The Right To Know Law (RTK) states :Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions,
discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.
So why are Rochester city officials stonewalling requests for such information to both the free press and its citizens?
The recent decision by the Right to Know ombudsman official (RKO) in the case brought forward by the Rochester Voice offered "A host of legal questions, some of potentially constitutional magnitude, underly (sic) the core issue identified in this case." Did he mean freedom of the press violations and trampling of US citizenship? He never explained only offered to punt this ball to the Courts and Legislature.
Further, in his decision he states:" the RKO concludes that (whatever the word "citizen" might ultimately be declared to mean by those with the definitive authority to make such a multi-faceted determination) the term
would likely be viewed as sufficiently expansive to encompass the enterprise undertaken by Mr. Thorp in this case."
That paragraph alone should be enough to send the message to the City to START OBEYING STATE LAW, never mind the question of Civil Rights and Constitutional violations.
Yet, the City continues to stonewall even the basic RTK requests.
I too, have been stonewalled with simple RTK requests from insisting I fill out a RTK form which the law doesn't require and I didn't do, to requiring that I pay to review copies of documents, which I also didn't do
as that too is not required by law. Further,I was only allowed to review documents without cost when a call was made from the city clerks office to the city attorney's office and (mother may I ) permission was given to allow for free inspection of government documents as required by the RTK law.
Further, It is now November 10 and I have only received a small part of my request of October 10 despite the law requiring response to RTK request be done in 5 working days. I have received no written statement
offering when I will receive the rest of my RTK request despite RSA 91-A :4 (3) stating : Provide a written statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied and the reason for the delay.
So, to sum it up In my opinion, the City of Rochester is doing a great disservice to its citizens by repeatedly violating state statute,, ignoring the Constitutions and stonewalling information requests guaranteed by law.
They are impeding the "Greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions, and records of our local Government that we have a RIGHT TO KNOW!
Cliff Newton is a lifetime Rochester resident and a state rep for Strafford 6.