Woman concerned about comments following Right-to-Know request
CANDIA — A local resident says she is concerned after comments were made about her at a budget committee meeting she did not attend, following her Right-to-Know Law request for emails from two of the members.
Sharon Dewitt said she feels like comments made about her at the March 8 Budget Committee meeting were unjustified, since she was not there to respond.
“I don’t think that should have been done at a public meeting,” she said.
That discussion should have been held in a nonpublic session, she said, based on the Right-to-Know Law, which has a section that states that “matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting.”
Dewitt filed a Right-to-Know request for emails between Selectman Susan Young and Budget Committee member Dana Buckley. Though Dewitt said she asked for electronic files of the correspondence, she was given hard copies, for which she was charged a copying fee.
Initially, Dewitt was charged $691, though the selectmen did vote to refund her $363 after Dewitt and Selectman Mark Laliberte went through all 1,382 copies.
“In reviewing the documents for Ms. DeWitt, I tried to place common sense on what a person should have to pay for based upon past town meeting decisions as well as state law and information readily available online,” Laliberte wrote in a letter that was read at a Board of Selectmen meeting. “As such, I decided any documents that didn’t fit into what I called ’unique and unavailable,’ I put into separate piles.”
These, he said, included documents that could be found online, such as agendas, minutes and a teachers’ contract.
The request was discussed at the March 8 meeting of the Budget Committee. In the recording on the town’s website, Young talked about the request, saying that she felt she and Buckley were “targeted” and questioned if DeWitt’s request was politically motivated.
Young apologized to DeWitt multiple times at the Board of Selectmen’s Monday night meeting.
“I publicly apologize if you thought all these comments were about you, but they weren’t,” Young said.
Though Young did speak directly about Dewitt during that meeting, she also talked about the political history of Candia as well as an alleged illegal phone call.
Young further addressed DeWitt’s concern that her reputation was negatively affected, adding, “I feel strongly that people have reputation that they earn. If I don’t let it worry me, I wouldn’t let it worry you.”
During a discussion at their Monday meeting, selectmen said the situation was an important reminder that their role is not to express personal opinions during meetings.
“Next thing you know, you’re going to have reporters here and it’s just not where we want to go,” said Selectman Scott Komisarek.
No action was taken during that meeting after the discussion.
“We’re going to move on from this now. I thank everyone for your time,” said Carleton Robie, the board chairman. “I hope you got some answers.”