Tag: Freedom of Information

When Governments Sue Citizens to Suppress Transparency

 

“These lawsuits are an absurd practice and noxious to open government.” That’s how the Associated Press quotes University of Kansas journalism professor Jonathan Peters, speaking about a troubling trend in recent years of government bodies suing citizens who seek disclosure of public documents through open-records laws.

I know all about these types of absurd lawsuits. Last year the Tuftonboro, NH Board of Selectmen (at the time: Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen) sued me and another Tuftonboro resident, Bob McWhirter, when we requested to inspect government records. They spent around $20,000 (and counting) in a vain attempt to charge us 25 cents per page to inspect the records, even though New Hampshire’s Right to Know law states that “no fee shall be charged for the inspection or delivery, without copying, of governmental records, whether in paper, electronic, or other form.” The selectmen’s attorney, Richard Sager of Ossipee, argued in court that the law doesn’t make sense because, if read literally, it meant that the selectmen couldn’t charge us a fee. And they wanted to charge us a fee.

They lost their lawsuit when Carroll County Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius ruled that they couldn’t charge us a fee. But as the AP quotes Mike Deshotels in its article, “You can lose even when you win.” Deshotels was sued by the Louisiana Department of Education when he requested school enrollment data. The DOE lost in court, like the Tuftonboro selectmen, but Deshotels incurred legal costs, like Bob and me, defending himself from an attack on his right to know what his government was doing.

Member Post

 

The selectmen in my town sued me back in December in an attempt to avoid their responsibilities under New Hampshire’s Right to Know law, which requires them to provide governmental records for me to inspect at no charge. They tried to charge me $6.50 to inspect 25 pages of emails. When I refused, they took […]

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Member Post

 

I’m being sued by the board of selectmen of my town because I made a document request through New Hampshire’s Right to Know law (similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act). The selectmen don’t want to comply with the law, which requires them to allow me to inspect government records, so they’re suing me. (I […]

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Sunday morning, December 11, I was awakened to the sound of someone pounding on my front door. I stumbled out of bed and into the entry hall to discover a sheriff’s deputy outside. “The town of Tuftonboro wants you in court for some reason,” he explained. In an effort to squelch the public’s right to […]

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