, Derry, New Hampshire


May 1, 2014

Editorial: Nonpublic nonsense

It was déjà vu all over again with the Derry Town Council last week.

Just days after Chairman Mark Osborne tried to zero fund Taylor Library’s budget — another case of history revisited — the council met in nonpublic session to discuss Town Historian Richard Holmes.

No surprise, they didn’t tell Holmes. He learned about the meeting well after the fact.

This time, Osborne said, he just wanted some basic information about Holmes’ position with the town and his use of office space in the municipal center.

Gee, seems the Town Council chairman ought to know all about the town historian. If he didn’t, he might have asked Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau, a fellow councilor with longer tenure or, hit the obvious button, Holmes himself. He even could have checked the town website, where Holmes’ phone number and office hours are listed.

But Osborne apparently didn’t want to do that. Instead, the council closed the door on Holmes and the rest of the public.

There are a few problems with that, not the least of which is the use of nonpublic session. The section of state statute cited, RSA 91-A:3, II(c), says the council can shut the doors if, “Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person ... unless such person requests an open meeting.”

That would have been tough for Holmes to do, since he wasn’t informed of the meeting.

Enlightenment isn’t a reason for nonpublic session.

Had Holmes known about Osborne’s questions, he undoubtedly would have invited him into his tiny office, a space he shares amicably with Town Clerk Denise Neale when she needs some elbow room. After all, Holmes has office hours just seven hours a week in his unpaid position.

Osborne also could have gone to the library to check out Holmes’ history with the town, but that might not be his go-to place these days, given his recent effort to shutter Taylor Library.

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