Changes effective 1 Jan 1987 by session law 1986, 83. Prior version was effective 26 Aug 1967 by session law 1967, 251.

Chapter 91-A


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, including the board of trustees of the university system of New Hampshire;

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]RSA 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. "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 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 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.

91-A:3 Executive Sessions.

I. Bodies or agencies may meet in executive session for deliberations only after a majority vote of members present, which shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. All sessions at which information, evidence or testimony in any form is received, except as provided in paragraph II, shall be open to the public. 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 in paragraph II.

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 matters:

(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 discussed in public, would likely [would ]benefit a party or parties whose interests are adverse 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 settled.

(f) Consideration of applications by the adult parole board under RSA 651-A.

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. Decisions reached in executive session must be publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting, unless, in the opinion of 2/3 of the members present, 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. 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:4 Minutes and Records Available for Public Inspection.

I. Every citizen during the regular or business hours of all such bodies or agencies, and on the regular business premises of such bodies or agencies, has the right to inspect all public records, including minutes of meetings of the bodies or agencies, and to make memoranda, abstracts, photographic or photostatic copies of the records or minutes so inspected, except as otherwise prohibited by statute or RSA 91-A:5.

II. After the completion of a meeting of such bodies or agencies, every citizen, during regular or business hours of all such bodies or agencies, and on the regular business premises of such bodies or agencies, has the right to inspect all notes, materials, tapes or other sources used for compiling the minutes of such meetings, and to make memoranda, abstract, photographic or photostatic copies, or tape record such notes, materials, tapes or sources inspected, except as otherwise prohibited by statute or RSA 91-A:5.

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 release. 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 denied. 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 established 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 providing 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.

91-A:5 Exemptions.

The records of the following bodies are exempted from the provisions of this chapter:

I. Grand and petit juries.

II. Parole and pardon boards.

III. Personal school records of pupils.

IV. Records pertaining to internal personnel practices[,]; confidential, commercial, 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.

91-A:8 Remedies.

I. If any body or agency or employee or member thereof, in violation of the provisions of this chapter, refuses to provide a public [document]record 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 a lawsuit under this chapter provided that the court finds that such lawsuit was necessary in order to mak[ing]e the information available or the proceeding open to the public[, at the discretion of the court]. 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, by 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.