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Welcome to the NEW Atkinson Reporter! Under new management, with new resolve.

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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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Selectmen Sullivan does the right thing, with help of Selectmen Friel.

Please accept as an article submission

So, What should it cost you to get a DVD copy of a meeting.

In Atkinson the price is apparently $165.00

That is the price given to me by the selectmen's office when I came by to pick up a copy of deliberative session. They also suggested I speak to the selectmen about it, So I did. And Selectman Sullivan returned my phone call, explaining that the price would be the same as it has always been, which is $15.00! Had he not acted to serve the townspeople thusly, the following would have been the story.

Now, normally the cost of a dvd copy of a meeting is $15.00, and, in fact, that is the price quoted to me by the Cable TV station manager, Mr. Williams. That is what it always has been, I have gotten numerous meetings dvd's and it has always been $15.00.

However, according to the selectmen's office, it NOW costs $15.00 for the DVD itself, PLUS $15.00/hr, of the station manager's time to prepare it, according to the person I spoke to, it took him 10 hours to make my dvd copy! This is not true, of course, but it is a great way to keep people from being able to privately view past meetings.

And it is ILLEGAL!

Here is what RSA91-A:4 says;

IV. Each public body or agency shall, upon request for any governmental record reasonably described, make available for inspection and copying any such governmental record within its files when such records are immediately available for such release. If a public body or agency is unable to make a governmental record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied. If a computer, photocopying machine, or other device maintained for use by a public body or agency is used by the public body or agency to copy the governmental record requested, the person requesting the copy may be charged the actual cost of providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the public body or agency. Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of governmental records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged.

Now the defining case law on this subject is Cioffe v. Sanbornton, 01- E - 022. part of the Order is as follows;

The petitioner, Anne Cioffi, brought this action to enforce her rights under RSA chapter 91-A (the New Hampshire "Right to Know" law). Specifically, she asks the Court to Order the respondent, Town of Sanbornton (the "Town"), to comply with the requirements of the statute. The petitioner also seeks a permanent injunction enjoining the Town from violating the provisions of RSA 91-A and a declaration that copying costs established by the Town are unreasonable....The petitioner, after expressing an interest in Town business, encountered certain obstacles. First, she observed that the Town did not post notices of public meetings or that it posted notices in locations where it was highly unlikely they would be seen. Second, minutes of selectmen meetings did not always accurately reflect what had transpired. Third, the frequency of non-public sessions increased dramatically in the last two years. The reasons stated in support of the Selectmen’s decision to enter into a non-public session were vague—the Selectmen would only state that they needed to discuss a "personnel issue" or an employee. When the petitioner asked to see minutes of the non-public sessions, she was told that none were taken and, therefore, they were unavailable. Lastly, the petitioner complains that an October 1999 increase in the charge for copying imposes an unreasonable barrier to the public’s right to know....The petitioner’s concerns did not arise in a vacuum. Town citizens were becoming increasingly polarized because of several controversial substantive issues. One such issue involved a salary advance given to the Town Chief of Police, which was polarizing because, inter alia, the public learned of it after the fact. Another substantive issue involved certain accounting discrepancies reported by the Town Trustees of Trust Funds.1 Town citizens were also concerned about the Road Agent’s management of his department and management of the Road Agent by the Selectmen. This controversy was exacerbated because the Selectmen would meet regularly with the Road Agent in non-public sessions....Based on the foregoing, the petitioner’s request for relief is GRANTED as follows:

1. The Town shall modify its check signing process, either by making the check manifest a part of the agenda included in the meeting notice, or by otherwise stating during the public meeting what action the Selectmen are taking when they sign a check. This order shall not be construed as requiring the Selectmen to reveal information recognized by RSA 91-A as confidential, so long as the board goes through the RSA 91-A process of conducting such business in a non-public session.

2. Because the this action played a significant part in causing the Town to correct its procedures as set forth in the minutes of the May 30, 2001 meeting, the petitioner is awarded her costs. The petitioner shall file an affidavit specifying said costs within 20 days of the issuance of this order.



Now, I know... All of this sounds very similar to what has been going on in Atkinson.
But the law is clear, the Town may charge THEIR ACTUAL COST TO PRODUCE THAT DVD. That is it!

So What is the Town's cost to produce the DVD copy that you purchase?

