ROCHESTER - The president of the New England First Amendment Coalition said on Monday that the City of Rochester's decision to deny release of government documents to The Rochester Voice under the Right to Know law is "unconstitutional."
Greg V. Sullivan, Esq., who is also General Counsel for the Union Leader Corporation, said the digital daily's rights and privileges under 91-A should be immediately reinstated by the city.
"The Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution states that 'the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states,'" Sullivan said. "N.H. RSA 91-A contains no language relating to the residence of a requestor. The records are public records."
Rochester City Attorney Terence O'Rourke said on April 12 that the city would no longer provide The Rochester Voice with city documents under the Right to Know law just a few minutes after The Voice requested document regarding a police report detailing why a former city councilor was given a no trespass order for City Hall and city tax offices at the James W. Foley Memorial Community Center.
O'Rourke's email of April 12 argued stated: "As you know, RSA 91-A:4, which pertains to a public bodies obligation to send records to a requestor, only applies to citizens of New Hampshire. Based on research, it is clear that you are not a citizen of New Hampshire and the "Rochester Voice" is not a citizen of New Hampshire either. Unless you can provide proof of citizenship, I will no longer be providing you with governmental records.
"Non-citizens may request to view governmental records in person at appropriate municipal offices during regular business hours."
Rochester Voice editor Harrison Thorp contends that this in-person option is untenable, would create an undue burden on the digital daily's ability to report the news and constitute a massive waste of time.
Since the April 12 email O'Rouke has failed to respond to all Right to Know requests sent the City of Rochester.
The City of Rochester's strategy to silence The Voice is part of a sweeping effort that includes city officials refusing to respond to even simple requests for comment on dozens of topic, many that are not even controversial or contentious.
As an example, Rochester Mayor Paul Callaghan has not responded to any emails from The Rochester Voice since July 23. At a recent City Chat held at the Community Center he simply refused to answer The Voice's question regarding local gym's policies that allow a man transitioning to a woman to use the ladies lockerrrom.
Similarly City Manager Blaine Cox has refused to return countless emails sent him by The Voice since last July.
Both the New Hampshire Secretary of State's Office and the Attorney Generals Office have refused comment on the City of Rochester's effort to silence The Voice.