Following a 1-2 vote on July 24, veteran land use board member Fenton Varney announced his resignation and fellow members John Lapolla, Steve Brinser and Tony Triolo subsequently notified the town that they too were stepping down.
The issue came to a head after Chris Sawyer, who has served on the land use board since 2008 and most recently as chairman, received a letter from selectmen on July 11 thanking her for her service to the town as her term had expired.
She subsequently sent a written request to the board asking to be appointed to the Planning Board detailing her years of service, the benefits of continuity and her accomplishments, including streamlining the application process, making it more user-friendly and most recently spearheading the update of the town’s master plan.
During the July 24 meeting, a recording of which is posted on Youtube, both Varney and Triolo praised Sawyer’s leadership and work ethic on the board and urged selectmen to reappoint her. According to Triolo, Sawyer has always had the best interest of the town at heart.
The video of the meeting on YouTube was recorded by me and is available here:
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.
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.
Tuftonboro town selectmen are asking a judge if they can charge a fee to process a Right-to-Know request, after a two residents demanded access to town emails, one seeking access to an estimated 11,000 emails.
In a complaint filed last week in Carroll County Superior Court, selectmen said the emails have to be reviewed to make sure they contain no confidential information — telephone numbers, private email addresses, even unseen metadata — that they must withhold under the state Right-to-Know law.
A hearing date has been set for Dec. 21.
Selectmen estimated it could cost between $6,400 and $12,800 to comply with the larger request, made by Melvin Village resident Robert McWhirter. They want to charge a 25-cent fee for each page subject to review.
For the past several years, state and local officials have complained about the cost to comply with records requests. State law allows local and state government to charge fees to cover only the actual cost of copying a record, not the cost of retrieving it or blacking out confidential information.