CHAPTER 83 (HB 123)
AN ACT AMENDING THE RIGHT TO KNOW LAW.
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court
83:1 New Chapter Heading. Amend RSA 91-A by striking out the title of said
chapter and inserting in place thereof the following:
ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS AND MEETINGS
83:2 Trustees of the University System Included. Amend RSA 91-A:1-a, III
(supp) as inserted by 1977, 540:2 by striking out said paragraph and inserting in
place thereof the following:
III. Any board or commission of any state agency or authority, including the
board of trustees of the university system of New Hampshire;
83:3 Chance Meetings; Negotiations, Consultation. Amend RSA 91-A:2 (supp)
as inserted by 1967, 251:1 as amended by striking out said section and inserting in
place thereof the following:
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 RSA 91-A:1-a, to
discuss or act upon a matter or matters over which the public body has supervi-
sion, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. "Meeting" shall not include:
(a) Any chance meeting or a social meeting neither planned nor intended for
the purpose of discussing matters relating to official business and at which no
decisions are made; however, no such chance or social meeting shall be used to
circumvent the spirit of this chapter;
(b) Strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining; or
(c) Consultation with legal counsel.
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 144 hours of the public meeting, except as
provided in RSA 91-A:6, and shall be treated as permanent records of any body or
agency, or any subordinate body thereof, without exception. Except in an emer-
gency 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 2
appropriate places or shall be printed in a newspaper of general circulation in the
city or town at least 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. The 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 or the
senate, whichever rules are appropriate, shall be sufficient notice. If the charter
of any city or guidelines 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 guidelines or rules of order shall take
precedence over the requirements of this chapter.
83:4 Matters Discussed in Executive Session. Amend RSA 91-A:3, II (supp) as
inserted by 1967, 251:1 as amended by striking out said paragraph and inserting
in place thereof the following:
II. A body or agency may exclude the public only if a recorded roll call vote is
taken to go into executive session. The matters discussed during the executive
session shall be confined to the matters stated in the motion. A motion to go into
executive session stating which exemption under this paragraph is claimed shall
be made only when the body or agency is considering or acting upon the following
(a) The dismissal, promotion or compensation of any public employee or the
disciplining of such employee, or the investigation 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, likely would 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 property which, if dis-
cussed in public, would likely benefit a party or parties whose interests are ad-
verse to those of the general community.
(e) Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has
been threatened in writing or filed against the body or agency or any subdivision
thereof, or against any member thereof because of his membership in such body
or agency, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise
(f) Consideration of applications by the adult parole board under RSA 651-A.
83:5 Photostatic Copies; Access to Computer-Stored Records. Amend RSA
91-A:4 by inserting after paragraph II the following new paragraphs:
III. Each body of agency shall keep and maintain all public records in its
custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place and, if there
is no such office or place of business, the public records pertaining to such body or
agency shall be kept in an office of the political subdivision in which such body or
agency is located or, in the case of a state agency, in an office designated by the
secretary of state.
IV. Each public body or agency shall, upon request for any public record
reasonably described, make available for inspection and copying any such public
record within its files when such records are immediately available for such re-
lease. If a public body or agency is unable to make a public record available for
immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request,
make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish
written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time
reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or de-
nied. If a photocopying machine or other device maintained for use by a body or
agency is used by the body or agency to copy the public record or document
requested, the person requesting the copy may be charge the actual cost of
providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the body or agency. Nothing in
this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by
law for obtaining copies of public records or documents, but if such fee is estab-
lished for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged.
V. In the same manner as set forth in RSA 91-A:4, IV, any body or agency
which maintains its records in a computer storage system may, in lieu of provid-
ing original documents, provide a printout of any record reasonably described and
which the agency has the capacity to produce in a manner that does not reveal
information which is confidential under this chapter or any other law. Access to
work papers, personnel data and other confidential information under RSA 91-
A:5, IV shall not be provided.
83:6 Additional Exemption. Amend RSA 91-A:5, IV as inserted by 1967, 251:1
by striking out said paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following:
IV. Records pertaining to internal personnel practices; confidential, commer-
cial, or financial information, test questions, scoring keys, and other examination
data used to administer a licensing examination, examination for employment, or
academic examinations; and personnel, medical, welfare, and other files whose
disclosure would constitute invasion of privacy. Without otherwise compromising
the confidentiality of the files, nothing in this paragraph shall prohibit a body or
agency from releasing information relative to health or safety from investigative
files on a limited basis to persons whose health or safety may be affected.
83:7 Invalidation. Amend RSA 91-A:8 (supp) as inserted by 1973, 113:1 as
amended by striking out said section and inserting in place thereof the following:
I. If any body or agency or employee or member thereof, in violation of the
provisions of this chapter, refuses to provide a public record or refuses access to a
public proceeding to a person who reasonably requests the same, such body,
agency, or person shall be liable for reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred
in a lawsuit under this chapter provided that the court finds that such lawsuit was
necessary in order to make the information available or the proceeding open to
the public. Fees shall not be awarded unless the court finds that the body, agency
or person knew or should have known that the conduct engaged in was a violation
of this chapter or where the parties, b agreement, provide that no such fees shall
be paid. In any case where fees are awarded under this chapter, upon a finding
that an officer, employee, or other official of a public body or agency acted in
bad faith in refusing to allow access to a public proceeding or to provide a public
record, the court may award such fees personally against such officer, employee,
or other official.
II. The court may invalidate an action of a public body or agency taken at a
meeting held in violation of the provisions of this chapter, if the circumstance
justify the invalidation.
III. In addition to any other relief awarded pursuant to this chapter, the court
may issue an order to enjoin future violations of this chapter.
83:8 Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 1987.
[Approved May 19, 1986.]
[Effective Date January 1, 1987.]