Legal Q & A

LEGAL Q&A: Town Meetings and Citizen Petitioned Warrant Articles

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA’s legal services or your municipal attorney.

As many towns prepare for their annual town meeting, questions always seem to arise surrounding citizen petitioned warrant articles. Can they be amended? What if they call for an appropriation? What if the content isn’t legally enforceable? These common questions and more will be addressed in this issue’s Legal Q&A.

LEGAL Q&A: Mitigating Confusion over “Ex Officio”

It is not uncommon for there to be a certain level of confusion concerning what it means to be an ex officio member of a public body. The position “ex officio” is explicitly provided for in statutes like RSA 673:2, where the statute refers to a member of the select board or an administrative official of a city serving as the ex officio member on the local Planning Board. There are other statutes that don’t use the term ex officio, however that designation is implied by the language of the statute.

LEGAL Q&A: How to Fill a Vacancy on an Elected Board

Now that election season is over and we are reaching the summer months, it is unfortunate yet inevitable that some towns may experience vacancies in their elected positions. Local officials can unexpectedly resign, move out of town or even pass away, leaving their position vacant and in need of replacement. The process for filling a vacancy can depend on how the vacancy came about and what position has been left vacant. This article will cover some of the basics when it comes to vacancies.

LEGAL Q&A: Spring into Background Checks

With spring approaching and activities such as little league, youth camps and other town sponsored events starting up, many towns are left wondering what their responsibilities are when it comes to background checks for town employees and volunteers. It can be a little confusing to figure out exactly who needs a background check and how to obtain a background check for an employee or volunteer. This article will cover some of the most common questions towns may have when it comes to background checks.

LEGAL Q&A: Right-to-Know and Privacy Q&A

The purpose of the Right-to-Know Law (RSA 91-A) is to provide transparency in government and ensure the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people. Under RSA 91-A the public has broad access to governmental records created, accepted or obtained by a public body or agency. However, while the purpose of the Right-to-Know law is to allow the public access to information and records kept by government agencies, that doesn’t mean this access comes without its limitations.

LEGAL Q&A: Do You Need a Warrant for That?

It’s not uncommon for select boards or other local enforcement agencies to learn about health, safety, or other violations (including zoning!) that are occurring throughout the municipality. As is the case with everyone who values solving problems, boards often first think: we need to visit the location to determine the extent of the problem. That’s an admirable thought, but sometimes a problematic one.

LEGAL Q&A: Village Districts: A Commonly Misunderstood Municipal Entity

Village districts have a long history in New Hampshire. Many of village districts were created by special legislative act – i.e. the legislature passed a bill creating each of those districts and giving them certain powers – at a time before RSA chapter 52, governing village districts, was enacted.

LEGAL Q&A: The Oath of Office for Municipal Officials

This column will summarize the requirements for local officials to take an oath of office, providing guidance on the who, what, when, why and how of the oath of office in New Hampshire.

Q:  What is New Hampshire’s oath of office?

A:  As provided in RSA 42:1, every town officer must take the following oath of office prescribed in Pt. II, Article 84 of the NH Constitution:

LEGAL Q&A: Municipal Official vs Municipal Employee: What is the Difference & Does it Matter for Compensation & Personnel Policies?

At its core, the purpose of electing officials is to allow the voters to hold those they elect accountable for their actions while in office. If the voters do not like the job the elected representative is doing, they can choose to vote for someone else in the next election. If the voters are generally satisfied with the job performed, they will, presumably, reelect the incumbent.

Top COVID-19-Related Legal Inquiries

The NHMA Legal Advisory Service kicked into high gear on March 13th in response to member inquiries related to the pandemic.  In order to facilitate our response we created a new category for our legal inquiry data base, “COVID-19 coronavirus”, where we store all inquiries, telephone and email, and our responses.  Like the pandemic itself, questions from our members surged 30% in March, April, May and June and have now settled back to a more normal level.  Thanks to a gifted and dedicated team of attorneys, Natch Greyes, Cordell Johnston and Executive Director Margaret Byrnes