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The Keene State Five: Grappling with Right-to-Know

December 15. 2017 12:10AM

Five Keene State College students are learning some frustrating lessons about New Hampshire’s outdated Right-to-Know law.

Professor Marianne Salcetti is not a lawyer, but she is representing five students in her public affairs reporting class who are suing the city of Keene for failing to fulfill their Right-to-Know requests. She calls them the "Keene State Five."

Under New Hampshire law, government records must be made available for public inspection. But the law was written before records were stored in computer databases.

City officials argue that records related to complaints of excessive police force are exempt on privacy grounds. The city claims some of the record requests would have required city employees to compile data into reports, which is not required under the law.

Part of the problem may be that Keene does not keep its records in a way that anticipates public inspection. This would violate state Supreme Court guidance. Inconvenience is not a proper exemption under the statute.

We’re pleased to see the next generation of engaged citizens pushing government for greater transparency. Their effort should prompt the Legislature to update New Hampshire’s open records law for the digital age.

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