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Author Topic: It's the Law, but not the Rule  (Read 2700 times)
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GDouglas
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« on: June 01, 2006, 10:24:06 PM »

Recently I have had the opportunity to deal with the Londonderry Recreation Commission. I had requested information regarding the sanctioning policy of sports teams. since I received limited information I requested copies of the minutes for the last few months and was surprised to find there are none.

According to New Hampshire Law Boards, Committees, etc must keep a record of Meetings. See http://www.townunderground.com/forum/index.php?topic=56.0

On May 17th I sent an email requesting copies of the meeting minutes from 1/1/2001 thru 4/30/2006 to the Rec Commission, and copied the Town Council Chairman and Town Manager. The email was followed by a hard copy mailed on 5/19/2006. A copy of the letter is below stating the request and applicable state law.

May 19, 2006
Londonderry Recreation Commission
268 B Mammoth Road
Londonderry, NH 03053
Attention: Art Psaledas

SUBJECT: RSA 91-A REQUEST OF MEETING MINUTES

The preamble of New Hampshire RSA Title VI Chapter 91-A states:
91-A:1 Preamble.
 “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.”
The RSA requires that records and minutes to be kept by specific town groups:

91-A:1-a Definition of Public Proceedings.
(d) Any board, commission, agency or authority, of any county, town, municipal corporation, school district, school administrative unit, charter school, or other political subdivision, or any committee, subcommittee or subordinate body thereof, or advisory committee thereto.

91-A:4 Minutes and Records Available for Public Inspection.
IV. Each public body or agency shall, upon request for any public record reasonably described, make available for inspection and copying any such public record within its files when such records are immediately available for such release. If a public body or agency is unable to make a public record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied. If a photocopying machine or other device maintained for use by a body or agency is used by the body or agency to copy the public record or document requested, the person requesting the copy may be charged the actual cost of providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the body or agency. Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of public records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged.

I accordance with the provisions of RSA 91-A I am requesting copies of the minutes of the Londonderry Recreation Commission for the time period of January 1, 2001 through April 30, 2006. If these records are not available I am requesting a written explanation.

Regards,
Glenn Douglas
Londonderry, NH 03053
cc:   Brian Farmer: Town Council
   David Carron: Town Manager


To date I have not received anything from the Town Council or Town Manager. I followed my request with additional emails which will be posted here.

The only response that I received that vaguely resembled and explanation was on 5/18/2006 via email "If there are not minutes for a particular month, either we did not have a quorum or the notes were not taken"

The request was for a five year period. Since I have not received anything from the Town or Rec Commission I must assume that there have been no records kept.

I am still waiting for a valid explanation.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2006, 11:56:11 PM by GDouglas » Logged

Glenn Douglas
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« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2006, 10:28:08 PM »

5/18/2006 From the Rec Commission:

Glenn -
   I believe the RSA requires minutes to be avaialbale to the public for inspecting and coping at the normal place of business.  The records will be available for inspection at Town Hall  - I believe Margo would be the person to contact. 
    If there are not minutes for a particular month, either we did not have a quorum or the notes were not taken
 
-----Original Message-----
From: Glenn Douglas
To: Art Psaledas
Cc: Brian Farmer; Dave Caron
Sent: Wed, 17 May 2006 20:24:48 -0400
Subject: RSA 91-A, Request of Meeting Minutes


May 17, 2006
Londonderry Recreation Commission
268 B Mammoth Road
Londonderry, NH 03053
Attention: Art Psaledas
 
Subject: RSA 91-A Request of Meeting Minutes
The preamble of New Hampshire RSA Title VI Chapter 91-A states:
91-A:1 Preamble.
 “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.”
The RSA requires that minutes be kept by specific town groups:
91-A:1-a Definition of Public Proceedings.
(d) Any board, commission, agency or authority, of any county, town, municipal corporation, school district, school administrative unit, charter school, or other political subdivision, or any committee, subcommittee or subordinate body thereof, or advisory committee thereto.
91-A:4 Minutes and Records Available for Public Inspection.
IV. Each public body or agency shall, upon request for any public record reasonably described, make available for inspection and copying any such public record within its files when such records are immediately available for such release. If a public body or agency is unable to make a public record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied. If a photocopying machine or other device maintained for use by a body or agency is used by the body or agency to copy the public record or document requested, the person requesting the copy may be charged the actual cost of providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the body or agency. Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of public records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged.
I accordance with the provisions of RSA 91-A I am requesting copies of the minutes of the Londonderry Recreation Commission for the time period of January 1, 2001 through April 30, 2006. If these records are not available I am requesting a written explanation.  This request will be followed by a written request delivered via postal mail.
 
