Marie Hill Case

General Forum for Danville Topics

Town to be Sued?

Postby curt » Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:47 am

The Agenda for the Selectmen Meeting of Monday 2/13/06 has been posted on the town web site.

The final item is "Non Public Session RSA 91A:3 II ( e )."

They have to cite one or more of the allowed reasons in RSA 91:3 II in order to go into a non-public session.

Paragraph (e), which they cited, reads as follows: "Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed against the body or agency or any subdivision thereof, or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such body or agency, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any body, board, or agency for the purposes of this subparagraph."

So either a suit was actually filed or threatened in writing.

It wouldn't surprise me if this were in connection with Lewis Builders and Tucker Road (see my blog posting on this topic). There was a hearing before the planning board Thursday night. But I really don't know.

The selectmen can meet privately to discuss a filed or threatened law suit. But that does not give them the right to keep the particulars of the law suit (or threatened law suit) private. There has to be something in writing in their records, either actual court papers that were served on them, or a letter from somebody threatening to sue them. In order to keep the document(s) out of the public eye, they would have to cite a provision of RSA 91-A:5 (sat 2/25 I removed the text of 91-A:5 because it is included in the next article in this thread)

It's hard to imagine any circumstance that would apply to the documents concerning an actual or threatened law suit against the town.

So, if anybody would like to know what is going on, all you need to do is write a letter to the selectmen asking to see the document(s) that support their nonpublic session of 2/13. You can view the document(s) during business hours and take notes, or you can have copies made at the standard town rate of 50c per page.

Perhaps one of our local newspapers would be willing to undertake this on our behalf.
Last edited by curt on Sat Feb 25, 2006 11:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
Curt Springer
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Postby curt » Sat Feb 25, 2006 2:14 am

The Agenda for the Selectmen Meeting of Tuesday 2/28/06 has been posted on the town web site.

The cited basis is claims or litigation that have been filed or threatened in writing.

There seems to be a pattern here.

The Planning Board met on Thursday, February 9, about the Lewis Caleb Corners subdivision (and Tucker Road), then the Selectmen went into non-public session on Monday, February 13, citing filed or threatened claims or litigation.

The Planning Board met on Thursday, February 23, about the Lewis Caleb Corners subdivision (and Tucker Road), now the Selectmen will go into non-public session on Tuesday, February 28, citing filed or threatened claims or litigation.

Perhaps it is coincidence, perhaps not. I really don't know.

We have the right to know who is suing or threatening to sue the town, and why, even if we don't have the right to sit in on strategy sessions to deal with the real or threatened suit.

The one plausible exception would be if this were a personnel issue. A recent Union Leader editorial pointed out that the law allows too much secrecy in that area.

I have drafted a letter to the selectmen requesting the document(s) that support their right to go into non-public session. It will go out in Saturday's mail. The text is quoted below.

This post should not be taken to be critical of the selectmens' procedures. While they must make information available if asked, they are not obligated to publicize it in the absence of a request. They have responded to requests I made last fall in a timely and cooperative fashion.

(text of letter)
Curtis H. Springer
228 Sandown Road
Danville, New Hampshire 03819-3007
+1 603 642 4555
curt.springer@alum.dartmouth.org

February 25, 2006


Town of Danville
Board of Selectmen
P.O. Box 11
Danville, New Hampshire 03819

RSA 91-A Request

Dear Sirs:

I note that you held a non-public session on February 13, and that you have announced a non-public session on February 28.

In each case, you cite RSA 91A:3 II ( e ), which reads:

"Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed against the body or agency or any subdivision thereof, or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such body or agency, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any body, board, or agency for the purposes of this subparagraph."

I respectfully request copies of the document or documents that are the basis for these non-public sessions, that is to say, either the summons or other court documents actually served on the town in the case of claims or litigation that have been filed, or the letters or other documents containing a threat of claims or litigation if such have not already been filed.

As before, I will arrange the specifics of delivery and payment for copies with Donna.

I would like to point out to you that you must grant my request unless you can cite one or more of the reasons listed in RSA 91-A:5, which I am including for your convenience.

As you know, RSA 91-A:4 requires you to reply to this request within five business days of receipt, either to grant it, to deny it (citing the allowed reason or reasons), or to acknowledge receipt and to state the time reasonably required to determine whether this request will be granted or denied.

Thank you, as always, for your cooperation.

Sincerely,
(signature)

TITLE VI
PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES
CHAPTER 91-A
ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS AND MEETINGS
Section 91-A:5
91-A:5 Exemptions. – The following records are exempted from the provisions of this chapter:
I. Records of grand and petit juries.
II. Records of parole and pardon boards.
III. Personal school records of pupils.
IV. Records pertaining to internal personnel practices; confidential, commercial, or financial information; test questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer a licensing examination, examination for employment, or academic examinations; and personnel, medical, welfare, library user, videotape sale or rental, and other files whose disclosure would constitute invasion of privacy. Without otherwise compromising the confidentiality of the files, nothing in this paragraph shall prohibit a body or agency from releasing information relative to health or safety from investigative files on a limited basis to persons whose health or safety may be affected.
V. Teacher certification records, both hard copies and computer files, in the department of education, provided that the department shall make available teacher certification status information.
VI. Records pertaining to matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of all emergency functions, including training to carry out such functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life.
VII. Unique pupil identification information collected in accordance with RSA 193-E:5.
VIII. Any notes or other materials made for personal use that do not have an official purpose, including notes and materials made prior to, during, or after a public proceeding.
IX. Preliminary drafts, notes, and memoranda and other documents not in their final form and not disclosed, circulated, or available to a quorum or a majority of those entities defined in RSA 91-A:1-a.
Source. 1967, 251:1. 1986, 83:6. 1989, 184:2. 1990, 134:1. 1993, 79:1, eff. June 22, 1993. 2002, 222:4, eff. Jan. 1, 2003. 2004, 147:5, eff. Aug. 1, 2004; 246:3, 4, eff. Aug. 14, 2004.





