BRENTWOOD — A judge has ordered Northwood Police Chief Glen Drolet to include his name and title on a woman’s pistol/revolver license to carry after she sued over his refusal to sign it.
Attorneys for Drolet and Northwood resident Cheryl Dean squared off at a hearing Tuesday in Rockingham County Superior Court that sought to clarify confusion over whether the authority who issues the licenses is required to sign them.
Judge Marguerite Wageling said that while the licensing form provided by New Hampshire State Police has a spot for an “authorized signature” from the person issuing it, state law doesn’t actually require a signature.
Wageling said the form is inconsistent with the law, but she ruled that at the very least Drolet’s name as police chief must appear on the license since he has authority to issue it.
She also ordered the town of Northwood to pay Dean’s legal fees; Dean filed suit against Drolet and the town in May.
“While the court does not find Chief Drolet acted in bad faith, the court does find his actions were violative and that Chief Drolet knew or should have known that his actions were violative of the law. The court finds the complaint was required to obtain Chief Drolet’s compliance,” she wrote in her order.
Drolet issued an unsigned license to Dean in February that said “Issued by Northwood Police Department.” On the line that asked for an “authorized signature,” Drolet included only the statute number RSA 159:6 — the law related to licenses for carrying pistols and revolvers. The line below it for the title of the person signing the license was left blank.
Dean’s Concord lawyer, Evan Nappen, said it was “unheard of” for the gun license to have no signature by the person authorizing it.
“We shouldn’t have to go through all of this to have a license signed,” he said.
Nappen argued that the unsigned license could create serious legal problems for Dean if she tried to carry a gun in 28 other states that have agreed to honor valid New Hampshire licenses.
He said Drolet had signed Dean’s license when she got one in 2015.
Nappen argued that the signature is required because the law authorizes the director of state police to create the licensing forms and the forms used in New Hampshire include a section for “authorized signature.”
Northwood police prosecutor Michael DiCroce insisted that Drolet did nothing wrong and referred to RSA 159:6, which states that the license must have the licensee’s name, address, description, and signature. It doesn’t state that the authority issuing the license must sign it.
After the state made it legal to carry a concealed loaded pistol or revolver without a license in 2017, DiCroce said Drolet was told by the Attorney General’s office that he wasn’t required to sign the licenses, but that if he chose to continue signing them, he must make sure that he was consistent and that all were signed.
DiCroce maintained that if another agency questioned the validity or authenticity of the license, all they would need to do is contact the Northwood Police Department to verify information.
“The signature really doesn’t mean anything outside of New Hampshire. Even in New Hampshire some departments aren’t going to recognize Chief Drolet’s signature,” he said.
Nappen said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“We are extremely happy with the judge’s decision. This decision memorializes the fact that the attorney general has stated that chiefs are not required to sign the license. This removes a step in the issuance of a license that makes it easier to get a license,” he said.
The Union Leader contacted the Attorney General’s office about the signature issue Tuesday; the AG’s office is looking into the matter further.