1.) I can buy 50 dual layer recordable DVD's for $24.99

2.) 24.99/50= $0.50

3.) It takes Mr. Williams no more than 2 minutes to load the blank DVD, and press the button, then he does other things while the recording is being made.

4.) I dont know his salary, but for the sake of argument, lets say he makes $25.00/hr.

5.) 25.00/60= $0.42/ minute x 2 minutes= $0.84

So the Towns true cost of producing the copy of the meeting for me is, $1.34.

Thank you Selectman Sullivan for once again proving his character and integrity, and the same to Selectman Friel, Thank you Gentlemen.


--- Mark Acciard

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

So who at the Selectmen's office quoted you $165.00 and what was the motivation for it?

Who in their right mind would suggest $165.00 when you could go to the library and take it out for free?

Something is very wrong here and there has to be a story "behind the story" Someone needs to look into this and find out the facts soon.

Anonymous said...

Ed Naile
The last CD I got from the AG's Office in Concord had 1,500 documents on it.

It was about the DOT Bridge Yard in Franklin where they had a bogus investigation into spilled lead paint two years ago.

I asked under RSA 91-A and got the disc for $1.00.

Much of the sensative material was redacted so it took time to compile.

Still $1.00.

Anonymous said...

Didn't we see a selectmen's workshop within the last year where Sullivan, Friel and Childs put a policy in place to charge $15.00 an hour in addition to regular costs when Right To Know information was requested? Will have to pull the tape out and watch it again.

Looks like we need a Cioffe v. Atkinson to get a permanent injunction enjoining the Town from violating the provisions of RSA 91-A.

Mark, can't the selectmen and any other political person that "Knew or should have known the RTK law" be held personally liable for damages?

MAcciard said...

The Problem is, lets say you wanted to challenge the $15.00/ DVD rule, or for that matter, the $165.00. You have to file for an injunction with the Court. That takes a $175.00 filing fee, plus it will take a year to go through the court. By that time, it is likely that the information you seek will be useless. Plus even though you will win, and from then on, the Town will only be able to charge THEIR ACTUAL COST, just as Anne Cioffe did, you will lose a yar out of your life, $175.00 and your reputation in town. Is it worth it?

Anonymous said...

Once again this blog would be making
something out of nothing..

Anonymous said...

Mark,

Yes I believe it is worth it. Once the injunction is issued, the selectmen could be found "In Contempt" if they do it again, PLUS the selectmen would have to pay the relief out of their OWN POCKETS, not the insurance company. I believe it's the only way to make them accountable, otherwise you KNOW they will violate our rights again. I feel maintaining our rights, is far more important than the damage they will try to do to our reputation in the town.

Find the tape............file the suit. THIS TOWN MUST BE MADE TO RESPECT THE TAXPAYER'S RIGHTS........PERIOD! The filing fee is only ten dollars more than what they quoted you for the tape, had anyone been so stupid to pay it.

Thank goodness you stood up to them Mark, we need more people like you in this town, and less of those that want to take our rights away. Thanks for being a good citizen.

Anonymous said...

I really want to know who told you this. This person is trying to rip you off and it should be made public. I have a right to know who it is.

Anonymous said...

Come on, THINK! Mark is obviously trying to be a gentleman by not mentioning the name, but who works in the selectman's office every day?
It is obviously Barbara Snicer who told him, question is, who told her?

Anonymous said...

Hey come on, a video like that is priceless!

Anonymous said...

Oh,Oh...........I see another lawsuit coming. Hope Barbara and Selectmen have a lot of personal money to pay this one out of their own pockets.

Good Grief..........how stupid can one person be?

Anonymous said...

This is the town that gives. They keep on giving people reasons to run to lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and all in the name of "Doing everything they can to keep taxpayers from getting to the TRUTH of their actions"

Id probably do it myself, if I wanted to hide something(s) and keep people from finding out.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. Why didn't Mark tape it himself?

Curt Springer said...

Danville charges $25.00 for a DVD. But we are so boring nobody wants them. :-)

I think there was some good information about the $15/hour charge on the old blog.

