Vranorsey v. N.H. Public Utilities Commission, Doc. No. 217-2013-CV-576 (Merrimack Super. Ct., December 2, 2013) (McNamara, J.)

Pages: 1 2


The State of New Hampshire


Robert J. Vranorsey


N.H. Public Utilities Commission

NO. 2013-CV-00576


Petitioner Robert Vranorsey, proceeding pro se, has brought an action against the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission ("PUC") alleging a violation of the Right to Know Law, RSA 91-A, in connection with a settlement agreement entered into by the PUC, Public Service Company of New Hampshire, the Office of the Consumer Advocate, and the Home Builders and Remodeler's Association of New Hampshire in 2009. While Petitioner originally raised several claims, at the hearing on November 12, 2013 he waived all claims except whether the requirements set forth in RSA 91-A:2 and 3 applied to a meeting at a March 25, 2009 meeting at which PUC staff, but not the PUC Commissioners participated. The Court believes that, based on the plain language of the statute, these provisions do not apply to a meeting of PUC staff without the presence of the Commissioners.

A "Public Agency" is defined by statute as any agency, authority, department or office of the State, and the State agrees that the PUC is a public agency. RSA 91-A:1-a, V. On the other hand, a "Public Body" is defined in relevant part as "any board or commission of any state agency or authority." RSA 91-A:1-a, VI(c). By its terms, it does not include staff members of a commission.

[2] RSA 91-A:2, I defines a meeting as the "convening of a quorum of the membership of a public body. RSA 91-A:2, I. Further, even if a quorum is present or participate remotely, the gathering does not constitute a meeting unless the purpose of the meeting is to discuss upon a matter or matters over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. Id.

Thus, the Right to Know Law is not applicable to the March 25, 2009 meeting of the PUC staff which was closed to the public, and in which no Commissioners participated. This conclusion is logical; if Petitioner's interpretation of the statute were accepted, the Right to Know Law would pertain to any meeting involving agency staff. Statutes cannot be interpreted in a way which would lead to an absurd result. Appeal of Lake Sunapee Protective Association, 165 N.H. 119, 72 A.3d 213, 219 (2013).

It follows that the Petition must be DENIED.


   12/2/13       /s/   

DATE Richard B. McNamara,

Presiding Justice