The life of an official government document and the words contained in the document…really does matter!

happy-face the current publication of The Messenger has an article regarding the donnybrook that broke out at Tuesday’s Select Board meeting. The Messenger’s article can be read here: messenger-article-minutes

In the article the writer mentioned I was contacted the next day, which is true, and says my “complaint” was with the town’s administrator for altering draft minutes prior to select board approval, which is inaccurate.

  There was no complaint. I requested  information to learn how documents  were created and handled. I actually research out the details before I write about them.

Be that as it may, I thought that my Wednesday October 19th blog  made this point very clear. I forwarded that blog post address to the reporter after my phone conversation.

I received two responses, one from the Town Administrator trovato-email-10-17-16-ii that clearly indicates that changes are being made outside of the Select Board members view and those changes may or may not be tracked:

” I will gladly answer your questions based on past practice.

  1.  The minutes are sent via word format so that we can make grammatical or spelling changes prior to a Board meeting.  The Selectmen meeting minutes are sent back to the recording secretary so they have the document presented to the Board at the meeting before approval.
  1. If the “track changes” is turned on then yes the changes are tracked. “

Christine Trovato, MPA Town Administrator

Anyone attempting to minimize the alteration of official records as  just “grammatical changes”or confuses the legitimacy of so called “draft” documents,  has failed to learn the lessons taught to us by the unprecedented impeachment trial of New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice David Brock in 2000. (read here)

Observers say it was that same buddy-buddy tradition that caused the courthouse  chaos. In the small, collegial atmosphere of this Supreme Court, justices have for years sat in on cases from which they were officially recused, Brock and others reported. It also was not uncommon for drafts of opinions to circulate among all justices–again, whether they had recused themselves or not.

[snip] At a news conference before the impeachment investigation began, Brock, who will not comment while the inquiry is in progress, said recused judges never attempted “to influence the merits of a decision in which they were recused,” and only edited opinions for grammar.”

Justice Brock was indeed tried (first judicial impeachment in over 200 years in our state) and was acquitted. Brock did admit he committed errors of judgment in allowing these practices: “In testimony last week, Brock acknowledged making errors in judgment and offering misstatements during the investigation. But he denied lying, and he said he misspoke once because of confusing questions.” (paragraph 12 read here)

The second response I received was from Cheery Palmisano, a town secretary indicating there was no policy for the creation of documents (minutes) and only a retention policy:

“Bruce,

I was not in the initial email regarding your Right to Know Request.

There is no policy regarding document creation.
We follow the State of NH Record Retention Schedule.
Minutes are emailed to the Town Administrator from the Recording Secretary in Word

format. Minutes are posted on the town website as a .pdf.
We currently do not have an internal policy on emails, etc.”

Best regards,
Cherry J. Palmisano
TOWN OF HENNIKER
Executive Secretary/Land Use Coordinator

The fact that we have no policy on tracking document changes is unconscionable. The additional fact that we do not know who or how many times”changes” do indeed occur is unacceptable.

Once again…this is nothing more than an outstanding example of POOR CORPORATE GOVERNANCE.

 

 

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