Regards,
Glenn Douglas
Londonderry, NH 03053
cc:            Brian Farmer: Town Council
                David Carron: Town Manager
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Glenn Douglas
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« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2006, 10:29:48 PM »

5/19/2006 From the Rec Commission:

Glenn
    I am sorry that you have had a difficult time getting any information. Any minutes that the Recreation Commission took are sent to to the Administrative Assistant (Margo)
    I do believe that there is a file for each Commission's minutes. I do not keep them on file myself - so the only access I would have is from the files at Town Hall. 
    Did you recieve the packet I mailed to you last week? If you have not, please let me know. Gdouglas: Note I did receive several months of agenda's in the mail
 
-----Original Message-----
From: Glenn Douglas
To: atp12@aol.com
Cc: Bfarmer@londonderrynh.com; dcaron@londonderrynh.org
Sent: Fri, 19 May 2006 12:14:51 -0400
Subject: Re: RSA 91-A, Request of Meeting Minutes


Art,
I mailed a hard copy of the request this morning.
Let me clarify my request.
I called Margo at the Town office as you have previously suggested. The call was placed on 5/9. Margo looked up the records and her response was there is nothing on file for all of 2005. I thanked her for her help. Later that evening I sent an email to Margo asking if there was anything on record prior to 2005. As of today there has been no response to the email. I have since then requested in writing copies of the minutes.
I have spent the last 3 months trying to get information from various town and district offices and in numerous instances requests for basic information have been delayed, or I was supplied incorrect information, or received no reponse. I've been direct from the Town to see the District and from the District to see the Town. I do not understand why this process is taking as long as it has. I find it disapointing that there is little response from both the Town and District on this issue.
Regards,
Glenn Douglas
« Last Edit: June 01, 2006, 11:52:55 PM by GDouglas » Logged

Glenn Douglas
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2006, 10:38:00 PM »

5/9/2006 From Glenn Douglas to Rec Commission

I was looking for the minutes prior to last nights meeting. I called and spoke to Margo and there are no minutes on file for all of 2005.

----- Original Message -----
From: atp12@aol.com
To: Glenn Douglas
Subject: Re: RSA 91-A Request
Date: Tue, 09 May 2006 06:26:11 -0400



> Glenn
> As you know last night we did not have a quorum so
> there are no minutes -- Did you pick up the agenda when
> you came in last night. I do not have the minutes --
> Margo may have the minutes. I will put together the
> agenda for you art
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Glenn Douglas
> To: Art Psaledas
> Sent: Tue, 9 May 2006 06:10:08 -0400
> Subject: RSA 91-A Request
>
>
> Art,
>
> Under the provisions of RSA 91-A I am requesting
> hard-copies of the following Recreation Commission
> Records:
>
> All Meeting Minutes and Agendas from Nov 2005 through
> April 2006.
>
>
> Thank-you for your time,
>
> Regards,
> Glenn Douglas
> Londonderry, NH
« Last Edit: June 01, 2006, 10:42:04 PM by GDouglas » Logged

Glenn Douglas
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2006, 07:42:59 PM »

Last Monday I presented my concerns at the Town Council Meeting during the Public Comment section.

In summary I stated that an email and written request had been made and the only response received was the emails listed above. The council asked several questions and stated that due to my request and other recent events had become aware that Recreation Commission had been operating somewhat "informally". The discussion lasted approximately 15 minutes.

Some notes on the discussion:

- Brian farmer noted that the Council would be reviewing the Liaison position and drafting guidelines for all boards and that was slated to be discussed later in tonight's meeting

- Tom Dolan noted that he is the current Rec Commission Liaison and has seen minutes being recorded. Marty Bove and Brian farmer stated that at the last School Board meeting the Rec Director states there were no records on file. I also read the section of RSA 91A that requires minutes to be kept at the town office. Minutes that cannot be located are not acceptable

- Tom Dolan noted that in the past the Commission has had a problem with having enough members for a quorum and therefore were not required to record minutes. Marty Bove asked if there have been no quorums how do they get anything done.

