The City of Nashua contends, incredibly, that the mayor’s official schedule has no public purpose. If that is the case, then the office of mayor serves no public purpose, and the taxpayers can abolish it. Municipal attorneys really ought to think through their let’s-find-clever-ways-to-evade-the-law claims before issuing them.
The Telegraph of Nashua asked for Mayor Donalee Lozeau’s calendar in February. The mayor provided it, and the paper wrote about it for Sunshine Week. Later, the mayor said during a meeting of the aldermanic Budget Review Committee that city staff members prepare and maintain her calendar, The Telegraph reported. That prompted the paper to make a May 3 request for “any record that keeps information on Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s daily appointments and meetings. This record is regarded as the mayor’s calendar, or schedule.”
The mayor refused. Both Mayor Lozeau and the city’s deputy corporate counsel wrote to the Telegraph to claim that the information is exempt from the state’s right-to-know law. They cited RSA 91-A: 5, VIII, which exempts from public scrutiny: “Any notes or other materials made for personal use that do not have an official purpose, including but not limited to, notes and materials made prior to, during, or after a governmental proceeding.”
But The Telegraph did not request the mayor’s personal notes. It requested “the mayor’s calendar, or schedule.” The city is trying to dodge the right-to-know law by misconstruing both the paper’s request and the law. A mayor’s public schedule is plainly subject to the right-to-know law. The city needs to disclose it.