NASHUA — The former president of the Nashua Historical Society and about a dozen of its members are appealing a superior court’s ruling that dismissed their petition, that sought to reinstate Terry Romano as head of the organization.
Despite the appeal, which is now pending in the New Hampshire Supreme Court, representatives from both sides of this ongoing legal battle have agreed to proceed with mediation.
“There is an agreement to explore a possible settlement,” Attorney Francis Murphy, legal counsel for Romano, said on Wednesday. “The Supreme Court mediation program invited us to participate, and we will see if some resolution can take place short of (presenting the case to) the five justices.”
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 in April 2013 following several disputes.
Previously, Hillsborough County Superior Court-North Judge Diane Nicolosi denied a preliminary injunctive relief, directing the society to reinstate Romano. And, earlier this year, Nicolosi dismissed a petition seeking permanent injunctive relief on the same matter, maintaining the court is prohibited from intervening in the organization’s dispute.
Murphy is requesting that the state’s highest court review the legal rulings made by Nicolosi, which were based in part on a rule stating the court won’t intervene or second guess management decisions made by volunteer associations.
“We maintain that for a non-for-profit corporation with an endowment, like the Nashua Historical Society, (that) rule does not apply,” said Murphy.
In addition, Murphy questioned Nicolosi’s ruling to deny preliminary injunction because Romano suffered no irreparable harm.
“We think it is irreparable harm because the society — in the time that Romano was not serving as president — lost the benefits of its chosen leader,” he added.
Still, both sides have agreed to proceed with mediation, and if a settlement is reached, the appeal will be dropped, explained Murphy.
Attorney Kevin Devine, legal representative for the society and its former interim president, Cecil Renzi, said Wednesday that he is supportive of the arbitration process. “If there is a way to resolve this without incurring further aggravation and expense, it is always worth attempting mediation,” said Devine. “The Supreme Court has referred us to mediation, and it will go in that direction. I hope it is successful.”
By May 29, both sides have been asked to file the necessary paperwork to proceed with mediation, and a judicial mediator is expected to be assigned within two weeks, with a mediation schedule created in the next 30 days.
“It is a very unfortunate case. To a great extent, in my view, this case is completely moot,” said Devine, explaining Romano did not run for reelection during this week’s annual society meeting, and her two-year term as president has since expired.
Furthermore, a new president for the society was elected into office Tuesday night. Joanne Ouellette will now take over as the group’s leader, followed by first vice-president Dennis Parker and second vice-president Joe Comer.
In response to the pending appeal, Devine contends that the trial court’s ruling was appropriate, and he believes the Supreme Court will make the same decision given the opportunity.
Meanwhile, Murphy said that Romano and the petitioners still want an explanation as to why Romano was terminated, which still has not been fully answered or addressed.