Legal Q and A: Records Compiled for Enforcement of Statutes, Ordinances and Regulations: To What Extent Are They Exempt from Disclosure?

Although law enforcement records are not included as such in the list of government records exempt from disclosure under the Right to Know Law, RSA 91-A:5, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has long recognized that certain law enforcement records may be withheld from public disclosure in accordance with the exemption for such records in the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This exemption has been important for police departments, but until now, of little interest to other municipal officials and employees.

Legal Q and A: Right to Know Law: Disclosure of ‘Draft’ Documents

A core principle of the Right to Know Law involves the right of citizens to inspect and copy governmental records. Questions often arise about documents and electronic communications that are created as staff and officials study an issue, deliberate about how best to approach the matter, and review and refine language of policies, ordinances, or adjudicative decisions. These documents will likely contain information that is incomplete and language that will ultimately be rejected prior to approval by public bodies.

Legal Q&A: Of Meeting Minutes and Machines

By Paul G. Sanderson, staff attorney with the New Hampshire Local Government Center's Legal Services and Government Affairs Department

Minutes must be created to record the result of meetings of public bodies in order to comply with the Right to Know Law. However, when recording equipment is used, the issues become more complex, and other statutes become involved. In the end, some decisions need to be made by public bodies about how to record meetings, whether the recordings should be preserved and, if so, in what format. The answers are not always straightforward.

Sealing of Nonpublic Session Meeting Minutes

By Kimberly A. Hallquist, staff attorney with the New Hampshire Local Government Center's Legal Services and Government Affairs Department

A great deal of confusion exists over "sealed" meeting minutes, probably because the term "sealed" suggests that the meeting minutes are somehow literally sealed and unavailable for viewing-by anyone, forever. This is not the case.

Q. What does it mean "to seal" meeting minutes?

Annual Reports: A Town’s Year in Review

By Kimberly A. Hallquist

The annual report is as much of a town meeting tradition as the moderator’s gavel, the old wooden ballot box and the rows of chairs facing the moderator’s podium. Prominently depicted in the 1942 Norman Rockwell painting Freedom of Speech, the annual report plays an important role before, during and after the annual town meeting.

Local Property Tax Information: Public or Not?

In recent months, New Hampshire Town and City articles have examined aspects of New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law and other state laws and regulations that require certain information to be made public or kept confidential.

Many of the questions we receive involve the confidentiality of local property tax information. While much of that information is public, there are a few important exceptions of which local officials should be aware.

Meeting Minutes 101

Boards often wrestle with taking meeting minutes—worrying that too much information will get them in trouble if an issue goes to court. This fear is balanced against the desire of board members to make sure their minutes are informative and helpful to citizens and to the board itself. Does the law require that meeting minutes contain certain information? Is it better to be brief and vague when preparing the minutes? Should meetings be tape recorded so that greater detail can be put into the minutes?

Dealing with E-mail Communication Under New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law

One of the thorniest problems for local officials these days is determining how to deal with e-mail communication under New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law. Recommended amendments to the law put forth by the Right to Know Law Study Commission, which became this year’s HB 626, would have clarified many of the issues raised by electronic communications. Unfortunately, however, the bill was effectively killed in the Senate, so the legislative clarification long-awaited by local officials did not come to pass.

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.