McKeever v. City of Laconia, Doc. No. 211-1991-E-098 (Belknap Super. Ct., May 14, 1991) (Barry, J.)

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Daniel E. McKeever


City of Laconia, Thomas A. Tardiff, Mayor, Bernice Paradise,
Rene Clairmont, Richard D. Sargent, and Helene Gouin


The defendant, the City of Laconia, moves this Court to order that the plaintiff, Daniel McKeever be prohibited from inquiring into the reasons for or wisdom of the City Council members' decisions with respect to the resolution to terminate McKeever from his position as City Manager, and the thought processes employed by each councilor in arriving at such a decision. Defendants Thomas Tardiff and Helen Gouin join in the City's motion. Upon a hearing held May 13, 1991, the defendant's motion is denied.

By way of brief background, McKeever has filed a petition for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and attorney's fees, alleging essentially that the action of the Laconia City Council in executive session on 26 March, 1991, at 2:00 a.m., in which a resolution to terminate plaintiff was passed by a 5-4 vote, was accomplished as a result of prejudgment and in violation of his rights under the New Hampshire Right to Know Law (RSA 91-A).

While inquiry into the mental processes of administrative decisionmakers is generally excluded from the traditional discovery techniques available to parties, Society for Protection of N.H. Forests v. Water Supply and Pollution [2] Control Comm'n, 115 N.H. 192, 195 (1975) (citing Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 420 (1971)), an inquiry into an explanation of the councilors' actions is not strictly prohibited. Overton Park, 401 U.S. at 420. In this case, plaintiff has the difficult burden of showing bad faith, for which inquiring into the thought processes involved in decisionmaking is the only way to show bad faith or improper conduct. Additionally, such testimony will demonstrate the council members' ability, or lack thereof, to provide the plaintiff with due process of law; such inquiry goes directly to the issue of disqualification. Lastly, the minutes of the meeting provide the Court with little upon which to review the councilors' actions, and thus, testimony regarding such actions will assist the Court.

For the above reasons, the defendant's motion in limine to prohibit inquiry into the reasons for, wisdom of, and thought processes behind the City Councilors' decision with respect to the resolution is DENIED.

So Ordered.

   14 May 1991       /s/   

DatedJames J. Barry, Jr.

Presiding Justice