New Hampshire Open Meetings Law
The New Hampshire Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 91A of the New Hampshire Code define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in New Hampshire. For more information go the page or go to New Hampshire sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
We do not currently have any pages on open meetings litigation in New Hampshire.
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for New Hampshire in 2010.
Statement of purposeThe statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people. "
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that all gatherings of a quorum of members of a public body for the purpose of deliberating and deciding public policy.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- collective bargaining strategy and negotiation
- consultation that would fall under the attorney-client privilege
- single party caucuses
- circulation of draft documents that merely finalize decisions made in open meetings.
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as any agency of the state or any of its political subdivisions. This definition explicitly includes the legislature, the executive council and all boards of other state agencies and political subdivisions. The act also includes non-profits corporations whose sole member is a public agencies.
The legislature is explicitly included in the definition of public body found at New Hampshire Statute Title VI Statute 91-A:1-a.VI.a and is subject to the New Hampshire Open Meetings Law.
The act requires that all public bodies post notice 24 hours prior to the meeting in two locations, including the public office as well as online or in the local newspapers. The act allows for emergency meetings but requires that they be justified within the minutes of the meetings and that every attempt be made to notify the public of the meeting.
The act prohibits most bodies from using secret votes, with the exception of town meetings and school districts. The act also prohibits any body from preventing individuals from recording public meetings using either audio or video recording equipment. Minutes must be recorded of every meeting, including the time and location of the meeting, the officials in attendance and any subject matters discussed or votes taken. Minutes are considered public records and must be available within 5 days of the meeting and are required to be kept permanently.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
Executive sessions can be called by a majority vote to discuss the following topics:
- dismissal, promotion or compensation of public employees including investigations and disciplinary hearings assuming that the individual in question has not requested an open meeting
- hiring discussions
- matters that would adversely affect the reputation of an individual
- sale or purchase of property
- information that would fall under attorney-client privilege exemptions concerning pending litigation
- applications for the adult parole board
- security information
- to protect trade secrets of applicants
Decisions made during executive session require a 2/3 vote and must be made public within 72 hours of the close of the meeting.
Any individual who has been wronged by a violation of the open meetings law may file suit in superior court. The court can award attorney fees to either party if it determines that an obvious and knowing violation occurred or that the lawsuit was frivolous. The court may also void any action taken during a meeting in violation of this chapter.
State of New Hampshire
|State executive officers||
Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Commissioner of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Executive Director of Fish and Game | Commissioner of Labor | Chairman of Public Utilities |