Commission OKs report on ways to strengthen NH Right-to-Know lawBy DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader
November 01. 2017 1:29AM
CONCORD — A commission created by the state Legislature to strengthen New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law approved its final report on Tuesday, and agreed to file legislation to create an ombudsman and Citizens’ Right-to-Know Appeals Commission to resolve Right-to-Know grievances.
The Legislature recently passed and Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law HB 178, creating a commission to study new ways to resolve Right-to-Know law complaints outside of an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit.
Anyone who now files a request under RSA 91:A, the state’s Right-to-Know law, and is denied has little recourse but to go to the courts. The newly appointed commission was designed to come up with an alternative.
“Studying and working to improve the state’s Right-to-Know statue is essential to providing transparency and opportunity for citizens to be part of their government,” said Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, committee chairman. “The final report adopted by the commission today will serve as an outline for changes we hope to make to statute, ensuring that Right-to-Know requests made to municipalities or any elected or government body are addressed in an efficient manner that is compliant with the law.”
In addition to the Ombudsman and Citizens’ Right-to-Know Appeals Commission, the final report recommends Right-to-Know training be established for all public officials and employees who are subject to the law to increase awareness, compliance, and minimize violations.
“Costs and fees should be minimal for all citizens to file and adjudicate their Right-to-Know grievances,” the report states.
The commission researched Right-to-Know procedures in various states and determined that 17 states including New Hampshire rely solely on the courts; 19 rely on the Attorney General’s Office; nine have an ombudsman office and five have an independent compliance board.