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The purpose of this Blog is to pick up where the Atkinson Reporter has left off. "The King is dead, Long live the King!" This Blog is a forum for the discussion of predominantly Atkinson; Officials, People, Ideas, and Events. You may give opinion, fact, or evaluation, but ad hominem personal attacks will not be tolerated, or published. The conversation begun on the Atkinson Reporter MUST be continued!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Not the first time Rep. Garrity has tried to gut the Right to Know Law!

This is a repost from the NH Insider website from April 29, 2008.

This is from the NH Insider website, written by Ed Naile, Director of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers.

The poignant side to this is that our state rep, Jim Garrity, serves on the Right to know commission, and our board of selectmen has been actively engaged in circumventing this law for the last four years!

Read on fellow Townspeople...

Here is how the deal works regarding House Bill 1408 which is on the fast track to do two things:

1. Gut RSA 91-A - The Right To Know Law.
2. Become the largest membership drive The Coalition of NH Taxpayers ever had.

Some basics about RSA 91-A:

If you ask for public documents from an unwilling public body they play several cards. One is to delay the handing over of the documents until AFTER they may be helpful to the taxpayer requesting them.

Should you go to court, after weeks or months of asking for documents, they will magically appear the day before the hearing. With a straight face town or school counsel will tell a judge that they have already complied with the law so there is no case to be heard. I have had this happen in court more often than not. It is a standard technique of municipal counsel. Attorney Paul Apple of Upton and Hatfield used this ploy against The Windsor Coalition of Taxpayers in March of 2007. Attorney Matt Upton of the same firm tried this on me in 2005. Attorney Bob Bossie of Manchester used this trick in 1991 against me in Deering regarding bid-rigged bridge plans. It is standard operating procedure.

You have to remember, this is New Hampshire and we have one of the worst superior court systems in the country. It is an official laughing stock of self serving nit wits in black dress up. No brag, just fact. Municipal lawyers know there is no real penalty for hiding documents.

Except.

The dilemma for the newly formed Right to Know Commission which has been trying over the past five years to gut 91-A is, now that since withholding documents is for the most part not a problem, how to allow secret meetings. This is a problem because without the sacred secret meeting, many tax and spend municipal boards could not function the way they do now. Without bid rigging, selecting certain like-minded friends for positions, or cutting deals behind the backs of other people on the board, what fun would it be to hold office?

The Right to Know Commission tried, unsuccessfully, with HB 377 and HB 626 to actually write into the law ways for secret meeting to be held. They had language which said “outside communications” as they refer to them, can be held if someone keeps notes and lets the next meeting know what they were scheming. That blew up in their faces. What if the next meeting is an “outside communication” and the one after that?

Now in HB 1408 they just slide in some new language regarding the much anticipated “Outside Communications.” In a new paragraph, “outside communications” are allowed as long as they do not circumvent the “spirit of the law.”

This is really laughable and sad at the same time.

So now you catch a school board having a secret meeting such as the Strafford School Board did at a restaurant named Cassidy’s back in March. They met and drafted a letter to the community to support the $11.2 million dollar school that failed before and after this not so secret, secret meeting.

I had their secret e-mail thanking everyone for coming shortly after it was sent. CNHT winds up several of these emails every election cycle and always will. When you hide something from other members of a board they often get cranky and send evidence to the only organization in NH that will help - CNHT.

Here is why the RTKC wants to get “outside communications” in the statute BEFORE any language about penalties is adopted.

Say we catch, as we surely will, a school board meeting about, say, a certain engineer to hire for a new addition. They hold the meeting at “Cassidy’s” again and get caught by another potential bidder. All they have to do is say they had no idea they were “circumventing the spirit of the law.” A taxpayer bringing the case would have to prove otherwise, such as an admission, or letter saying “let’s circumvent the spirit of the law.” This is next to impossible.

If you think this is not going to happen then you have only to wait.

It will not be long.

But there is a new way to punish “outside communications” and it will be “outside the box” not in court.
Posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 09:48AM by Registered CommenterEd Naile

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing that Atkinson's Rep Mr. James Garrity was part of the committee Mr. Naile is talking about?

Since Mr. Garrity is part of the problems for taxpayer rights, isn't it time for Mr. Garrity to be held accountable? Isn't it time for Mr. James Garrity to be taken out of the "Atkinson Mafia"?

Citizens of Atkinson.........pay attention. Mr. Garrity is as big a part of the problems in Atkinson as the Chief is. Mr. James Garrity is NOT you friend. Mr. James Garrity is plotting ways to take your rights away.

Question: What does Mr. James Garrity have to hide by gutting the Right To Know Law? Mr. James Garrity needs to GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Then we will farret out what Mr. James Garrity was attempting to hide.

Anonymous said...

Many may recall last years Deliberative Session. It was Mr. Garrity who gave Frank the idea to announce that any citizen petition could be made meaningless, which is exactly what happened.

Problem is, as long as he keeps running and re-elected, the problem remains. Look at the last election - He was on both parties ticket. It's fine to say he has to go, but you need someone to run against him, and win.

Anonymous said...

Garity is also the guy who complimented the select board of chief, Jack and Fred for their "ETHICS"!

What a joke!

Rep. Jim Garrity said...

Dear Editor (and fellow Townspeople):

Rep. Jim Garrity here responding to the above article.

Ed Naile, Leon Artis, myself just finished a telephone conference call in which we discussed HB-53. I explained my reasoning for filing the bill. Together we read the bill, as well as large portions of the Right-to-Know Law (RSA 91-A). The bill in question fixes some duplicative grammar from the current law, and has absolutely no impact on the strength or enforcement of the RTK Law. After listening to my explination, Ed understands the purpose of the bill and I think he agrees that it does not gut the law. Ed's main concern is that he does not like changes, even minor grammatical corrections, to be made to the RTK Law because it may present a new opportunity for an excuse for a bad-acting public official not to comply with it. I understand Ed's perspective, since he has spent many years arguing RTK cases on behalf of fellow citizens, and has seen bad actors making excuses to try to get around the RTK Law. So I will present the bill as a possible technical correction to wording, Ed will testify that there is not a pressing need for the correction, and the House Judiciary Committee will decide if the bill should move forward. I filed the bill as a courtesy to the Right-to-Commission after we discussed the issue at a RTK Commission hearing last fall.

In other RTK news, I told Ed that I have also filed a RTK bill which would impose personal penalities and civil fines against public officials who knowingly disobey the RTK Law. This penalties provision also was developed by the RTK Commission. We feel that the RTK law does not have enough teeth when it comes to punishment. Currently, if a bad public official is found guilty of violating the RTK Law, we the taxpayers have to pay the expenses. My penalties bill will require that same public official to reimburse the town for those costs, AND would also impose civil fines against that individual.

I'll let you know when my penalties legislation is assigned a Bill Number.

Best Regards,
Rep. Jim Garrity - Atkinson

Anonymous said...

This new bill will be very interesting indeed.

tim dziechowski said...

Jim -

Thanks for filing HB60.

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2009/hb0060.html

MAcciard said...

For the record, I was at that hearing of the NH house Judiciary committee, and Rep. Garrity presented that bill, as he stated in his post. He stated that, he was presenting it as a favor to the right to know committee, that he felt it was just a housekeeping issue, that is, clarifying language.

He did not advocate strongly for this bill. The only people I heard speak in favor of the bill were the Attorney General's Office, and the LGC, which was there licking it's collective wounds after being handed a decision yesterday forcing them to comply with the right to know law.

There were a number of citizens from all over there to speak against the bill.

I just wanted everyone to know that Rep. Garrity did exactly as he stated he would in his post.