Putting the public’s information in the public’s hands is always a good thing. It is particularly so in a time when government actions are being repeatedly called into question and doubt.
In New Hampshire, the Supreme Court has helped underline the importance of the people’s right to know with several recent decisions. The most recent is because of the efforts of a Keene State College professor, her students, and Atty. Gregory Sullivan, who argued their case. (Sullivan is also counsel for this newspaper.)
The City of Keene spent a lot of time and taxpayer dollars refusing student journalists’ requests for information that is their right to see under the state Right-to-Know law.
Professor Marianne Salcetti’s class sought information on restaurant inspection scores, records of police cases, and sexual assault records in which drugs or alcohol were factors.
The court followed the law’s clear meaning, ruling that public records should be public.
What we especially liked was the court’s observation “that this dispute has consumed an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources — judicial and otherwise.” It suggested that the law is “best served when the members of the public and the governmental bodies are guided by a spirit of collaboration.”
In other words, rather than make it difficult and costly for all parties, perhaps the public servants and the members of the public making a request should work together. What a novel idea.