sawyer, PB chairman weighs in
12:30 Review of pending intent to excavate paperwork
14:00 — motion to approve with provisions that selectmen can rescind. 3-0
15:00 — Signing paperwork
15:50 Jack Parson Building department update (the only damage to town property from Storm Stella was a few shingles blew off town house roof)
16:35 Ben Ladd — Mirror Lake boat ramp grant that was passed by Town Meeting. Discussion of contractor bids.
21:45 Chip would like to set a policy for putting contracts out for bid in the future, but not for this project since it’s already in process.
23:50 motion approval of project. passed 3-0 and Lloyd signed the paperwork
25:30 Clay Gallagher Transfer Station update & household hazardous waste collection update (july 29 & august 5). Pamphlets at transfer station.
44:15 Transfer station workers would like to work half day on Easter. They would receive holiday pay + half day.
50:30 Chip raises issue of different rates for contractors at transfer station
51:25 Review of 3-27-17 meeting minutes
53:00 Continued business
53:10 — Board committee assignments
Chip: Budget, welfare, Parks & Recreation
Bill: Planning, Old Homes, Energy, CIP Joint loss, milfoil, Planning
Lloyd: emergency planning, conservation, TACC, watershed
57:12 Board meeting schedule. Bill doesn’t want more meetings. Chip says if there aren’t more meetings, then the meetings have to be better organized. Chip doesn’t like relying on attorney client privilege as a way to subvert open meeting requirement to respond to RTK. Lloyd is ok with meeting every Monday. That way the meetings will be shorter, too. Lloyd suggests meeting once a month at 7PM. Also at different locations around town. Next meeting Friday at NINE AM.
1:06:45 Brown Road
Chip “I don’t know how you got into; well, I do know how you got into this mess.” Says to direct Road Agent to remove the rocks.
Bill: rocks clearly within right of way.
Chip: problem I have with this is it was all done without a vote.
Chip: enormous amount of legal bills in this town, and this is one of the reasons why.
Lloyd asks for input from public
1:17:20 Sandy Knoll Road
1:23:30 Selectmen’s update
1:23:40 Chip looked at the tree on Union Wharf Road. Chip says it’s not on town property, but is in town right of way. Chip thinks it’s health and not a danger.
1:25:12 Bill went to workshop on town roads. If someone wants to build on a property on Sandy Knoll Road, they’ll still have to get a building permit, and the governing body doesn’t have to approve it. Noted with sadness the passing of Steve Honeycutt, town Sextant.
1:33:00 Lloyd met with Mark Howard and others to tour three areas of concern in town on state roads: Tuftonboro Corner, 109/109A, and Mirror Lake narrows.
1:34:07 Correspondence
1:42:50 Appointments to Agricultural Commission. Approved.
1:44:35 Motion to appeal all yield taxes. Perchanski. Bob Wood. Alan Blazek. 3-0
1:47:23 Intent to cut. Blazek. Perchanski. 3-0
1:48:42 Request for change in employment compensation. (RETROACTIVE to January 1, 2017.) Tabled.
1:51:30 Other business
1:52:00 Right to Know from Ed Comeau
1:58:15 Chip “I don’t know what Comeau’s after.”
1:59:30 in past Tuftonboro had a former employee who was still covered.
discussion…
2:07:45 Chip says they need to set a price per copy policy at a market rate.
2:09:45 Chip need to respond to Comeau saying the board will working on the request.
2:10:40 public input
2:10:50 Elissa Paquette question about intent to excavate and the board wanting to have an addendum allowing the to revoke permit.
2:15:06 Charlotte Allen: NarCan training opportunities
2:16:32 Carla Lootens: Wanted to make sure town won’t give anything to Comeau unless the selectmen’s attorney, Richard Sager, has looked at it.
2:17:05 Gordon Hunt: Was happy selectmen were not giving in to Comeau just because he has an attorney.
2:17:35 Steven : follow up Brown Road. Why did property owners place rocks?
Max Ledoux: To clarify, Carolyn Sundquist told Steinmans it was ok.
Elissa Paquette jumped to Carolyn’s defense.

More info on Brown Road:
https://tuftonboro.net/max/town-government/board-of-selectmen/selectmen-meet-encumber-funds-vote-brown-road-lower-beech-pond-issue/
https://tuftonboro.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/carolyn-sundquist-lower-beech-pond-boulders-brown-road.pdf
https://tuftonboro.net/max/outdoors/nh-fish-game-confirms-lower-beech-pond-not-stocked-fish-2016/

Board of Selectmen’s Meeting for 3/27/17

Part 1:

0:40 Pledge of Allegiance
1:14 Election of officers
2:05 Mark Howard
Roads (state)
9:35 review minutes
3/14/17
11:45 Chip says non public minutes aren’t in compliance with 91-A
14:25 Chip questions nonpublic sessions with attorney. Makes motion to unseal minutes. Motion passes 3-0.
16:30 chip wants to unseal nonpublic minutes from last year.
17:20 Fire department update
26:45 Chip not impressed with road agent
27:15 update emergency management plan?
32:30 list of people who might need help was out of date.
39:00 police chief Andy Shagoury
DWI accident caused power outage Friday night
43:25 drug take back scheduled April 29 10-2 at transfer station

Part 2:

