NEFAC, ACLU of New Hampshire Express Concern Over Proposed Right to Know Ombudsman Rules

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition and the ACLU of New Hampshire submitted comments today addressing proposed rules for the state’s new Office of the Right to Know Ombudsman.

Thomas F. Kehr was appointed as the first New Hampshire Right to Know Ombudsman in January and recently released a set of rules that would govern how his office will operate.

Some of these rules, however, are inconsistent with the state’s Right to Know Law, NEFAC and the ACLU explained in a Sept. 6 letter to Kehr.

“We believe that the rules promulgated by the Right to Know Ombudsman should be consistent with and supportive of these constitutional and statutory presumptions in favor of disclosure,” the groups wrote. “Furthermore, we believe that the Ombudsman’s Office should exercise caution in setting out restrictive rules on access to documents.”

Specific concerns of NEFAC and the ACLU include:

(1) Mandating that the Ombudsman automatically deny any requests for information that would require his office to assemble information into a form that does not already exist.

(2) Restricting members of the public from taking photos or scanning records. Under the proposed rules, requesters would instead be charged 25 cents per page for copies to be made by the Ombudsman’s office.

(3) Allowing the Ombudsman to deny records in electronic format under circumstances NEFAC and the ACLU believe discourage electronic production outright.

(4) Limiting the number of people, including members of the press, who can attend a public comment hearing without instead locating a larger hearing room to accommodate all interested parties.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund and Connecticut Public.