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TMCNet:  Judge to decide on Marlborough right-to-know suit

[February 27, 2013]

Judge to decide on Marlborough right-to-know suit

MARLBOROUGH, Feb 27, 2013 (The Keene Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A judge will decide if Marlborough selectmen are in contempt of the state's Right-to-Know law, after he found the board violated the law last year.

In recent hearings, including one Friday, longtime Marlborough resident Loretta J. Simonds asked Cheshire County Superior Court Judge Philip P. Mangones to find the town officials in contempt of his January 2012 ruling.

Last year, Mangones wrote in his ruling that selectmen gathered without treating such events as official meetings, held meetings without any notice or without timely notice to the public, discussed town business outside of meetings through email, kept inaccurate minutes and denied residents access to meeting minutes. He ordered selectmen not to violate the Right-to-Know law again.

But Simonds, who brought forth the initial violation complaint, said the problems did not stop after that ruling. During a hearing in December, she presented evidence she believes shows selectmen's "casual attitude" toward the Right-to-Know law and puts them in violation of the law again.

That included video recordings of meetings where officials were were silent while signing papers, records of what Simonds says are misleading minutes, items in the minutes in which there was no discussion included, modified minutes, and the release of sealed minutes.

In Friday's hearing, the town's attorney, Matthew R. Serge of Concord, questioned selectmen as part of their defense. He asked Selectman John H. Northcott about the silence among board members as they pass folders around and sign papers inside them. Northcott said there's nothing that requires them to explain what they're doing during meetings and that the signed documents are available to the public for review after the meetings.

The board's administrative assistant, Sandra LaPlante, defended against Simonds' claims about the modified and sealed minutes. LaPlante, who keeps all of the board's minutes on her computer dating back to the early 2000s, said that every time she opens a document to view it, it changes the modification date on the document. And as for the sealed minutes being released to Simonds, LaPlante said that was an accident, when she put years of meeting minutes on Simonds' flash drive.

Mangones gave the town 10 days to respond to the Simonds' new evidence and said he would take everything presented at Friday's hearing and the previous hearing into consideration before he makes a ruling.

Danielle Rivard can be reached at drivard@keenesentinel.com or 352-1234 ext. 1435. Follow her on Twitter @DRivardKS.

___ (c)2013 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) Visit The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) at www.sentinelsource.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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