"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Openness and Transparency In Durham NH

In the process of doing some research for our Town Administrator search, I came across the Town of Durham NH. Durham operates under a  Town Council form of government with nine councilors.
There are a number of things on the Town website that I found very interesting.
One in particular was a web page that contained the last three years of the Town Administrator's  annual performance evaluations.   TA Todd Selig has since 2001, made public the results of his annual performance evaluation. All three years that are published contain very good evaluations for Mr. Selig and all three are followed by comments made by the people who did the evaluations.  

Durham also publishes an annual  Employee Gross Earnings file that lists by employee the total gross wages for the year which include overtime, merit pay, holiday pay, longevity pay, and insurance credit. According to their website "While not required to do so by law, annually the Town compiles a list of year end gross wages for Durham employees and makes it available for public viewing.  Please note that every 7 years there is an extra pay period and 2014 was that 7th year."

Kudos to TA Selig and the Durham Town Council for setting the Right to Know bar so high. 


Mellisa Seamans said...

Transparency at its best!

Translucidity said...

Conservative NY Times writer, David Brooks wrote in an article today titled "The Lost Language of Privacy", about cop-cams. It ends with an interesting line: "..Society will be more open and transparent, but less humane and trusting". Yes, transparency is best but me mindful that it comes at extra cost and lower government efficiency that must be taken into account by those counting each expense.

Anonymous said...

Publishing employee's salaries is a good start towards building public trust. As for the TA review, keep in mind the review is only as good as those doing it.

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...

Publishing salaries are OK, but caveat on performance appraisals.

In all likelihood, non-public sessions would come into play, and especially if the minutes are sealed, they could not, legally be made public, under RSA 91-A.

NH Bar Assoc. 2012

"The New Hampshire Supreme Court has recently reiterated that "records related to employee misconduct and discipline" are exempt from disclosure under RSA. 91-A as are records related to "hiring and firing, work rules, and discipline."See Montenegro v. City of Dover, 162 N.H. 641 (2011). Individual employee salaries and job descriptions, however, are not exempt from the right-to-know. Id.; Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire v. Local Government Center, Inc., 159 N.H. 699 (2010). Although RSA. 91-A does not phrase its employee privacy provisions as requirements, government entities would be wise to engage in all employee privacy protections permitted so as to forestall common law claims of "invasion of privacy."


Eric Taussig said...

The readers of the Blog might be interested in reading (1) the letter I sent to the Chair of BoS on March 24th requesting certain information relating to the former Town Administrator’s contract and the Board's interpretation with regard to any severance he might be entitled to; and (2) the April 2nd answer provided by the Chairman.

Unfortunately, the Chair elected not to provide sufficient information to determine how the contract is being administered, even though the contract and addendum are public documents. Copies of the two letters can be accessed at:



Grumpy said...

One should take with a grain of salt the candor of a review of a TA from the hiring public body like one should look at the untenured professor grading the star quarterback with some skepticism. That is not to say the review should not be made public as it may just be a little more salient than if it were kept in the dark.
All said I like the Durham model and suggest we take the same course.