Last week The New Hampshire Senate and House of Representatives passed HB53. This Bill was sponsored by Kim Casey Democratic Representative of East Kingston. HB 53 amends the RSA 91A “the right to know” statute. The amendment all but eliminates the public’s right to access information from government agencies. The revision exempts Mayors, Town Managers, department heads, executive officers, superintendants and associated government political agencies as public bodies from complying with a “right to know” request.
This draconian annihilation of the “Right to Know” law will allow these extensions of government to operate under a Vail of secrecy. The only information that we the people would be entitled to scrutinize is that which these agents would elect to disseminate.
How many crimes would have escaped legal consequence if the public’s “right to Know or the freedom of information” was fettered by government agents who operate outside of the law? It is exactly why those who contemplate such acts fear the possibility of exposure through this mechanism of accountability.
In 2000 my attorneys and I sued SAU16 for a parent’s right to know what websites our children were accessing on school computers. Dr. Skip Hanson SAU16 superintendant of schools denied our request, sighting a child’s right of privacy.
Superior Court Justice Julian Abramson ruled in our favor. Unfortunately, the computer records were destroyed after the Judge ruled that the information must be released, a harm that found SAU16 in contempt of court. SAU16 actions required an amendment to RSA91A criminalizing those who would knowingly and willfully destroy public documents for the purpose of avoiding prosecution. None of this would have been possible without a formidable RSA 91A and the public’s “right to know”.
It should come as no surprise that Kim Casey would sponsor HB53, as she was an ardent opponent to the release of the computer records even at the elementary schools, when she was a Cooperative School board member.
Governor Lynch has on many occasions professed to be a fervent supporter of open and transparent government.
We should therefore, call upon the Governor to honor this commitment and compel him to veto this amendment.