Rich Girard, host of Girard at Large in the Morning on NH Family Radio has submitted the following Right to Know request with Manchester Superintendent Tom Brennan.  Girard has tried for weeks to obtain this information, but the information has not been sent.  This summary request outlines the prior requests and their responses, which will be posted if requested.

Girard at Large believes that the people have a right to know which of their elected officials are receiving taxpayer provided health and dental insurance benefits and that any elected official that choses to withhold that information, by whatever means, is unfit for office.  Period.  They work for us and we have a right, if not a duty, to know the compensation they receive.


NOTE:  Ward 3 School Board member Christopher Stewart, after learning of our initial request, did contact Girard at Large to disclose that he does take health insurance benefits from the district.  We congratulate him on his desire to be upfront, transparent and cooperative.


——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RTK follow up, with additions.


Date: Mon, August 13, 2012 4:17 pm

To: “Tom Brennan”

Cc: “Samantha Piatt”


Hi, Tom:


I have several Right to Know Requests.  Candidly, knowing you’ve had your hands full, I’ve held off on following up on the outstanding ones and adding to the pile.   That said, these are important issues and the time has come to address all of them.  Let me know if you have any questions.


First, we are well beyond the 20 days requested to meet this RTK request filed to obtain specific information as to which school board members take the district’s health and or dental plans, which plans they take, and what the premium cost to the district is.  Having reviewed Karen DeFrancis’ last correspondence, I must reiterate that I disagree completely with the assertion that “state and federal (HIPPA) laws” entitle elected officials to a level of privacy that prevents the public from knowing which of them take, at taxpayer expense, district provided health and dental  benefits.  The board members’ rights to privacy begin with their claim history and covered dependents, not with whether or not they participate in a plan and what plan they take.


In 2009, you may recall that I made this same request of the school district while a columnist for the Manchester Express.  Attached, please find the material provided by the district at that time.  As I am unaware of any changes in law that would now deprive the public of this very same information, I respectfully request and expect the prompt delivery of this material, whose transmission is well beyond any reasonable legal time frame anticipated by the Right to Know Law.  Merely saying the law protects privacy, without any specific legal citation or opinion, hardly justifies the failure to comply with this request.


Note well that I have also obtained this information from the city Human Resources Officer Jane Gile on the aldermen.  In discussion with City Solicitor Tom Clark, he advised that not only were the benefits taken by public officials public record, but benefits taken by any publicly compensated employee were also public record, subject to privacy being maintained on the plan’s usage and other covered participants.


Also on this matter, I know that the school board discussed this matter in Non Public Session and I believe that discussion violated the Right to Know Law.  91-A:3 Nonpublic Sessions II (c) states:  “Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the body or agency itself, unless such person requests an open meeting. voted to seal the minutes of the Non-Public Session” are fair game for a NPS.  However, since this specifically involved ONLY board members, it is a topic ineligible for such a session and the minutes of that meeting must be available for public review and inspection.


Further, the board’s vote to seal the minutes was not only improperly taken, it was improperly executed.  The topic being ineligible for NPS notwithstanding, the law states as follows in section 91-A:3 III: “Minutes of proceedings in nonpublic session shall be kept and the record of all actions shall be promptly made available for public inspection, except as provided in this section. Minutes and decisions reached in nonpublic session shall be publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting, unless, by recorded vote of 2/3 of the members present, it is determined that divulgence of the information likely would affect adversely the reputation of any person other than a member of the body or agency itself, or render the proposed action ineffective, or pertain to terrorism, more specifically, to matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of all emergency functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life. This shall include training to carry out such functions. In the event of such circumstances, information may be withheld until, in the opinion of a majority of members, the aforesaid circumstances no longer apply. “


A “recorded vote” requires a roll call, which was not taken.  A voice vote is insufficient as the public has a right to know which of the elected body supported or opposed the sealing of minutes, just like the law requires a roll call to enter into NPS in the first place.  Further, it is CLEAR that the topic of benefits taken by elected officials does not, in any way, meet one of the exceptions allowed for by law.


Therefore, the minutes of this meeting are requested.


Finally, I’ve noticed that special committees of the board, in this case the budget transparency and strategic planning committees, have not have agendas posted.  I have been informed that because they are special committees of the board, they are not required to post agendas; that only standing committees of the board are required to post agendas.  That is incorrect under the law, which states as follows:  91-A:1-a Definition of Public Proceedings.

I. The term “public proceedings”as used in this chapter means the transaction of any functions affecting any or all citizens of the state by any of the following:


(d) Any board, commission, agency or authority, of any county, town, municipal corporation, school district, school administrative unit, charter school, or other political subdivision, or any committee, subcommittee or subordinate body thereof, or advisory committee thereto.


II. For the purposes of this section, “advisory committee”means any committee, council, commission, or other like body whose primary purpose is to consider an issue or issues designated by the appointing authority so as to provide such authority with advice or recommendations concerning the formulation of any public policy or legislation that may be promoted, modified, or opposed by such authority.


Given this clear mandate of the law, I request that any and all committees of the board post agendas per the requirements of 91-A.


Thanks, Tom.  I eagerly await your timely response.