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Keene to appeal Robin Hood rulings

KEENE — City officials have responded to the Cheshire County Superior Court dismissal of both Robin Hood and his Merry Men parking meter civil lawsuits by saying the city plans to appeal the court decisions.

"The City of Keene will file an appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court of the recent Cheshire County Superior Court order, which the City believes failed to protect its hard-working public employees against substantial workplace interference, harassment, and intimidation caused by individuals who seek to shut down the City's parking operations," the city said in a statement released Tuesday by attorney Charles P. Bauer of the Concord firm Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell.

Last week, both civil cases filed by the city against Robin Hood and his Merry Men were dismissed by Cheshire County Superior Court Judge John Kissinger.

Back in May, the city filed a lawsuit against six residents who are part of a group that has dubbed itself Robin Hood of Keene.

These people are associated with the Free Keene group and patrol downtown, armed with video cameras and pockets full of change to fill expired parking meters before a city parking enforcement officer can issue a ticket.

In the case, the city asked the court to prohibit residents Kate Ager, Ian Bernard, also known as Ian Freeman, James Cleaveland, Graham Colson, Garrett Ean and Peter Eyre from coming within 50 feet of the city's three parking enforcement officers "during the performance of their employment duties for the City," the lawsuit said.

Then in September, the city filed a second civil suit against the group seeking monetary "damages," which at the time members of the group said was affirmation the city was suing the group to protect its parking ticket revenue.

City Manager John MacLean, though, has maintained the city is not concerned about parking meter revenue, but the protection of its employees from harassment.

In his Dec. 3 decisions, Kissinger granted the group's motions to dismiss based on its argument that the residents were within their constitutional right of free speech. Free speech attorney Jon Meyer filed the motions to dismiss.

"The Respondents' speech is given special protection because it is at a public place on a matter of public concern," Kissinger wrote.

In the response released Tuesday, the city said by dismissing the civil suits, the court failed to recognize and balance a public employee's right against the public's right to protest. The city also said the decisions could affect public employees across the state. "The City of Keene is very disappointed — and concerned — that the court order may subject all state, municipal, county, and public employees in New Hampshire to similar workplace interference, harassment, and intimidation, and the City believes that it has the right, and the obligation, to take the steps necessary to protect its employees from such actions."

mpierce@newstote.com



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