PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES
ACCESS TO GOVERNMENTAL RECORDS AND MEETINGS
[RSA 91-A:7-b repealed by 2022, 250:6, effective July 1, 2025.]
91-A:7-b Complaint Process.
I. Any party aggrieved by a violation of this chapter shall have the option to either petition the superior court or file a signed, written complaint, along with a $25 fee, with the office of the ombudsman, established under RSA 91-A:7-a. The ombudsman shall have the discretion to waive the $25 fee upon a finding of inability to pay. Any signed, written complaint filed with the ombudsman shall attach, if applicable, the request served on the public agency or official and the written response of the public agency or official. The complaint shall be deemed sufficient if it states facts constituting a violation of this chapter.
II. Once a complaint has been filed and provided by the ombudsman to the public body or public agency, the public body or public agency shall have 20 calendar days to submit an acknowledgment of the complaint and an answer to the complaint, which shall include applicable law and, if applicable, a justification for any refusal to or delay in producing the requested governmental records, access to meetings open to the public, or otherwise comply with the provisions of this chapter. This 20-day deadline may be reasonably extended by the ombudsman for good cause.
III. In reviewing complaints, the ombudsman shall be authorized to:
(a) Compel timely delivery of governmental records within a period not less than 14 days or more than 30 days unless an expedited hearing is warranted, regardless of medium and format, and conduct a confidential in-camera review of records where the ombudsman concludes that it is necessary and appropriate under the law.
(b) Compel interviews with the parties.
(c) Order attendance at hearings within a reasonable time if the ombudsman determines that a hearing is necessary. Such hearings shall be open subject to the provisions of RSA 91-A.
(d) Issue findings in writing to all parties.
(e) Order a public body or public agency to disclose requested governmental records within a reasonable time, provide access to meetings open to the public, or otherwise comply with the provisions of this chapter, subject to appeal.
(f) Make any finding and order any other remedy to the same extent as provided by the court under RSA 91-A:8.
IV. The ombudsman may draw negative inferences from a party's failure to participate and comply with orders during the review process.
V. The ombudsman shall determine whether there have been any violations of this chapter and issue a ruling within 30 calendar days following the deadline for receipt of the parties' submissions. This 30-day deadline may be extended to a reasonable time frame by the ombudsman for good cause. The ombudsman may also expedite resolution of the complaint upon a showing of good cause. Rulings on expedited complaints shall be issued within 10 business days, or sooner where necessary.
VI. The ombudsman shall, where necessary and appropriate under the law, access governmental records in camera that a public body or public agency believes are exempt in order to make a ruling concerning whether the public body or public agency shall release the records or portions thereof to the public. The ombudsman shall maintain the confidentiality of records provided to the ombudsman by a public body or public agency under this section and shall return the records to the public body or public agency when the ombudsman's review is complete. All records submitted to the ombudsman for review shall be exempt from the public disclosure provisions of RSA 91-A during such review.
VII. Nothing in this section shall affect the ability of a person to seek relief in superior court under RSA 91-A:7, I in lieu of this process.
Source. 2022, 250:3, eff. July 1, 2022.