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Right on Right-to-Know: A complicated case in Keene

September 12. 2018 11:01PM

Our sympathies remain with the five Keene State College students who sued the city of Keene for not complying with the state’s Right-to-Know law.

Cheshire County Superior Court Judge David Ruoff largely sided with the city, even as he chastised city officials for their initial “inadequate response” to the students’ suit. He is seeking more evidence on three outstanding claims.

Journalism professor Marianne Salcetti was teaching her class about using Right-to-Know requests in public-affairs reporting. Five students believed the city’s response was inadequate, and went to court.

Ruoff found that many of the students’ requests fell outside of the statute, such as in asking Keene officials to compile statistics on criminal citations and health code violations. But the law requires officials to share documents and data, not to analyze that data for us. One request asked for police personnel files exempt from disclosure.

Sometimes when the little guy takes on City Hall, the law is on City Hall’s side. It is a judge’s duty to interpret the law, not to side with the more sympathetic party.

Salcetti’s next batch of students should have a better idea of how to draft their Right-to-Know requests. Keene officials could be more cooperative in answering them.

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