Changes effective 13 Sep 1977 by session law 1977, 540. Prior version was effective 26 Aug 1967 by session law 1967, 251.

91-A:1 Preamble.

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.

91-A:1-a Definition of Public Proceedings.

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:

I. The general court including executive sessions of committees;

II. The governor's council;

III. Any board or commission of any state agency or authority;

IV. Any board, commission, agency, or authority, of any county, town, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision, or any committee, subcommittee or subordinate body thereof, or advisory committee thereto.

91-A:2 Meetings Open to the Public.

I. For the purpose of this section, a "meeting" shall mean the convening of a quorum of the membership of a public body, as provided in section 91-A:1-a, to discuss or act upon a matter or matters over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

II. All public proceedings shall be open to the public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meetings of those bodies or agencies. Except for town meetings, school district meetings and elections, no vote while in open session may be taken by secret ballot. Any person shall be permitted to use recording devices, including but not limited to, tape recorders, cameras and videotape equipment, at such meetings. Minutes of all such meetings, including names of members, persons appearing before the bodies or agencies, and a brief description of the subject matter discussed and final decisions shall be promptly recorded and open to public inspection within [seventy-two]72 hours of the public meeting, except as provided by RSA 91-A:5[6 of this chapter], and shall be treated as permanent records of any body or agency, or any subordinate body thereof, without exception. Except in an emergency or when there is a meeting of a legislative committee, a notice of the time and place of each such meeting, including an executive session, shall be posted in [two]2 appropriate public places or shall be printed in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town at least [twenty-four]24 hours, excluding Sundays and legal holidays, prior to such meetings. An emergency shall mean a situation where immediate undelayed action is deemed to be imperative by the chairman or presiding officer of the body or agency who shall employ whatever means are available to inform the public that a meeting is to be held. T[and t]he minutes of the meeting shall clearly spell out the need for the emergency meeting. When a meeting of a legislative committee is held, publication made pursuant to the rules of the house of representatives shall be sufficient notice. If the charter of any city or guide[ ]lines [set down by the appointing authority]or rules of order of any body or agency described in RSA 91-A:1-a requires a broader public access to official meetings and records than herein described, such charter provisions or guide[ ]lines or rules of order shall take precedence over the requirements of this chapter.

91-A:3 Executive Sessions.

I. [Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to prevent these b]Bodies or agencies [from holding]may meet in executive session for [ conducting]deliberations[, but, subject to the provisions of paragraph II,] only after a majority vote of members present, which shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. A[a]ll sessions at which information, evidence or testimony in any form is received, except as provided in paragraph II, shall be open to the public. [Moved to paragraph III: Decisions made during any executive session as provided in paragraph II must be made available to the public at the termination of the session unless divulgence of the information would be likely to affect adversely the reputation of any person or impair the effectiveness of the action.] No ordinances, orders, rules, resolutions, regulations, contracts, appointments or other official actions shall be finally approved in executive session except as provided in paragraph II. The record of all actions shall be available for public inspection promptly, except as provided [for ]in paragraph II.

II. Exceptions. A body, or agency, may exclude the public, citing for the record the appropriate subparagraph hereof, when it is considering or acting upon the following matters:

(a) The dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigating of any charges against him, unless the employee affected requests an open meeting.

(b) The hiring of any person as a public employee.

(c) Matters which, if discussed in public, [would be]likely would [to ]affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the body or agency itself, unless such person requests an open meeting.

(d) Consideration of the acquisition, sale, or lease of [land]property which, if discussed in public, [would be]likely would [to ]benefit a party or parties whose interests are adverse to those of the general community.

(e) Matters [being ]discussed by a legislative committee sitting in executive session, which should not be made public as determined by a [three-fifths]3/5 roll-call and recorded vote of the members present and voting at such meeting.

III. Minutes of Executive Sessions. Minutes of proceedings in executive session shall be kept, at least to the extent of recording any decisions made therein. [Moved from paragraph I: ]Decisions [made during any]reached in executive session[ as provided in paragraph II] must be [made available to the public at the termination of the session]publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting, unless, in the opinion of 2/3 of the members present, divulgence of the information [would be]likely would [to ]affect adversely the reputation of any person other than a member of the body or agency itself or [impair the effectiveness of the]render the proposed action ineffective. In event of such circumstances, information may be withheld until, in the opinion of a majority of members, the aforesaid circumstances no longer apply.

91-A:7 Violation.

Any person aggrieved by a violation of this chapter may petition the superior court for injunctive relief. The courts shall give proceedings under this chapter priority on the court calendar. Such a petitioner may appear with or without counsel. The petition shall be deemed sufficient if it states facts constituting a violation of this chapter, and may be filed by the petitioner or his counsel with the clerk of court or any justice thereof. Thereupon the clerk of court or any justice shall order service by copy of the petition on the person or persons charged. When any justice shall find that time probably is of the essence, he may order notice by any reasonable means, and he shall have authority to issue an order ex parte when he shall reasonably deem such an order necessary to insure compliance with the provisions of this chapter.

91-A:8 Remedies.

If a[A]ny body or agency [which]or employee or member thereof, in violation of the provisions of this chapter, refuses to provide a public document or refuses access to a public proceeding, to a person who reasonably requests the same, such body, agency or person may[shall] be liable for reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred in making the information available or the proceeding open to the public[ provided that court renders final judgment in favor of such request], at the discretion of the court. In addition to any other relief awarded pursuant to this chapter, the court may issue an order to enjoin future violations of this chapter.