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Saluting Donna Green: Right to Know in the digital age

November 16. 2016 11:34PM

New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law was written at a time when public records were pieces of paper, stored in filing cabinets.

It has not kept pace with the digital age, when public records are more likely to be ones and zeroes, stored in a database or on an email server.

Donna Green helped drag the Timberlane School Board, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

Green was Sandown’s representative on the four-town board, and asked the staff at SAU 55 to email her public documents containing salary information. Administrators refused, saying she could inspect the records in person, and pay for photocopies.

Green sued, all the way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in April that the public can request records in electronic form.

It’s scandalous that SAU staff would try to stonewall a member of the public, much less a sitting school board member, seeking to review public records. Ensuring that requests under the Right-to-Know law can be fulfilled electronically increases transparency by saving time and money.

In its decision, the court encouraged the Legislature to clarify the Right-to-Know law. Governor-elect Chris Sununu and incoming lawmakers should put this issue on their agenda.

The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications will recognize Green for her tenacious efforts tonight at the 14th Annual First Amendment Awards.

We also salute Green, on behalf of all advocates of open government.

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