My recollection was that somebody in your town was asking town employees to be his research assistants under the guise of RSA 91-A requests. It's one thing to ask for all invoices paid during a year, paw through them yourself, and take notes or ask for specific copies or draw whatever conclusions you want. I think that is perfectly valid and in the spirit of 91-A. It's quite another thing, I think to ask the town to give you all copies of invoices paid to relatives of town officials, or something like that, where you are asking them to do all the work, make subjective judgments or categorizations of each item, and to give you the results without you lifting a finger. I think that was the nature of the requests, and I don't think that is in the spirit of 91-A. I'd be interested to know if the other "legal beagles" on this blog think it is in the letter of the law to be able to submit requests like that.

Anonymous said...

" Come on, THINK! "

How rude. I could have guessed, but chose not to. I wanted a fact.

Anonymous said...

Curt,

Thank you for your OPINION and SPIN on Atkinson’s politics (and that is exactly what it is while you pretend to be an expert). Stay home in Danville and wait for the next shoe to fall. I think you will have to account of what you did in Danville in the not to distant future. I’m guessing you will have a lot to account for just like Atkinson’s people in town hall will account for here. Take the advice for what it’s worth because your input is not worth anything to people who are defending our rights.

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Curt,

$25.00 for a DVD in Danville and you try to justify it? That’s against the law! Boy are you a problem for the Town. You have no credibility with those that respect democracy. Time for you to move. ME THINKS you are part of the problem with those that want to maintain democracy in the state.

Quite frankly………YOU and PEOPLE like you are the problem for justice to prevail.
Have a nice day, but………………there are those of us that are committed to stop your foolishness.

We will not go away. We will be here when you go to bed, and when you wake up.

See you in court.

LegalBeagle said...

Legally, speaking, Mr. Acciard's comments were on point as were, his citations.

Legally, The town can charge ONLY the Actual cost to the town to produce that DVD copy that they are giving you.

So, they can charge you whatever their cost for the blank dvd plus, th actual time spent by the person who copies it for you.

In the case of a substantial request, such as a years payroll vouchers, the normal procedure would be to set up a secure place where you could view them, copying only the ones you wanted, if you wanted all, they can charge you for time spent retrieving them.

I hope that clarifies.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous February 13, 2009 7:40 AM

If you don't believe Civil Rights are important to you, then you have no right to comment on this blog. My guess your son is not fighting over seas...........and you belong in Russia.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous February 13, 2009 3:54 PM

Ever think Mark may not have cable? In addition.........what business is that to you?

Taxpayers pay for ACT20 and he has every right to get the tapes for free. Where do the selectmen (or selectmen's secretary) get off trying to charge a second time for $165.00 a disk?

Are you Jack Sapia's Mom or related to any person with position in Town Office to even suggest what you are suggesting?

If so, take a hike.

You don't want to respect the law, than you will be held accountable.

May the best man/woman win.

PS.....because you are so stupid......your tax rate just went up $200 dollars a thousand. Bet you can't figure out how much that just cost you. If not……….may I suggest you call 1-800- I’m STUPID……….AND follow the directions as prompted. Wait for one of your selectman to answer then follow his inept directions. GOOD LUCK.

Anonymous said...

There is a term for Curt's behavior. It is called Narcissism. He feels so self assured of his opinions, he wants to spread them far and wide. And this consistent quoting of RSA's - his attempts to show that we hicks down here don't know the law and have to be reminded.

For those of you who remember them, he reminds me an old lady listening in on the neighbors on a party line. For you young'ns who don't know what that is, it was before everyone had their own dedicated line to the phone company. People, especially in rural areas, had to share one phone line. Listening in to other people conversations was their entertainment. The less discrete listeners would pass it on as gossip.

So, here we have Curt. Banned from most of the other area blogs, he comes down here to tell us our business, whether he knows the facts or not. And, when he's called on it, he either gives us a dose of sour grapes or goes elsewhere.

Earth to Curt - Atkinson has some very intelligent and highly educated residents. We know how to look up an RSA. We are even able to form independent opinions.
Heavens to Betsy, we can even think for ourselves.

Now, I will admit that sometimes you have a point and are right. But othertimes, you are so far off the mark and so ignorant of the facts, you look foolish. What's the saying, "Better to be an idiot than open your mouth and prove it."

You constantly remind us you live in Danville. You even run your own, restrict, blog up there. Last I saw, the name of this blog was Atkinson Report 2. Danville, Atkinson - Aren't they different towns?

I don't have the power to shut you up. But, I see your name, I fast forward to the next entry.

Now, time for the snappy comeback to put me in my place.

Anonymous said...

