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January 24. 2013 10:39PM

Judge says Pennichuck not subject to state's right-to-know law

NASHUA - Workers at Pennichuck Corp. were denied a permanent injunction by a judge to bar the publication of their names and salaries, but the public still won't get to see the information.

That's because Judge Jacalyn Colburn decided that Pennichuck Corp., sold to the city of Nashua in February, is not considered a public body as defined under the state's right-to-know law.

The decision, entered this week in Hillsborough County Superior Court, may bring an end to the lawsuit filed by United Steelworkers, ALF-CIO, which represents a majority of Pennichuck Corp. workers.

The union filed a lawsuit against Pennichuck Corp., Pennichuck Water Works and the Nashua Telegraph in the wake of a request by the newspaper seeking the workers' salary information.

They made that request right after Pennichuck's sale to the City of Nashua earlier this year.

Colburn said in her 17-page decision that she would not grant a permanent injunction for the union barring the publication of the information because they failed to demonstrate what "irreparable harm" would come from releasing the information.

She also denied Union Steelworkers request for awarding attorney's fees and cost of the litigation, based on her finding that Pennichuck was not a public body.

Lawyers for the Telegraph filed a cross claim in the lawsuit, arguing that they were entitled to a list of Pennichuck employee names, their positions and annual salaries, as well as the names of all individuals and entities that were shareholders of Pennichuck stock prior to the city of Nashua's acquisition of the company.

The newspaper also sought the amount of shares each person or entity held and how much money each received in the transaction, according to the judge's order.

They cited Pennichuck's bylaws, which said they were subject to the state's right-to-know law because of the city's acquisition of the corporation.

Colburn concluded that the city mistakenly believed that its purchase of Pennichuck made the corporation subject to the right-to-know law.

jkimble@newstote.com



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