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Derry councilors petition court to block distribution of emails

Union Leader Correspondent

February 28. 2014 8:00PM

BRENTWOOD — The Town of Derry wants a judge to keep emails written by town councilors after a non-public session out of the hands of former town councilor Kevin Coyle, after he made a right-to-know request asking to review them.

The town filed a petition in Rockingham County Superior Court arguing that a judge should agree with them that Coyle's record request should be denied. The town also submitted the emails exchanged by the councilors under court seal.

The emails in question began on Sep. 12, the day after councilors held a non-public session to discuss personnel and legal matters, according to court records.

"Of the seven-member council, four members of the council actually engaged in the email exchange, and one — the Chairman Michael Fairbanks — only responded to caution the rest that the matter should be discussed in non-public session leaving only three having discussed the substantive matter," town attorney Brenda Keith said in a court filing.

The documents do not identify who was being discussed specifically, but the meeting happened at the same time the council was discussing what to do after then-Town Administrator John Anderson was charged with indecent exposure.

Anderson, 50, faces two misdemeanor counts of the charge in 10th Circuit Court for inviting a DirectTV salesman into his home while in the nude then allegedly performing a sexual act on himself.

Keith acknowledged in her latest court filing that "some members of the body mistakenly continued the discussion in an email correspondence after the meeting," but said that they have since participated in lectures about the right-to-know law by the New Hampshire Municipal Association and the town's attorney.

Coyle responded to the town's initial court filing by saying he believes the emails "were a continuation of a non-public session held on a previous day."

He suggested that the councilors violated the state's Open Meeting Law.

After being denied access to the emails, Coyle sent another letter to the town asking an index of the documents he was being denied.

Coyle, a county commissioner who works as a town prosecutor, is representing himself in the case.

Judge Marguerite Wageling denied the town's request to rule on the matter without a hearing.

She is expected to hear further arguments in the case on Thursday. Wageling also ordered the town to provide Coyle with the index of documents that he was denied.

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