Legal Q & A

Dealing with Homeland Security Issues at the Local Level

In the post 9/11 era, municipalities have renewed their focus on local emergency management duties. Disasters may result from acts of nature, or from the negligent or intentional acts of people. Emergency management is the process of planning for an incident, taking steps to prevent the occurrence of the incident if possible, responding to an incident should one occur, followed by efforts to recover from the negative impacts upon persons, property and economic activities caused by the incident.

Municipal Building Projects: Balancing Liability Concerns and Design Recommendations

Q. If someone using public property is injured, can the municipality be held liable for damages?

A. Yes. If a person is injured at a municipal facility, they can claim that the municipality is liable for the injuries if the facility was negligently constructed or maintained. Negligence is a type of tort, based upon a wrongful action or failure to act, that violates a duty to a person and is the cause of some injury.

Local Officials Prepare for Election Season

The election season is underway, and, inevitably, numerous questions arise. Moreover, the legislature has recently amended a number of election laws. The following are a few brief reminders and a summary of selected statutory amendments.

Reporting Tax Abatement Interest to the IRS

Q. When a taxpayer receives a property tax abatement, must the municipality report the interest paid on that abatement to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?

Class VI Roads and Maintenance Issues

Highway repair and maintenance projects are usually well underway at this time of year, prompting questions about maintenance of Class VI roads. There are lots of misconceptions about Class VI roads, so here are some reminders.

Policy Needed on Police Personnel Files

In February, New Hampshire Attorney General Peter Heed sent a “Law Enforcement Memorandum” to all police departments and county attorneys in the state urging them to work cooperatively to adopt policies regarding retention and sharing of certain police disciplinary files when a police officer played a key role or is a witness in a case. Attorney General Heed’s memorandum proposes a model policy for handling what is known as Laurie materials.

Municipal Records Retention

As time goes by, municipalities find themselves confronted with how to handle the seemingly endless stream of paper associated with the operation of government. As populations grow, there are more and more subdivision applications, building permits, abatement requests, tax cards, zoning appeals, and even dog licenses. What do we do with all of these documents? Here are some of the answers.

Understanding the Special Legal Issues that Apply to Bridges

Some are surprised to learn that a bridge that services a public road is part of the public highway. A bridge is defined as a structure on a public highway that has a clear span of 10 feet or more, which spans a water course or other opening or obstruction. RSA 234:2. As part of the public highway, legal issues are, for the most part, identical to any other municipal road. However, some issues are unique to bridges. The following is a brief overview of maintenance and liability issues relating to bridges.

Official Ballots, Official Ballot Referendum and Secret Ballots Understanding the Differences

Q. Under what circumstances can the selectmen put a warrant article question on the town's official ballot?

State Building Code Update

September 14, 2003 came and went almost unnoticed in the building community. That was the date when contractors were required to begin complying with the state building code. There was not much fanfare surrounding the date, however, since the state fire marshal’s office had taken the position that the state building code has been enforceable since September 14, 2002. But this past summer, even before compliance was mandatory, the legislature passed amendments to the state building code. The amendments became effective on July 14, 2003.