Judge rules Tuftonboro selectmen violated Right-to-Know lawBy DAN SEUFERT
Union Leader Correspondent
December 13. 2015 11:08PM
TUFTONBORO — In what the town Planning Board chairman called “a win for the little guy,” a Carroll County judge has ruled the selectmen twice violated the state’s Right-to-Know law in the past year.
Presiding Judge Charles Temple said Friday in a 26-page ruling that a lawsuit brought against the selectmen last summer by Planning Board Chairman Chris Sawyer was “necessary to ensure compliance with the (Right-to-Know) law,” as the selectmen claimed they had not broken the law.
The judge ruled the selectmen did not give adequate notice for a public meeting April 17, and that the board improperly discussed town business — a reorganization of the town’s Transfer Station — in a non-public session June 1.
Temple ruled, however, that the board did not violate the law in 13 other instances as Sawyer claimed, and that in the two instances in which the selectmen broke the law, they didn’t do so on purpose.
The judge awarded Sawyer, who was not represented by a lawyer during court hearings in September on her suit, the cost of her legal fees.
Temple denied the selectmen their request for legal fees because they broke the law, he said.
Sawyer said Temple agreed with her “on the two most severe violations” and said she was pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“(Temple) ruled that the selectmen were conducting public business in a non-public session,” on June 1, she said.
“Upon further analysis of the order, we are confident that if I (we) were represented by counsel several more of the violations we asserted would have been granted.”
The town’s attorney, Richard Sager of Ossipee, said the judge’s ruling did not cite any egregious errors made by the board, and “the selectmen specifically appreciate the judge determining the that selectmen did not purposefully engage in any attempt to violate the Right-to-Know law.”
“Ms. Sawyer is attempting to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. She lost on 13 of her 15 complaints,” Sager said.
“The real loser in this case is not the selectmen — who won on 13 of the 15 complaints. The real loser is the Tuftonboro taxpayers, who had to pay thousands in legal fees to defend the town and its elected selectmen on one person’s quest to paint the selectmen as near underworld characters who were alleged to be seeking to conduct business in the shadows.”