Local Government Center of New Hampshire
Disclosure of information
The Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire firefighters union, asked the Local Government Center of New Hampshire to disclose its schedule of salaries, and for seven years the organization responded that its status as a private nonprofit organization made that information not subject to public interest disclosure.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the organization, concluding that the LGC is "conducting the public’s business" and therefore should be subject to the Right-to-Know law provisions, and ordered the Local Government Center to release a list of staff salaries to the state firefighters union and the public. As a result, the president of the Local Government Center said LGC employees will now comply with the Right-to-Know Law as well as begin placing more material on the LGC website.
Chief Justice John Broderick wrote for the unanimous court that while LGC employees aren’t public employees in a strict sense, their wages are nonetheless paid mostly by tax dollars. Additionally, many aspects of their work are for the benefit of taxpayers. The LGC is thus “conducting the public’s business” and is "subject to the Right-to-Know Law." The Chief Justice wrote further, emphasizing the importance of transparency: "Public access to specific salary information gives direct insight into the operations of the public body by enabling scrutiny of the wages paid for particular job titles. Public scrutiny can expose corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, prejudice and favoritism."
Suspicions of corruption
The Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire sent New Jersey Open Public Records Act requests to the organization because of suspicions LGC was using insurance money collected from municipal employees for non-insurance purposes, such as lobbying, and salaries for employees who didn't handle insurance. LGC officials later confirmed that over four years, it moved $14.5 million from its health trust to be used for marketing and to start a workers’ compensation insurance plan for municipalities.
As a result of the case discussed above, Local Government Center of New Hampshire released information about its employees' salaries. Of the Local Government Center’s 134 employees, 21 make $75,000 or more annually, and seven of them earn $100,000 or more.
The bulk of LGC revenue comes from taxpayer dollars that municipalities pay for services. Municipalities contract with LGC:
- For legal services
- To lobby state legislators on their behalf
- For insurance; LGC’s Health Trust subsidiary buys insurance for municipal employees with premiums paid by municipalities.
Public officials and employees sit on LGC’s governing board.
- "Quasi-public nonprofit opened up," Nashua Telegraph, March 18, 2010
- "Nonprofits, Transparency and Sunshine," The Nonprofit Quarterly