CONCORD — A judge has dismissed a right-to-know lawsuit seeking details about “covert communications equipment” used by the Concord Police Department.

Judge John C. Kissinger found that the city was within the law when it declined to disclose information about the equipment on the basis that such a disclosure could jeopardize police investigations and the safety of officers, according to last month’s ruling.

The Concord Monitor and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire filed a lawsuit against the city in Merrimack County Superior Court after receiving limited responses to public information requests seeking information about a $5,100 budget item described only as “covert communications equipment.”

Responses from the city included a copy of a contract, from which the vendor’s name and the equipment were redacted.

Kissinger agreed to a closed-door review of the contract with attorneys for the city and Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood on Nov. 19.

After nearly a month of consideration, Kissinger ruled that the material was exempt from disclosure.

“The Court finds the City specifically and persuasively laid out that revealing the name of the vendor, the nature of the equipment, how information gathered by the vendor is used, or any portion of the redacted agreement could interfere with law enforcement investigations and put lives at risk,” Kissinger wrote in his ruling issued Dec. 20.

Henry Klementowicz, staff attorney for the ACLU-NH, said the organization maintains that the information should be available to the public under the state’s right-to-know law.

The “decision is a loss for public transparency of how the government spends taxpayer dollars,” Klementowicz said in a statement. “We are deeply disappointed by this decision and believe that there are legal errors in it. Chapter 91-A is a disclosure statute designed to foster government transparency and accountability, not to withhold such information. These documents should be public.”

ACLU-NH was reviewing its legal options, which included a possible appeal.

Kissinger mentioned the possibility of appeal in the final line of his eight-page ruling, noting records of the proceedings — including the private hearing in November — will be available for appellate review.

Friday, May 29, 2020
Thursday, May 28, 2020