01:30 signature file
06:00 sandpits
11:58 veteran’s tax credit applications
Gary Chehames
3-0
Robert Edwards
3-0
Kerry and Andrea Long
3-0
15:00 yield tax levy
timber
17:30 NH the Beautiful
18:10 gravel tax
19:25 supplemental Warrant (extra taxes from Zadede Lane residents)
20:40 letter to students at middle school
21:40 intent to cut: Brad Hunter (rt 171)
22:30 188 middle road gravel pit
27:50 mirror lake boat launch
31:40 lake road boat ramp
33:00 Correspondence
33:45 Right to Know
Lloyd asked Karen to compile how much time is used to respond to RTK. Chip says who cares. It’s part of the deal.
40:00 Selectmen’s update
Bill attending seminar about town owned roads.
Need new planning board members.
Also for energy committee.
48:23 Chip about 91-A
Public optics
Need more meetings
Nonpublic meeting minutes should be released on regular schedule
52:00 Brown Road: there’s a lawsuit?
There was no vote on Steinman rock situation
54:15 Lloyd
Committee assignments
More meetings specific agenda shorter length

Part 3 (Public Comments)

Public’s Right to Know Under Attack in New Hampshire

I’m getting sued by the Tuftonboro board of selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen) because I made a document request through New Hampshire’s Right to Know law and the selectmen don’t want to comply with the law.

So they sued me!

Now I’ve had to hire an attorney to defend myself, along with my co-defendant, Bob McWhirter, who is also being sued because he made a lawful request to inspect records.

We’re asking for small contributions to help us defray the costs imposed on us by the selectmen’s abuse of power.

Please consider donating $5 at https://igg.me/at/zFnfBtqY90Q.

Judge Fauver Grants Motion to Continue

Carroll County Superior Court Judge Peter Fauver granted a motion to continue Friday, which Bob McWhirter and I requested through our attorney, delaying our court date to January 27, 2017. The selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen) will have to now wait to prosecute their abusive lawsuit against us.

212-2016-CV-201 Notice of Decision
212-2016-CV-201 Notice of Hearing

Union Leader Editorial on Right to Know Law: Update It

The Union Leader published an editorial this week calling for the legislature to update the Right to Know law for the digital age, while referencing the selectmen’s abusive lawsuit against Bob and me:

Tuftonboro selectmen are the latest municipal officials asking for citizens to reimburse taxpayers for the time and expense of preparing public records for inspection. State law clearly provides that citizens can inspect public documents free of charge, but can be charged for actual copying costs.

Resident Robert McWhirter wants access to 11,000 town emails. Selectmen say it will cost up to $12,800 to prepare the documents, redacting any confidential information. They are asking Carroll County Superior Court for permission to charge $.25 per page, potentially thousands of dollars.

The law needs to be rewritten for the digital age. State and local governments need to create and archive electronic records, including official email accounts, knowing that the public will read them.

– Read the full editorial at: http://www.unionleader.com/editorial/Update-the-law-Right-To-Know-in-the-information-age-12152016#sthash.OTqBsem5.dpuf

The only thing I would quibble with is the assertion by the selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen) that it will cost up to $12,800 to comply  with the law. Please keep in mind that our taxes already pay the salaries of the town office staff. Replying to Right to Know requests is part of the “normal work schedule,” according to none other than Carolyn Sundquist. There is no added cost.

Selectmen Retaliate for Right to Know Requests — File Legal Action Against Tuftonboro Residents

In an effort to squelch the public’s right to know, the Tuftonboro selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen) have had their attorney, Rick Sager, file a legal complaint in Carroll County Superior Court against me and against Bob McWhirter, for exercising our right to inspect governmental records. Both of us were visited on Sunday morning by a Carroll County Sheriff’s deputy who served us with the court documents. We must now appear before the court on December 21, 2016.

To briefly summarize: I have made a request, through New Hampshire’s Right to Know law (RSA 91-A), to inspect emails between the town and the local newspaper, the Granite State News.

Karen Koch, the administrative secretary, has informed me that there are 18 emails, consisting of 25 pages in all, that meet my request but that these pages contain what the town deems to be sensitive or confidential information. The selectmen say that they must make redactions to these emails before I may be allowed to inspect them. Why would it be legally or ethically permissible for the selectmen to exchange sensitive information with the newspaper that they then claim they cannot share with a member of the public? (I have asked, but the selectmen have provided no answer.)

The law unequivocally states in RSA 91-A:4 III states:

Each public body or agency shall keep and maintain all governmental records in its custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place.

An email that cannot be inspected because it contains confidential or sensitive information cannot be said to be “accessible” to the public. By redacting portions of an email, then, the selectmen would simply be making the email accessible, as required by law.

RSA 91-A:4 IV is just as straightforward on the question of fees charged to the public:

No fee shall be charged for the inspection or delivery, without copying, of governmental records, whether in paper, electronic, or other form.

I have requested to inspect the records (emails). The law does not allow the selectmen to charge me for inspecting the records.
The selectmen claim that because they are going to redact parts of the emails, they can charge me $.25 per page. That is not allowed by law.

Rather than follow the law, the selectmen are spending taxpayer money to pay their attorney to retaliate against private citizens, in an effort to keep the public from exercising its right to know. Almost exactly a year ago, the Carroll County Superior Court ruled that the selectmen violated the right-to-know law. Why aren’t the selectmen working to increase transparency and accountability? Why don’t they welcome public input and oversight? Sadly, they appear to be doing their best to keep public records out of reach of the public.