Updates to Town Committee Handbook

The Lyme Select Board is considering modifications to the Town Committee Handbook. The new draft is at https://www.lymenh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4636/f/uploads/2023-revised-draft-committee_handbook_3.pdf

I sent the following comments to the Select Board and asked about feedback they received from others in town and legal advice from Town Counsel and the NH Municipal Association:

To the Select Board,

Thank you for the opportunity to review the most recent draft of the Town Committee Handbook. I am of two minds on the revisions:

  • My reading of RSA 91-A and the backup documents from NHMA indicate that members of public bodies simply should not use social media (which seems to include the Lyme Listserv) for matters related to their body. In fact, at a recent NH BEA webinar for new members, the advice was “DO NOT COMMUNICATE VIA EMAIL (RSA 91-A)” (their caps) and “Do not use social media to discuss applications”
  • On the other hand, we all have First Amendment rights. While it would be inappropriate to comment on an application that’s pending before a board, who better to offer insights into a decided issue (for example, an Article that’s posted on the Warrant) than someone who has participated fully in the discussion?

Personally, I have come to believe the first position is best. Just don’t use the Listserv. This inarguably complies with the letter and intent of RSA 91-A. There are plenty of other venues for offering opinions: letter to the editor, ad in the Valley News, a personal blog or website, etc.

That said, I would like the Board to address the following questions when they next discuss the issue:

  • Have you circulated the proposed wording to chairs of public bodies in town? What feedback have you received?
  • Have you sent the draft wording to both Town Counsel and NHMA? What advice have you received?

Thank you again for all the work you do for Lyme.

Rich Brown

PS The current (2022) version of the Town Committee Handbook is at: https://www.lymenh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4636/f/uploads/committee_handbook_2022.pdf

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board, Budget Committee, or Trustees of the Trust Funds where I volunteer. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

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