BRENTWOOD — Salem’s deputy police chief, currently on leave pending a criminal investigation, is trying to get a court to reconsider its April 5 ruling that resulted in some names, including his own, no longer being redacted in a critical audit report.
Deputy Chief Robert Morin, an intervenor in the Right-to-Know lawsuit that seeks the release of the full audit report by Kroll Inc., has filed a motion to stay Judge Andy Schulman’s order.
“The order unredacts numerous sections of the audit report that specifically reference Intervenor Morin,” the motion states. “Intervenor Morin has had no opportunity to rebut the false assertions within, and they severely harm his reputation in the community.”
Town Manager Chris Dillon previously said he does not intend to appeal the ruling and he is working with the town’s lawyer to make the ordered changes.
On April 15 Morin’s attorney, Andrea Amodeo-Vickery, filed a motion for reconsideration.
Amodeo-Vickery argues in the motion that Schulman’s piecemeal reversal of redactions in some sections of the audit report contradict his basis for sustaining related redactions because the information pertains to an internal investigation.
The motion states the information the judge is revealing by overruling redactions in parts of pages 7 to 12 in the addendum discussing the department’s culture “could intentionally lead to identification of the participants of the investigation.”
The Union Leader and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire sued the town under the state’s Right-to-Know law, seeking the release of the full report without redactions.
After about two months of review, Schulman ruled that some redactions be sustained, but also found that other redactions were unnecessary and ordered the town to make several changes.
Morin intervened in the lawsuit, along with the Salem Police Union.
On Thursday, Gilles Bissonnette of ACLU-NH objected to Morin’s motion to reconsider.
He said RSA 91-A, the state’s Right-to-Know law, is about increasing transparency and initiating public debate.
“That’s what 91-A is all about,” Bissonnette said Friday.
A government official disagreeing with the contents of the information should not be a basis for redaction, Bissonnette said, because that would give officials license to withhold volumes of information from the public against the spirit of the law.
“In any event, Mr. Morin has had every opportunity to explain to the public why he thinks information in the audit report presents a false picture of him,” the objection states.
Amodeo-Vickery said in an email that her motions are self-explanatory and had nothing to add at this time.
Morin has been on paid administrative leave since January pending the outcome of a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General’s office. Since then, the Attorney General’s office has opened criminal probes into two other high-ranking officers and former Chief Paul Donovan.
In Schulman’s earlier ruling, Morin was revealed to be the administration member Kroll auditors described to have “regularly and vehemently disparaged Kroll’s efforts and the town’s decision — in various online and in-person methods — to conduct an audit.”
In another section, on page 99, Schulman revealed a would-be complainant spoke to Morin and Capt. Joel Dolan about a complaint he had. The individual was pleased with Morin’s and Dolan’s professionalism.
Schulman says in his order that he lifted the redaction on his name in that case because it did not relate to any internal affairs investigation and it did not further privacy interest.
The Union Leader and ACLU-NH are appealing Schulman’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court with a focus on the sustained redactions.
Schulman said in his order that the redactions he sustained are protected by the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1990s, which defined internal affairs investigations as an to the Right-to-Know law.
But barring that decision, he said a balancing test weighing the public’s interest in disclosure against any privacy interests for individual police officers favors disclosure, in his view.
The current Supreme Court justices have criticized the 1990s case, known as Union Leader Corp. v. Fenniman, and a related string of decisions, and Schulman said reasonable judges in other states have made opposite rulings.