Transparency Wins More Ground

In one week, NH had two big advances in citizen’s right to know what their government is doing.  On April 19, the NH Supreme Court ruled that public bodies must provide electronic documents if they exist in electronic form and if they are so requested. This puts an end to public bodies insisting on providing paper copies exclusively, as did the Timberlane Regional School District until that ruling.

Four days after that seismic ruling, Governor Hassan signed into law HB 1418, a bill requiring the same level of detail in non-public minutes as in public minutes.  HB1418 was initiated by Right to Know NH and will become effective on January 1, 2017.

Thanks go to the sponsors of HB1418 for their commitment in shepherding the law through two judiciary committees and the House and Senate: Rep. Sylvia, Rep. True, and Rep D. Brown.  Chris True, representing Rockingham 4 from Sandown has been in the House just a year but his responsiveness and tenacity has already made a difference. Both House reps from Sandown, Chris True and James Devine,  sponsored important and meaningful legislation this session.

See what Timberlane’s non-public minutes look like now:  NonPublic TRSB 02 18 16 (2)*

For more information on Right to Know legislation this year, both successful and unsuccessful, see RightToKnowNH.wordpress.com.

*UPDATE (5/6/16):  A previous version of this article contained non-public draft minutes from April, 2016 that were subsequently sealed (over my objections) at the May 5, 2016 school board meeting.

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4 Comments

Filed under School Board Functioning, School Board Issues

4 responses to “Transparency Wins More Ground

  1. MJ

    This will present a new challenge for TRSD! The regular minutes have been reduced to bare bones already, based on the premise that we have vimeo to document….but that will not be true for non-public!

    • The public minutes have improved considerably in detail in the last few months.
      Oddly enough, there is nothing in the law preventing the regular minutes from more resembling the non-public minutes and only public pressure will prevent that.

  2. If one of the attendees publishes their own minutes, the SAU will feel compelled to produce their own story. During nonpublic, no one is allowed to publish an account, so no accurate record exists. Even if a participant were to produce accurate minutes, the school board would simply seal the minutes for 99 years. That’s what they do.

    • Yes, the change in the law should have come with stipulations as to when, why and for how long minutes can be sealed. One thing at a time…

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