King v. Town of Epping, Doc. No. 218-2005-E-398 (Rockingham Super. Ct., October 26, 2005) (Morrill, J.)

Pages: 1


The State of New Hampshire

Rockingham County Superior Court

Michael D. King


Town of Epping, et al.


This right-to-know petition requested Epping to produce minutes of Fire Wards meetings held during the period March through June, 2001. Apparently a former town employee, who had moved away, possessed them, and Epping has recently provided the plaintiff copies. Oddly, the plaintiff attended those meetings, received minutes, and according to him threw them out.

A town ordinarily has five business days within which to produce meeting minutes. RSA 91-A:4, IV. That time may be extended slightly for justifiable reasons. Brent v. Paquette, 132 N.H. 415, (1989) (two day extension where responsible official was too busy to respond immediately; six day extension where responsible official was on vacation). Here, however, the petitioner waited over six months. Granted the circumstances are unusual. Initially the defendants believed the minutes had been lost. Only the spur of this action caused them to make a final effort that resulted in the minutes' discovery. Accordingly, I find that Epping violated the Right-to-Know law.

Petitioner is clearly entitled to his court costs. He also seeks reimbursement for the time this search has taken him despite not being an attorney. The remedies portion of the Right-to-Know Law permits me to award only attorney's fees and costs. Since the petitioner is a lay person, he is entitled only to court costs, not his personal costs, and is not entitled to an award of attorney's fees. Emerson v. Town of Strafford, 139 N.H. 629 (1995).

October 26, 2005    /s/   

Robert E.K. Morrill

Presiding Justice