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Postby chip » Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:12 am

Thanks Curt,

I assume it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway...do let the SpeakoutDanville community know what you find out. We are all very interested :)

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Postby curt » Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:58 pm

I met with the selectmen just after the candidates' night.

It turns out that it is coincidence, nothing to do with Tucker Road. It is some sort of personnel thing. I'm really not interested. I withdrew my request.
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Postby curt » Wed Mar 15, 2006 6:41 pm

Well the town did get sued. There was a 4-day trial that ended recently at Superior Court in Brentwood. The town lost. I think the damages are $136,000. I don't know if this will be covered by insurance.

It has to do with the circumstances of an arrest several years ago.

This will be in the press.
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Postby Chris Lauria » Wed Mar 15, 2006 7:26 pm

Why did the town get sued?
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Postby curt » Wed Mar 15, 2006 9:47 pm

A resident was charged by the Danville Police Department several years ago with criminal threatening. The charges were dismissed by the Plaistow District Court for lack of evidence.
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Postby Rob C » Thu Mar 16, 2006 10:07 am

I believe this might be the same case that is in the Union Leader this morning.

Jury orders town to pay woman $130,000

Danville:Jurors agreed with Marie Hill's claim that police prosecuted her maliciously and without probable cause.

I can't find it on line yet.

Allegedly Denise Luna of 33 Pine Street pointed a pellet gun at their neighbor's (the Hill's) dog and the Hill's 5 year old daughter. Allegedly the Hill's came back with a rifle and threatened Luna. Danville police executed a search warrant of the Hill's residence. They found the rifle. Hill was charged with misdemeanor criminal threatening. Plaistow District Court dismissed the case because of insufficient evidence. Hill brought a suit charging that Luna defamed her with false statements and assaulted her daughter by pointing a gun at her. The suit also accuses the town of malicious prosecution and negligent hiring and firing of Beauchamp (the officer investigating and prosecuting the case against Hill, Hill claims the officer had an "inappropriate personal relationship" with Luna that severely biased his investigation).

The Union Leader 3/16/2006, page B1 wrote:Following a trial last week, the jury verdict rendered Friday found merit in the malicious prosecution allegation, agreeing that Hill was prosecuted for criminal threatening maliciously and without probable cause, and assigning damages at $130,000.

Selectman David Knight referred questions about the case yesterday to Selectman Chairman Robert Moore, who could not be reached for comment.
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Postby curt » Thu Mar 16, 2006 10:48 am

The "B" section is the Derry-Londonderry regional edition. Those articles are rarely included in the online ediiton. The article about this web site was included.

BTW if you want to understand what is going on in this state, particularly if you are interested in how Danville compares with other towns, or statewide issues like school funding, you really need to read the UL on a regular basis.

Some people don't like their political leanings, but Bill Loeb died nearly 25 years ago, and they are fair in their news coverage, IMHO.
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Postby curt » Thu Mar 16, 2006 11:45 am

It is also in today's Eagle Tribune.
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Postby curt » Thu Mar 16, 2006 6:06 pm

Mike Asselin, who was a selectman at the time of the incident, testified for the plaintiff.
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Postby AlfredTwo » Fri Mar 17, 2006 7:03 pm

From what the paper reported I'm not surprised the town lost. If two people do pretty much the same thing and you only charge one that has to look a bit odd.
It seems like too many small items between neighbors blow up and go to court one way or another these days. Back in the day (how many people remember Clyde Goldwaith at chief of police?) things used to be settled quietly with informal mediation. Now everyone wants to make a federal case out of everything.
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Postby curt » Fri Mar 17, 2006 11:36 pm

I think the press accounts reflect only one side of the story, the winning side.

It doesn't sound as if two people did pretty much the same thing. Only one person was alleged to have aimed a gun at another person.

Along with the question of who if anybody should have been prosecuted by the Danvlle PD, there is the question of whether the Danville selectmen should have intervened at the behest of one side and tried to stop the prosecution from going forward. Which is what happened.

Sure I remember Clyde. In New Castle we had Henry Greenberg. Same deal, p/t chief who put a blue light on his own car.
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Postby AlfredTwo » Sat Mar 18, 2006 12:31 am

curt wrote:I think the press accounts reflect only one side of the story, the winning side.

It doesn't sound as if two people did pretty much the same thing. Only one person was alleged to have aimed a gun at another person.



Actually the article I read alleged that two people aimed a gun at another person. The person charged pointed it at an adult and the person not charged (according to the newspaper) pointed it at a child.
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Postby curt » Sat Mar 18, 2006 1:20 am

You're right. I just read the full text of the UL article.

It seems hard to believe, though, that an adult would point a gun at a child.
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