There were several other questions asked which I was unable to record at the time. I will be posting additional information later. Overall I was pleased that the Council is aware of the issue and seems to be proactively addressing the issue.
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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2006, 07:21:33 PM »

All town boards may post minutes online
By Rebecca Correa
Staff Writer
Eagle Tribune 6/9/2006

LONDONDERRY — Town councilors said they may begin posting minutes from all municipal meetings online after they discovered one local commission has avoided taking minutes for the past five years.

At a Monday night Town Council meeting, resident Glenn Douglas said the Recreation Commission has not taken minutes since 2001. He said he discovered that when he requested the group's minutes from the past couple of months but was told by the secretary that they didn't have any.

The recreation group establishes guidelines for all sporting activities in town and gives permission for new sporting groups to form.

Art Psaledas, director of the Recreation Commission, said the group occasionally takes minutes, but never on a regular basis.

He said part of the reason is that the group has had trouble getting a quorum in the past and has frequently canceled meetings because there weren't enough members present, let alone someone to take notes.

"We were fairly informal about our meetings and just got lax about it," he said. "It was never brought up to us before, and it has never been an issue."

Psaledas said the group will begin taking minutes at its next meeting on Monday and will store them in Town Hall.

But Council Chairman Brian Farmer said the failure to take minutes is a big problem, and he has asked all the councilors, in their role as liaisons, to make sure minutes are taken at every public meeting.

"I think if we observe our liaison roles we'll get this cleaned up in no time," Farmer said.

Farmer said as far as he knew, none of the other 25 organizations in town have failed to keep minutes.

He also suggested, with support from Councilor Tom Dolan, that every organization in town begin to post their meeting minutes on the town's Web site. The site currently offers minutes from Town Council, Planning Board and Conservation Commission meetings.

Douglas said he has requested minutes from other organizations in town, and as far as he knows every other group keeps accurate minutes.

"I don't think I'm asking for anything that's not already required," he said. "This is the information age. (Minutes) are public record, and it would be much easier to click on and get the information because it's extremely intimidating for many people to walk into Town Hall and request them."

Town Manager David Caron said he would research the time and cost it would take to update the Web site to include minutes for every organization and would give councilors an update by the next meeting.

The Online edition of the Eagle Tribune can be read at www.eagletribune.com
« Last Edit: June 09, 2006, 07:40:43 PM by GDouglas » Logged

Glenn Douglas
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2006, 12:35:24 PM »

I wanted to offer a correction to the Eagle Tribune article referenced in this thread. The article mentions that the “only” other committees that post their minutes on-line are the Town Council, Planning Board & Conservation Commission.

Please note that the Budget Committee has had an “up to date” set of minutes available on the town web site for over a year now.  Those can be found at the following link: 

http://www.londonderrynh.org/londonderry_020.htm

The Budget Committee takes great care in taking minutes at every public meeting.  We also post them for download as soon as they are officially approved by the committee.  Draft copies are also available if requested.

I have requested that a correction be published in the next edition of the Eagle Tribune.

Regards – Mike Brown
Londonderry Budget Committee
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« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2006, 10:29:40 PM »

Thanks for the correction / update.
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2006, 10:32:24 PM »

Town Council May Reform Recreation Program
Stephen Beale
Londonderry Times
6/8/2006
————––––—–––—————–

A newly formed cheerleading group has accused the school district of hindering them from using its recreational facilities and equipment, prompting the town council to call for an investigation into the current regulations.

Known as the Londonderry Blue Lions, the group has finally received the access to school facilities it wants, but leaders are urging town and school officials to reform the process so that other newcomers do not have to undergo the same ordeal.

“It seems that the first answer is always ‘no,’” said Paul Domingue, president of the organization. “We have been through hoops and hoops and hoops in our search for policy.”

Domingue said that he met the first sign of resistance when the district told him it would need the tax identification number for his group before it could host a Toys for Tots Dance. In previous years, Domingue said that he never encountered any problems when planning dances under the auspices of a different organization.

