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Judge refuses to intervene in Nashua Historical Society dispute


NASHUA — A judge has dismissed a petition from the former president of the Nashua Historical Society and some of its members, saying the court is prohibited from intervening in the organization's dispute.

Terry Romano, who was elected to serve a two-year term as president of the nonprofit group in May 2012, was ousted by the society's board of directors a year later following several disputes.

Romano, along with select members of the Nashua Historical Society, then filed a motion at Hillsborough County Superior Court seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief directing the society to reinstate her as head of the group.

Although Judge Diane Nicolosi previously denied the preliminary injunction, she asked both parties to further elaborate on whether the court should continue to intervene in the dispute.

This week, a court order was issued by Nicolosi dismissing Romano's petition.

"In New Hampshire, in order for the court to intervene in such a dispute, a member must allege injustice or illegal action and damage," says Nicolosi's order. "As discussed in its earlier order, there are inadequate offenses and damages pled to justify court intervention in the operation of the (Nashua Historical Society's) internal affairs."

Attorney Kevin Devine, legal representative for the society and its new acting president, Cecil Renzi, said it is now time for the organization to move forward and continue with its mission to preserve historical artifacts for the city.

"They are quite pleased with the decision of leaving the matter alone," said Devine, who referred to the litigation as unfortunate. "We regret it was ever brought forward."

Devine said nonprofit organizations need to work together for the betterment of their future goals. Any of the petitioners alleging the bylaws are ambiguous will have the opportunity to propose amending them at the society's upcoming annual election in May, Devine said.

The Nashua Historical Society is one of the oldest historical societies in New Hampshire, said Devine, adding the court case has cast a negative light on the group.

Romano said Wednesday that the organization has remained divided, contending she received resistance and was let go after trying to push for more accountability and transparency within the society's operations.

"It was my intent to make the society more than outstanding — the best in the state. That was my hope, my dream," she said. "I am disappointed since I have always had great affection for the Nashua Historical Society. We felt that we had a strong case, and a sincere case."

Romano maintains that longtime members do not welcome change, adding she even had difficulty obtaining general information such as a membership list or a complete number of how many artifacts the society oversees.

With an endowment of $4 million to the society, Romano said that type of information should have been forthcoming.

Attorney Francis Murphy, legal counsel for Romano, said his client was improperly removed from office in the wake of escalating conflicts over how to manage the organization.

"She is mortified — personally mortified," said Murphy, adding other petitioners supporting Romano are disappointed with the judge's decision.

"We gave a basis for the court to act consistently with its authority, and the court chose otherwise," he said. "The court has decided that the rule of law does not apply to nonprofits."

A possible appeal is being contemplated by the petitioners, according to Murphy, who said the underlying questions that led to Romano's termination still have not been fully addressed.

Since the court will not intervene, Murphy said, the society may continue to ignore the bylaws even if they are amended at the upcoming annual election.

khoughton@newstote.com

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