NHGOP asks AG to review Hassan’s withholding of agency efficiency plans

The state Republican Party today is asking the Attorney General’s office to review and issue an opinion on Gov. Maggie Hassan’s refusal to allow department heads to release to the public efficiency proposals that led to the creation of her budget plan.

 

In a letter to Attorney General Joseph Foster, NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn writes that his department “has clearly stated that all state executive branch departments and agencies are subject to the New Hampshire Right to Know Law. Governor Hassan believes she does not need to follow the law, and her attempt to funnel all Right to Know requests through her office is a brazen and blatant attempt to undermine New Hampshire’s transparency requirements.”  The party contends that Hassan has tried to “pressure state agencies into ignoring the Right-to-Know law.”

 

The party also submitted its own request to the Department of Health and Human Services, in an apparent attempt to test whether Hassan is within the law in denying access to the proposals.  The Concord Monitor has reported that Hassan’s staff sent a memo to all state departments  instructing that if they are  asked directly for efficiency proposals ot refer all requests for her officer.

 

The governor’s office is exempt from the Right-to-Know law, but departments are subject to the law. However the Attorney General’s Office has said the governor’s office falls under a provision of the state constitution saying state government “should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. To that end, the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted.”

 

The governor’s office has said that in developing her budget the governor needed to weigh candid advice from department heads and then choose what advice to follow.

 

The text of Horn’s letter follows:

 
Dear Attorney General Joseph Foster,

 

On behalf of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, I am writing today to respectfully request that you provide a legal opinion on Governor Maggie Hassan’s effort to pressure state agencies to ignore New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law.

 
The Concord Monitor and Union Leader report that Governor Hassan has distributed a memo to state agency department heads instructing them to forward all Right to Know requests regarding government efficiency proposals to her office. The New Hampshire Republican State Committee and members of the New Hampshire media have filed several requests for the efficiency proposals. Governor Hassan has already denied similar requests made directly to her office.

 
The New Hampshire Department of Justice has clearly stated that all state executive branch departments and agencies are subject to the New Hampshire Right to Know Law. Governor Hassan believes she does not need to follow the law, and her attempt to funnel all Right to Know requests through her office is a brazen and blatant attempt to undermine New Hampshire’s transparency requirements.

 

 

Clearly, state officials should be required to respond to requests made directly to their agencies instead of forwarding them to the governor’s office to be quashed. Governor Hassan’s memo is obviously an attempt to pressure agencies heads to keep information about their efficiency proposals secret as she quietly gears up to run for United States Senate.

 

I ask that you please provide an opinion on the legality of Governor Hassan’s shameful plan to undermine New Hampshire’s transparency laws. I also requestunder the New Hampshire Right To Know Law (RSA 91-A) that you provide me with any communications between the Department of Justice and Governor Hassan’s office regarding the development of her memo to agency heads to determine if she sought an opinion from your office in advance.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jennifer Horn

 

Chairman

 

New Hampshire Republican State Committee

 

Horn’s Right-to-Know request  to Commissioner of Health and Human Services Nicholas Toumpas follows:

 

Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas

 

New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

 

129 Pleasant Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301

 

This is a request under the New Hampshire Right To Know Law (RSA 91-A).

 

I formally request that you provide me with all records regarding government efficiency proposals developed by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. These proposals may have been submitted to Governor Maggie Hassan’s office.

 

As Governor Hassan gears up to abandon her job to run for United States Senate, her Administration has gone to great lengths to undermine New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law. The Concord Monitor and the Union Leader have reported that the governor is attempting to pressure and coerce state agencies into ignoring transparency laws by funneling records requests to her office. This strategy is designed to deliberately quash any records request related to agency efficiency proposals because the governor does not believe her office needs to adhere to the Right to Know law.

 

Additionally, the Concord Monitor and the Union Leader report that the governor’s office has distributed a secret memo to agency heads that instructs them to ignore the Right to Know law. As part of my records request, I also ask that you please provide me with a copy of the governor’s memo.

 

Should you decline to provide any requested information, please provide the specific provision under RSA 91-A that exempts such public records from the Right to Know Law. To beclear, I am asking for these records from your agency and expect a responsefrom the Department of Health and Human Services – not the governor’s office.

Sincerely,

 

Jennifer Horn
Chairman

Author: John DiStaso

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