No snappy come back.........Mr. Curt will become a statistic in his own right. Mark my word. Mr. Curt will go down in the near future.

Anonymous said...

You think? Mark my word.......Mr. Sullivan, Friel, Childs, Polito, Sapia and Barbara will go down first. Danville will have to deal with Curt. If they need our help...............we will be there for them.

Until then..........Atkinson needs to be our first priority.

Curt Springer said...

I wasn't particularly defending the cost of a DVD in Danville. It probably is too high. But then so is the $15 in Atkinson -- nobody was exercised about that.

And none of you actually challenged my recollection of the $15/hour fee in Atkinson. Although I don't recall the exact requests, I think my characterization of them was correct.

(did some digging)

OK, HERE is an ET article on the topic.

Curt Springer said...

From the Atkinson BOS meeting of 3/31/08:

Right-to-Know:

Chairman Sullivan expressed concern that requests for "right to know" can sometimes be unreasonable and that it can also appear that the town isn’t responding to these requests. He further stated that he wants the town to react to every citizen’s request for information, but felt that there should be a policy in place for addressing these requests.

Chairman Sullivan passed out a suggested outline and asked the Board for comments.

Mr. Friel stated that he liked the idea of a written policy and the standards in this written policy would show that the town is trying to be reasonable. He opined that all requests should come through the Town Administrator and then be disseminated to the proper department heads.

Mr. Childs agreed.

The members agreed that most of the written policy was acceptable as a template for the Town, with the exception of section 2.

Chairman Sullivan requested that the Board also consider setting a fee for the cost of copying information and research time involved with answering these requests.

Chairman Sullivan suggested that the Board send of copy of this policy to Mr. Garrity and invite him to speak on the issue of "right to know"

Mr. Childs and Mr. Friel agreed.

Anonymous said...

Come on Springer! Turn on some brain wattage or at least turn on some civil indignation. Any red American blood in your veins? Be outraged for once. $165 for a COPY of a Deliberative Session meeting. Why, Springer, are you not OUTRAGED we are asked to pay that in Atkinson. Even $25 in Danville is a,,, violation from behind,,, if you get my drift. Please invest time in emailing this Right to Know,,,copy fee,,, to a few others by email and copy and paste here what they write back. Bet it will be BLOODY BAD outrage. And, if you are not outraged, Curt, can get up the $165 and buy it for me and I will come over and pick it up????

Anonymous said...

Yeah, they did develop a policy all right. Now, they get to face the courts and the fury of the people for that violation of the Right To Know law. Nothing like violating the RTK in a sleepy little town by writing your own little exception to RTK laws. But its going statewide now baby! Watch that boomerang when it comes. ITS BIG.

Anonymous said...

Oh Curt...you are soooo busted!

Anonymous said...

$25 for a DVD in Danville and you taint working in YOUR town to immediately right that wrong? By not correcting your own town violation of the right to know laws, you share in the culpability. To Atkinson folks: I'm compiling a CD of Springer comments. Priceless I know but I am putting it out to you for only .02 cents plus postage. Act fast. --I'm gonna get rich!!! Oh, darn, the library got a free copy already. I'm toast...

Anonymous said...

There was clearly miscommunication between the selectman and the town employees. Mark was immediately reffered to the b.o.s. and the correct information was then given out. People make mistakes. Should that employee be fired? Have you not seen incorrect pricing when out shopping? This talk of another lawsuit is outrageous. People in this town see what is going on here and are not being swayed with this kind of stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, no crime was committed other than an incorrect price quote. Go shop in another town if you don't like it. The sooner the better.

Anonymous said...

Incorrect price quote? Could it be a dedicated attempt to discourage anyone to obtain information other than the very few and then then make it as painful as possible to get it? OH Right, a town employee just GONE WILD, no malicious intent here, and never evere let em go;;;definitely a 'keeper'!!!

Hey, just make getting information so expensive in Atkinson. PEOPLE SIMPLY GIVE UP. But no....Oh, so sorry, it was just an 'administrative error' by a loyal employee who was given no direction or WRITTEN POLICY how to work up that price of $165 for a copy of a DVD!!! NOT!

LegalBeagle said...

I know Anne Cioffe of Sanbornton fame, and her situation was, at that time, very similar to what I understand Mr. Acciard's position to be.
She was a former town official in various capacities, and thusly kept herself informed of town affairs. And because of her town involvement, she knew what was going on was wrong, and sought to correct it.
And she won!

