By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — Official records of Gilmanton's selectmen's meetings will only exist on paper, no longer as audio recordings.
After attending a regional Right To Know meeting on May 4 in Meredith, five days later selectmen voted unanimously not to continue recording their meetings.
Within the past six months, the actual recorded minutes that have been routinely released by the board, have taped an ugly dispute between former selectmen Don Guarino and Rachel Hatch and, more recently, an instance where selectmen likely thought they were in a nonpublic session but were still being recorded. In that meeting, board members and the town administrator made disparaging and hurtful comments about staff members, leading to one of them to take an extended leave of absence.
Selectmen's Chairman Michael Jean said Thursday the decision was based on the recommendations of town counsel after board members learned that recording meetings is not a requirement of the state Right to Know Law.
"Minutes are not required to include stenographic or verbatim transcripts," reads the 2015 Attorney General's 138-page report on RSA 91:a which dictates the states open meeting laws. This decision was based on a 1968 state Supreme Court ruling.
The decision was made by Selectmen Steve McWhinnie and Marshall Bishop as Jean was unavailable due to an unforeseen medical issue. In his absence, McWhinnie has been acting as chairman.
Nothing in the board's decision can prevent a member of the audience from recording the activities during the public sessions of the board and later disseminating them. However, by law, the official minutes of any board are those that are written and later approved by the board.
At the most recent meeting, according to Brenda Currier, who was on the agenda, there were about three people in the audience recording the meeting.
Gilmanton selectmen meet at 5:30 p.m. on Monday nights. Meetings are generally held in the selectmen's meeting room on the first floor, but with overflow crowds are often relocated to the second floor auditorium.
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