By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A Superior Court justice has flatly denied claims by Tom Tardif that the Belknap County Convention violated the Right to Know law as well as statutes prescribing the scheduling and noticing of its meetings. At the same time, Justice Amy Ignatius of Carroll County Superior Court ordered a subsequent hearing on the county's request that Tardif pay its attorney's fees.
Three meetings of the county convention were posted for the 4th, 6th and 8th of April, 2016. But, when the convention convened on April 4 and 6, both meetings were recessed and continued for lack of a quorum. When the convention met on April 8, a quorum was present and action was taken on three items.
Tardif claimed that since the meetings on April 4 and 6 were not held, the convention could not have recessed them and was required to post new notices of the meetings on April 6 and 8. Since the convention failed to properly post the meeting on April 8, Tardif alleged, the actions it took were invalid. He asked the court to enjoin the convention from recessing and continuing meetings at which there is no quorum and to invalidate the actions taken when the convention met on April 8.
In rejecting Tardif's allegations, Ignatius noted that the notice of the meeting on April 4 included notice of the two subsequent meetings. Consequently, the public was informed of the date, time and venue of all three meetings. Nor, she continued, did the convention act improperly in recessing the two meetings that lacked a quorum, for there is nothing in law that prohibits it from doing so.
"The notice," Ignatius wrote, "strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of the public to have transparency and access to the workings of government and the needs of the public body to perform in a timely and efficient way. To read the statutes to require new notice for the second and third scheduled meetings of the convention, notice which had been previously given, "she continued, "would result in delay without any greater transparency to the public or access to documents."
Noting that Tardif attended the meeting on April 8 when the convention took action, Ignatius found "there was no attempt to conduct business outside the presence of the petitioner or the public at large or to conduct business at a place or time that the public could not easily locate." She ruled there was no reason to invalidate the actions taken at the meeting.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Tardif brought suit against the Belknap County Commission and Convention charging they violated a number of state statutes, including the Right to Know law, in the course of ratifying and funding the collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the State Employees Association on behalf of employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home. Although filed in Belknap County Superior Court, this litigation will also likely be heard in Carroll County Superior Court, which has ruled on the other suits Tardif has recently brought against the county and city of Laconia.
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