WINDHAM — A new court date has been set to determine whether two recently passed conflict of interest ordinances will take effect.
The case will be heard Oct. 11 at 10 a.m. in Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood, according to Town Administrator David Sullivan. A temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinances remains in effect until the decision.
The Board of Selectmen asked the court to review the validity of the ordinances shortly after they were passed at Town Meeting in March. The original hearing, scheduled for Aug. 29, was postponed while Judge Kenneth McHugh considered a motion to dismiss filed by Marc Sneider. Sneider was the lead petitioner to put the ordinances on the ballot and filed the motion to dismiss on the grounds that selectmen do not have the standing to request the hearing for declaratory judgment.
After reviewing the motion to dismiss, the court decided to move forward with the hearing.
Selectmen requested the judgment after Town Counsel Bernard Campbell raised concerns that the language in the ordinances went beyond what the town has the authority to enforce. The main issue is the breadth of people considered “covered persons” under the ordinance and the restrictions on their communications and ability to appear before town boards or apply for permits from the town. Under the ordinances, covered persons include town officials, town employees and any person or businesses that have performed or are performing services with or on behalf of the town.
After the ordinances passed, many questioned what, if any, effect they would have on residents doing volunteer work for the town.
The restrictions on a covered person remain in place for two years following completion of his or her service under the ordinances.
Sneider argued that state law specifically permits municipalities to adopt ethics ordinances that are stricter than state law, but not ordinances less strict than state requirements. The voters wanted stricter regulations when they approved the ordinances on the ballot, he said at the time.