The Blue Lions also sought use of practice mats and space in one of the school facilities. Domingue was told by school officials that access was restricted to groups that had been sanctioned by the town recreation commission. That was news to Domingue, who had never heard of the sanctioning process.

Domingue said that recreation director Arthur Psaledas, who also is an assistant principal at the high school, told him that the school board had frozen sanctioning because of limitations on time and space. He said that Psaledas told him to appeal his case to the school board.

In March, Domingue came to a school board meeting to ask for help. Board members referred him back to the recreation commission, which unanimously approved the Blue Lions as a sanctioned group at an April meeting.

Since then, things have started to fall into place for the Blue Lions. The district has said that it will allow them to sponsor two dances at the Matthew Thornton and South elementary schools. They have also been granted practice space at North School and have reserved a date at the middle school for a competition.

But Domingue wanted the policy reformed to make it easier for other groups to participate in the recreation program. Last week, Domingue brought his case to the school board members, asking them to schedule a joint meeting with the town council to address the issue.

Superintendent Nathan Greenberg defended the current policy at the meeting of the board. He said sanctioning was necessary because there was such a high demand for use of facilities. The town and schools, he said, had to have a process for limiting access.

“I don’t want people to descend on our facilities from private groups,” Greenberg said. “I’m not really interested in giving the facility to Mr. Smith’s kung fu dance.”

As of the board meeting last week, the Blue Lions were still pressing the district for permission to use its mats for the competition. One day later, Greenberg told the Londonderry Times that he had confirmed the mats would be available.

Greenberg suggested that outcome proved the process really worked. New groups simply had to meet with the recreation commission to be sanctioned. “It’s that simple,” Greenberg said. “I don’t think there’s need for a change.”

But it appears that the issue is not going to die anytime soon. Last week, town council chairman Brian Farmer told the Londonderry Times that he believed there was some validity to the claims of Domingue and others in the group.

“I believe the Blue Lions on occasion were deliberately misled,” Farmer said. “I think certain people deliberately threw monkey wrenches at them. It is easy to do when the process is vague.”

Farmer said the process needs reform and that communication about that process should be improved. Because the town has a small recreation department, Farmer said that it relies upon a vast network of private volunteers and organizations. That saves money, he said, but it can make the process confusing.

He said that the council will review the sanctioning process and the list of groups that have been approved in the past. The fact that sanctioning currently is a one-time process is one aspect he definitely wants changed. “Once they’re sanctioned, they’re never looked at again,” Farmer said. “That’s a problem.”

Farmer said he would put the issue on the agenda for the joint meeting among the town council, school board, and budget committee in August. But Farmer said he was not sure the council would wait until August.

“I think there’s some sentiment for acting faster on that,” he said.

www.londonderrytimes.com
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2006, 10:49:08 PM »

As of today, 6/12/2006, These are the minutes published on the town website

Budget Committee 3/29/2006
http://www.londonderrynh.org/londonderry_020.htm
Community members interested in viewing Budget Committee activities are invited to attend our regularly scheduled meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm at the Londonderry Town Offices.

Conservation Commision 5/9/2006
http://www.londonderrynh.org/londonderry_040.htm
The Conservation Commission meets bi-weekly, the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, at 7:30 PM in the Sunnycrest Conference Room of the Town Offices, 268B Mammoth Road, Londonderry

Planning Board 4/12/2006
http://www.londonderrynh.org/planning_013.htm
The Londonderry Planning Board meets the first two Wednesdays of the month at 7:00 in the Moose Hill Council Chambers, 268B Mammoth Road.

Town Council 5/1/2006
http://www.londonderrynh.org/londonderry_034.htm

There is a delay in getting some minutes published to the website. In most cases the latest minutes should be available at the Town Offices.

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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2006, 06:30:07 PM »

Council Continues Cleanup of Committees

June 29, 2006

Author: Stephen Beale
Londonderry Times
————––––—–––—————–

The town council last week took several steps in its effort to clean up the rules and regulations governing the myriad of town boards, committees, and other groups that advise the council and influence town policy.

The council held its first vote on an ordinance spelling out the role of its liaisons to boards and committees. Unless otherwise stipulated in state law, town charter, or the municipal code, liaisons will not be voting members of other groups, according to the document.