Anonymous said...

So THATS the "official spin", huh? Incorrect price quote.

tim dziechowski said...

The $165 is not for a copy of a DVD. The $165 was an estimate of the cost to the town to produce a DVD of the meeting if no DVD already existed.

What steams me up is charging people $.50 a page to copy documents in town hall, when the library can make money charging much less than that. I think the next selectboard needs to look at that.

Anonymous said...

The bloggers are certainly not making something out of nothing. Getting RTK information has been historically difficult, if not impossible in this town. It's important for residents to be aware of who is holding out on them, and let them wonder why this is the case.

Mrs. Snicer is know to be an old "friend" of the Chief and Fred Childs. You have to look at who is resisting the law and who their backers are.

My next question is when was Mrs. Snicer hired and by whom? Was the Chief on the BOS at the time?

Anonymous said...

the pd charges 1.00 a page .even if your the plaintif.good thing if you can get it. for his slush fund

Macciard said...

I asked about the $0.50/pg. fee, and I was told it was the cost of the paper, toner, and a minute of Russ' time to do it.

And with all due respect, Tim, The $165.00 was what Barbara told me I had to pay for MY copy. When I questioned it, she told me to talk to the selectmen, which is what I did.

Curt Springer said...

I'm not defending the charge of $165 for a DVD. I was suggesting that the incorrect basis for that charge was the $15/hour research fee that your selectmen instituted.

My comment about Danville's $25 fee was simply a point of information to contrast with Atkinson's $15 fee.

You might be right in saying that the lawful charge for creating a DVD or a paper copy of a record should not exceed that actual cost. Danville also charges 50c a copy. I believe that the understanding in my town and perhaps yours is that the town can establish a customary fee for any use of the copier and can charge the same fee for 91-A copies even if the fee is greater than the actual cost of making the copy. So perhaps if they have a customary fee of 50c a copy, but the actual cost of labor, prorated machine and maintenance cost, electricity, toner and paper is actually 10c, they could only charge 10c a copy for 91-A requests. I guess the same would apply to DVDs. I really don't know. It would be a good question for the NHLGC attorneys.

Also just as a point of information, I have obtained DVDs of a couple of meetings in Danville, not for my personal use but for encoding and posting on the town web site. Each time it took about 20-25 minutes of the camera operator's time to burn the DVD.

MAcciard said...

It is my understanding that towns routinely charge $0.50/ copy because that was the single copy price successfully defended by the town in the case of Cioffe v. Sanbornton. It more or less astablished a legally defensible standard, although if you were getting 100 copies of something, that standard would no longer hold.

Anonymous said...

Before you get too worked up about access to town meetings and RSA 91-A, there is work being done to get all of the meetings posted on-line so that they will be accessible anytime, free of charge. This will probably happen next year due to the fact that appropriations will be needed and voted upon.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that would be great, but maybe we could start with this years minutes from budget committee meetings, and the last 4 months for selectmens meetings.

Curt Springer said...

Cioffe v. Sanbornton

Anonymous said...

Curt glad to see you ignore those who want you to go away. Its the same group that tried to shut down this blog. God forbid you might post something useful and insightful that might help people understand that Atkinson is unique in how govt works.

Carol Grant said...

Paul, Bill,

Thank you. You both did the right thing.

$165 was outrageous and an obvious and shameful attempt by certain people to discourage efforts by town residents to get copies of right-to-know information on town govt. CD's.

Now, please do something about the rediculous over-charging for ordinary paper copies of town right-to-know material made on the town copier.

Sometimes people in Town Hall forget that they are there to serve the people -- and not obstruct them in acquiring information which is supposed to be available to them.

Anyway, thank you for taking action against that rediculous $165 charge.

Anonymous said...

Is everyone not surprised? ---Springer is now an authority on Atkinson Town Hall's copying policies.

Springer has now posted four times on this new topic with a total of 20 paragraphs.

Is there no Atkinson topic that he won't butt into?-- that he won't intrude himself into as a pseudo-authority on? -- that he won't try to impose his Danville opinions on?

Are we ever going to have a blog topic that Springer doesn't try to dominate and try to tell us what to think and how we're all wrong on?

Maybe his own Danville blog wouldn't be such a failure if he would devote a tenth of the time on it that he does trying to dominate Atkinson's blog.