Union Leader v. Town of Chester, Doc. No. 218-2006-E-046 (Rockingham Super. Ct., February 21, 2006) (Morrill, J.)

Pages: 1 2




Union Leader Corporation


Town of Chester

Docket no. 06-E-046


The Town of Chester apparently spent approximately $6,000 for private investigators, who conducted interviews with nearly 30 town officials. The Union Leader alleges that the investigation involved the paid administrative leave and subsequent resignation of Victoria MacLaughlin, former administrative assistant to the board of selectmen. Apparently MacLaughlin entered into a settlement agreement with the town. The Union Leader claims that the town spent in the vicinity of $50,000 on costs relating to this matter. A Union Leader reporter filed a right-to-know request for "the full and unredacted results/findings/reports from the private investigator's investigation during the month of November [2005]."

The town has rejected this request, asserting that this material constitutes "[r]ecords pertaining to internal personnel practices," and alternatively, it's "disclosure would constitute [an] invasion of privacy." RSA 91-A:5, IV.

The Union Leader counters that it is willing to accept copies of the records with those portions of which "do not inform the public about the [town's] activities, or that a valid privacy interest, on balance, outweighs the public interest in disclosure" redacted. Union Leader Corp. v. N.H. Housing Fin. Auth., 142 N.H. 540, 555 (1997).

Defense counsel brought the sought-after file to court. A quick perusal suggests that certain portions of the file are clearly not exempt from disclosure. Accordingly, defendant has ten days to file a complete copy of the documents it has withheld from the plaintiff with the court under seal, highlighting with yellow, line-by-line, redactions it claims are exempt from disclosure. Unless self-evident the justification for the redaction shall be annotated in the margin. An identical copy with the highlighted portions redacted and containing identical annotations [2] shall be contemporaneously transmitted to petitioner's counsel. The plaintiff has twenty days from receipt of the records to file a request for further review of defendant's redactions.

Dated: February 21, 2006    /s/   

Robert Morrill

Presiding Justice