But they still have an important role to play. Their responsibilities include serving as an open channel between the council and a particular committee, advising the committee of town policy and state law, and representing the interests of the taxpayer. “We’re making it a little bit more formalized,” said council chairman Brian Farmer.

Council liaisons have come under scrutiny this year, following the conflict between the library board of trustees and their council liaison Tom Dolan over a proposal to serve coffee in Leach Library.

Despite the rift, Farmer praised the council liaisons for the increased effort they have been putting into their assignments this term. “If anything, I have seen a stronger commitment on the part of the council liaisons,” he said.

The council also revised the mission statement for the elderly affairs committee. The new version calls upon the committee to not only review issues affecting seniors, but also to make recommendations to the council and advocate for additional programs and services that would help them.

The varying responsibilities of town committees are also being revisited, following a debate over the scope of the budget committee, which advises the town and schools on their annual spending. The town charter has only a 10-word section explaining the purpose and function of the committee.

Another committee that is receiving more attention these days is the recreation commission, which is charged with sanctioning athletic groups in town. The use of town recreational facilities and fields is restricted to sanctioned groups.

Last week, the council appointed Ben Parker to an open spot on the commission, which has had difficulty garnering quorums for its meetings. The vote, which was affirmative, prompted Farmer to raise questions about the appointment process.

Farmer noted that Parker is also an official of the Londonderry Athletic Field Association, one of the nonprofit groups sanctioned by the commission. Whether or not there is a conflict of interest, the situation is not unique, Farmer said, noting that the commission was full of members in the same circumstance.

When considering appointments to land use committees, such as the planning or zoning boards, Farmer said the council went out of its way to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. Farmer added that he was not concerned about Parker himself.

But other councilors said that they did not have the luxury of a pool of volunteers from which to choose. Dolan noted that at one commission meeting no one showed up, other than recreation director Art Psaledas. “It wasn’t a question of no quorum, it was a question of no attendees,” Dolan said.

At another recent meeting, Dolan, who is the liaison to the commission, said they had to wait 40 minutes for members to show up for a quorum. For half of the scheduled meetings last year, the commission reportedly did not have enough members present to actually meet.

“If you start discouraging volunteers from continuing to volunteer, then we lose the essence of our volunteer core,” said councilor Mark Oswald.

Dolan suggested one possible solution. He said the council could reform the sanctioning process so that the council has the final say on the determinations. Following the meeting, Farmer told the Londonderry Times that the sanctioning process would be on the agenda for its July 17 meeting.

Farmer also said that the council might consider some sort of sanctioning of non-athletic groups with which it also works, such as Londonderry Trailways and the local police and fire benevolent associations.

Sanctioning them, Farmer said, would ensure they are in good standing financially and legally. That would put the town in a better position in the future when it sponsors grants for such organizations. Farmer said the council would consult with the various groups for their input.

Also on the agenda for the next meeting will be a public hearing on the ordinance regarding liaisons. Last week, Oswald said he hoped the reforms would bring greater transparency to town boards and committees. “The citizenry needs to better understand the process,” he said.

www.londonderrytimes.com
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Glenn Douglas
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2006, 10:24:51 PM »

"At another recent meeting, Dolan, who is the liaison to the commission, said they had to wait 40 minutes for members to show up for a quorum. For half of the scheduled meetings last year, the commission reportedly did not have enough members present to actually meet. "

The meeting that Mr Dolan was speaking of was the last Recreation Commission meeting in June. A group appeared before the commission to ask permission to fly model air planes at the Auburn Road supper fund site. It took 40 minutes for members to arrive for a quorum! This is the second time the group appeared before the commission. The last time there was no quorum.

If the members of the Recreation Commission cannot make a meeting 50 percent of the time maybe they should step down??
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« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2006, 08:58:11 PM »

Update:

The Recreation Commission was posting minutes to the town website. Unfortunately the effort seems somewhat short lived. The minutes have not been updated for since June. It's now October 3.

July - Regular Meeting
August  - Regular Meeting
September - Regular Meeting
September -  Special Meeting on the 23rd

http://www.londonderrynh.org/londonderry_048.htm

In fairness to the Rec Commission Septembers minutes would not be approved until October. July and August are past due.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2006, 09:01:52 PM by GDouglas » Logged

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