Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuftonboro Town Attorney; "The real loser is the Tuftonboro taxpayers"

The Union Leader published this story in yesterday's edition. The full quote of Attorney Sager was "The real loser is the Tuftonboro taxpayers, who had to pay thousands in legal fees to defend the town and its elected selectmen on one person’s quest to paint the selectmen as near underworld characters who were alleged to be seeking to conduct business in the shadows.” 
It seems to me that I have heard those words before, or something very similar when my Right to Know petition against the Town was denied by the Superior Court in 2009.  I only made a single allegation and I am very certain as to why it was denied, but it had nothing to do with "This SelectBoard understands full well the critical need for a rigorous adherence to the statute."

As to the current events in Tuftonboro, I have read quite a bit about their BoS and their decisions to clamp down on public input and I strongly disagree with them. Having lived now on both sides of the fence so to speak, I find the response that Right to Know actions are a waste of taxpayer's money as a not so subtle means to dissuade others from going forward with such actions if they believe they were aggrieved. Towns after all have very deep pockets. Many citizens do not. Ms. Sawyers petition was not frivolous as the court did find that the Tuftonboro BoS did in fact violate the RTK law and did award her court costs. It was caused in part by frustration by citizens who want openness and transparency in their local government. Attorney Sager clearly benefited financially from this situation and in my personal opinion, should not have made the comments he made. Further, the BoS should act to heal the situation with some conciliatory actions such as opening up public comment and trying a lot harder to not be so adversarial.

4 comments:

Josh Bartlett said...

As a sitting member of the Board of Selectmen, I read with interest several of the news articles regarding the Tuftonboro Right to Know lawsuit.
When I ran for this seat, I stated that I only had two major positions:
1. The rules should be the same for Everyone,
2. Transparency in Government is very important.

There were several comments made at the last Board of Selectmen's meeting to the effect that having the public/voters involved will keep anything from getting done. I disagree. True Leaders will build consensus and guide the people to be able to make decisions based on fully disclosed information and clear, personal agenda free recommendations.

Representative government is somewhat awkward, but the alternative is despotism.

Joseph Cormier said...

" ...my Right to Know petition against the Town ..."

Atta boy ... I knew I liked you for reasons!

I might have cautioned you, however, on the exemptions in RSA 91-A:5 (IV)

Hiring a Police Chief would almost surely invoke personnel matters, and not legally bound to release. It would be further impacted if the BoS invoked sealing the minutes, if a non-public had been called.

I'm presuming the real issue was no adherence to legal meetings (tough to prove).

Glad to see the present BoS is now setting limits on some "sealed" non-public meetings; e.g. 90 days. It did not go unnoticed!

91-A:5 Exemptions. – The following governmental records are exempted from the provisions of this chapter:
I. Records of grand and petit juries.
I-a. The master jury list as defined in RSA 500-A:1, IV.
II. Records of parole and pardon boards.
III. Personal school records of pupils.
IV. Records pertaining to internal personnel practices; confidential, commercial, or financial information; test questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer a licensing examination, examination for employment, or academic examinations; and personnel, medical, welfare, library user, videotape sale or rental, and other files whose disclosure would constitute invasion of privacy. Without otherwise compromising the confidentiality of the files, nothing in this paragraph shall prohibit a public body or agency from releasing information relative to health or safety from investigative files on a limited basis to persons whose health or safety may be affected.
V. Teacher certification records in the department of education, provided that the department shall make available teacher certification status information.
VI. Records pertaining to matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of all emergency functions, including training to carry out such functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life.
VII. Unique pupil identification information collected in accordance with RSA 193-E:5.
VIII. Any notes or other materials made for personal use that do not have an official purpose, including but not limited to, notes and materials made prior to, during, or after a governmental proceeding.
IX. Preliminary drafts, notes, and memoranda and other documents not in their final form and not disclosed, circulated, or available to a quorum or a majority of the members of a public body.

Josh makes some wise comments, above.

Problem, in my view (brash as it usually is) is distinguishing those in the public that like to have themselves heard, with no cure or substance, v. those that have contributive input, and/but aren't in the mainstream, but the minority.

An example, for me, has been SB-2. I couldn't believe with the many snowbirds, they didn't push this through. The only way, in March, they being in the sunny south, could vote is by absentee ballot on all warrant articles. I couldn't get 25 signatures for a petition for the warrant. I'm no masochist, let the MoBo mafia rule! If folks are dumb enough to believe SB-2 eliminates town meeting ... only God can cure ... and I'm almost an agnostic. I do believe in God, however. She has to exist, just looking at the universe!

Putin and Hitler are/were also admired leaders in their time and realm.


One who wuz there said...

Joe, the right to know suit the blogger mentioned was way, way, more complicated than you now. Much to much hstory to put in this comment box. There is no one that is more knowledgeable on the meeting law than our blogger selectman and he has caused a great deal of positive change in this town. Wouldn't have happened without him. This berg went through a very similar period as T'boro,when public comment was severely limited and dissent was criticized. You have no idea how bad it was. Thank you Mr. Cormier for all that you do.

Terence C. Jatko said...

I'd say the real victims are the taxpayers of Tuftonboro stuck paying this hack.