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February 11. 2013 8:07PM

Nashua alderman wants Pennichuck meetings recorded

NASHUA - In an effort to promote transparency, a city official said Pennichuck Corp. should be recording meetings held by its board of directors and also transcribing the meetings verbatim.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly has filed a proposed resolution that - if approved by the board of aldermen - would require a special meeting to amend the Pennichuck Corp. bylaws to require meetings be audio recorded and minutes posted verbatim on the company's website.

Aldermanic members of the Pennichuck Water Special Committee met two weeks ago with several Pennichuck officials to discuss a variety issues, which is when Pressly first raised concerns about the meeting minutes.

Pressly said the board of aldermen records all its meetings and creates a verbatim transcription, and that Pennichuck Corp. should do the same.

"That is a wonderful tool," she said of having the transcription easily available to review in the future if the need arises.

Abbreviated minutes of meetings can often be the interpretation of the person transcribing them, said Pressly, claiming the shortened documents can lack the full scope of a discussion. At the time, Pressly asked Pennichuck officials if it would be a hardship to have the board of directors post verbatim minutes.

"Our first goal is to be open and transparent," said Thomas Leonard of the Pennichuck board of directors.

Leonard said the company, which was acquired by the city at the beginning of 2012, follows a typical corporate business structure that does not keep verbatim minutes of its meetings. He said it is difficult to keep the minutes accurate when they are written word-for-word, adding they can also be incredibly lengthy.

Leonard reassured city officials that the company is careful when writing minutes of meetings and that it has a process to make drafts of the documents available to the public - whenever feasible - even before they are approved by the board.

"So far, we haven't run into any concerns with the minutes," Leonard said.

John Patenaude, Pennichuck CEO, echoed those comments. Saying the company follows right-to-know rules, he emphasized that all board meetings are held in public for residents to attend.

"We are not hiding that information," said Patenaude, adding most of the company's information is available on its website or through the Public Utilities Commission.

Pressly told Pennichuck officials she was hopeful they would reconsider their practice and begin audio recordings of board meetings.

Her proposed resolution will be read by the board of aldermen on Tuesday. It will then be assigned to an aldermanic committee for further analysis and a recommendation before aldermen vote on the request to hold a special meeting to amend the bylaws.

khoughton@newstote.com

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