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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!

This Blog will not fall to outside hacks from anyone, especially insecure public officials afraid of their constituents criticism.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Supreme Court orders Timberlane to release documents in electronic form

Sandown school board member wins Right-to-Know case against district
  • By Breanna Edelstein

CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ordered Timberlane Regional School District to provide budget documents in an electronic format to school board member Donna Green of Sandown, acknowledging the decision advances the purpose of the state's Right-to-Know law and reversing a lower court's ruling.
Green asked the district for the documents last year. The district said she could make an appointment to see the documents. Green then asked for the documents electronically.
The district said it wasn't obligated to provide them electronically, citing state law and its policy, which states "materials and/or documentation produced to fulfill a Right to Know request shall be subject to a charge of $0.50 per page," and that "only hard copies will be produced; no electronic copies will be provided."
A superior court judge sided with Timberlane last March, but Green appealed, landing the case in the Supreme Court in January.
"I absolutely had to appeal it, because I couldn't let this stand," Green said Tuesday. "If that stood, it would have empowered more public bodies to behave like this."
Supreme Court judge James P. Bassett wrote the opinion reversing the earlier decision. He said there was no evidence that it wasn't "reasonably practicable" to copy the documents to electronic media. He also noted producing electronic documents can be more efficient and cost-effective.
The state's highest court noted that both parties had reasonable interpretations of the state law in question.
"The Supreme Court found our interpretation of 91-A:4 reasonable and also concluded that the statute is indeed ambiguous," Dr. Earl Metzler, the district's superintendent, said in a statement Tuesday. "As such, we have amended our Right To Know procedure to align with this recent interpretation that some requested documents must be made available in electronic format."
According to the ruling, Green argued prior wording of the policy indicated that the authority to produce a hard copy form of an electronically stored document only arises if copying to electronic media is not reasonably practical, or if the person asking for the document requests a different method.
She also contended that in this case, the original records reside on a computer in the SAU building and the district should have provided the documents in that format.
On the other hand, the district argued that because the paper documents were made available for inspection and copying, their statutory obligations were fulfilled. According to them, the wording of "may" instead of "shall" in the RSA implies a choice.
Because of a lack of legislative history to aid the ruling, the final decision was based on the purpose of the Right-to-Know law, which is designed to make government more transparent to the public, according to the judge.
In his ruling, Bassett said if the Legislature doesn't agree with the court's interpretation of the law, it can amend the law.
Though Green says she's "very happy" with the court's decision, she added that "it was a colossal waste of taxpayer money."
The case will have ramifications statewide.
"For other school districts, and the media in general, this is a big victory for the people of New Hampshire," she said

Friday, April 15, 2016

Salem files official complaint against selectman, seek Campbell's removal

By Kiera Blessing

BRENTWOOD — The Town of Salem officially filed a complaint against selectman Stephen F. Campbell in Rockingham Superior Court this week after voting in March to seek his removal from office.
The complaint, filed Tuesday, seeks that the court remove Campbell from office for allegedly sharing confidential personnel information, which he was privy to as a selectman, with the public on two occasions in 2014 and 2015.
The court documents detail a letter sent to the Board of Selectmen on March 9 of this year by police captain and head of the Salem Public Administrators Association Union, Robert Morin. Morin alleged Campbell had broken state law by sharing information about the internal investigation of a deputy police chief with The Eagle-Tribune in late 2014.
Though not named in Morin's letter or court documents, former Deputy Chief Shawn Patten was at the center of the investigation. A former Police Department employee, Steve Malisos, sent a letter to the town manager in October 2014, accusing Patten of falsifying records and theft. Though Patten was eventually cleared through an internal investigation and by the Attorney General's office, Morin alleges Campbell brought the information about the investigation to the media, violating state public record laws.
The court documents also mention an incident from February 2015, when Campbell posted about Salem Police Chief Paul Donovan's suspension on his Facebook page. The suspension had previously been kept from the public as a private personnel matter.
Campbell has not denied either accusation.
According to court documents, Campbell acknowledged he was "not authorized" to discuss the chief's suspension publicly; in March 2015, the board voted to "condemn" his actions.
Campbell has also admitted to bringing information to the media, but has maintained that he did not break public records laws in doing so.
“I don’t believe I did anything wrong,” Campbell said during a board meeting March 28. According to court documents, on March 25, Campbell posted on his Facebook page that "The information I shared with the Eagle-Tribune was sent to me and others through the US mail. It was sent to us by a retired Town employee. The information was not from a non-public meeting."
When asked by board Chairman James Keller why he took the information to the media, Campbell answered he "would rather not say."
A hearing is scheduled for May 4