“If you don’t like it, well take us to court,” is the pat answer some public officials give lowly citizens who dare question their authority.
Enter one Ed Comeau who went all the way with the Carroll County Commission.
The under-publicized story is here:
“CONWAY — Carroll County commissioners violated the state right-to-know law on numerous occasions with regard to their meeting minutes and their process for going into nonpublic session, a Carroll County Superior Court Judge ruled based on a lawsuit filed by a state representative. Judge David Garfunkel ordered that some minutes be redacted and released, but he stopped short of imposing civil penalties.
In January of last year, then county watchdog Ed Comeau, who was elected as a Republican state representative from Brookfield the previous November, sued the commission as a whole and Commissioners David Babson and David Sorensen individually because he felt they failed to follow the process for going into nonpublic session and didn’t seal nonpublic minutes properly. Therefore, he wanted the nonpublic minutes to be released.”
The legal infractions of the Carroll County Commission seem slight – but so does slight of hand.
The Commission went into non-public sessions without the proper procedure under the state’s Right to know Law, RSA 91-A.
Superior Court Judge Garfunkel ruled in Comeau’s favor but did not impose the fine associated with 91-A violations.
The interesting thing here is the personal legal fees incurred by two offending County Commissioners. The figures are substantial and the Commissioners want the county to pay for them.
I would not support Carroll County paying the legal fees of an elected official in a 91-A case if the guilty party tried to remedy the situation.
All the two hapless Commissioners had to do was create a legitimate set of minutes where they were missing and correct the ones involved that had problems.
If they would have attempted to do that no court time was necessary and all could be forgiven.
Here are THREE very important parts of this story the press will never print.
1. Some elected officials think they are immune from the law.
2. There are municipal law firms that provide cover for these types of public servants.
3. When citizens go to court they always suffer the potential of a reverse decision where the court will side with the municipality and create new, weaker laws by court decree much as Judge Screwy Lewis made up a new definition in election law called “mobile domicile.”
Congratulations to newly elected Carroll County Commissioner, Rep. Ed Comeau on his triple win!
Thanks to Judge Garfunkel for upholding RSA 91-A.