Montenegro v. City of Dover, Doc. No. 219-2010-CV-55 (Strafford Super. Ct., May 24, 2010) (Brown, J.)




David Montenegro


City of Dover

Docket No. 10-CV-0055


The petitioner, David Montenegro, filed this petition seeking information regarding the City of Dover's surveillance equipment pursuant to RSA 91-A (Supp. 2009), otherwise known as the "Right-to-Know Law". The City of Dover ("the City") objects to portions of Mr. Montenegro's request. A hearing was held on this matter on March 26, 2010. After a review of the facts, the parties' arguments, and the applicable law, the court finds and rules as follows.

Mr. Montenegro requested information regarding the City's surveillance cameras under RSA 91-A. The City refused to disclose portions of the information Mr. Montenegro requested, arguing that that information is subject to exceptions to the Right-to-Know Law, a contention Mr. Montenegro now challenges. Specifically, Mr. Montenegro sought to have the City disclose the precise locations of its surveillance equipment, the type of recording each piece of equipment is capable of making, the specific time periods each device is expected to be operational, the job titles of the operators, and the retention time for any recordings. The City objects to disclosure of this information, arguing that its disclosure would allow circumvention of law enforcement techniques, and would be detrimental to public safety. The City has disclosed that there is surveillance equipment at the Liberty North End Fire Station, the Dover Police Station, the McConnell Center, the Dover Transportation Center, Dover City Hall, the Dover Schools, and the School Administrative Unit (S.A.U.) Offices. Initially, Mr. Montenegro has conceded that an exception to the Right-to-Know Law applies to the Emergency Operations Center at the Liberty North End Fire Station and he therefore withdrew his request at the hearing with regard to that location.

Part 1, Article 8 of the New Hampshire Constitution provides that "the public's right of access to govemmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted." "This right is embodied within the Right-to-Know Law, which was enacted to ensure the greatest [2] possible public access to the actions, discussions, and records of all public bodies. Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire v. Local Government Center, Inc., 159 N.H. 699, 703 (2010) (slip. op. at 3). Therefore, when a public body seeks to avoid disclosure of material under the Right-to-Know Law, it bears a heavy burden to shift the balance toward nondisclosure. Murray v. New Hampshire Div. of State Police, Special Investigation Unit, 154 N.H. 579, 581 (2006). In Murray, the Court used a six-prong test it had previously adopted for determining whether records or information for law enforcement purposes are exempt from the Right-to-Know Law. Under that test, an agency may exempt from disclosure:

records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings . . . (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.

Id. at 582. The court finds that the information requested here fits squarely within exemptions (A), (E), and (F) as laid out in Murray. A disclosure of the precise location, operation, timing, and retention times for the City's surveillance equipment would compromise the capability of that equipment to aid in the prevention and prosecution of crimes. Additionally, such a disclosure would endanger the life and physical safety of the public by permitting potentially violent criminals to anticipate and avoid surveillance equipment. The court therefore finds that the City has sustained its burden to exempt this information from disclosure. As to Mr. Montenegro's request for the job titles of any person who monitors the surveillance equipment, the court finds that that information is exempt from the Right-to-Know Law pursuant to RSA 91-A:5 IV (Supp. 2009) (exempting from disclosure records pertaining to internal personnel practices).

Accordingly, Mr. Montenegro's petition is DENIED.

So Ordered.

5/24/10    /s/   

DateKenneth C. Brown

Presiding Justice