This is a Right-to-Know lawsuit on behalf of the ACLU-NH and the Concord Monitor seeking documents related a $5,100 line item in the City of Concord's budget for "covert communications equipment." The Town Manager and the Chief of Police were tight-lipped when asked about the nature of the secret equipment by members of the City Council. The ACLU-NH and the Concord Monitor then filed Right-to-Know requests with the City seeking information concerning this equipment, and received 29 pages of heavily redacted documents in response.
In these redacted documents, for example, the City redacted the name of the vendor, the signature block of the person signing the contract for the vendor, the choice of law provision in the contract, the nature of the services, the types of information the vendor gathers, and what the vendor does with the wide variety of information it does gather. Troublingly, the contract the City produced also includes a broad nondisclosure agreement that prohibits the City from sharing the existence or nature of the secret equipment from courts, grand juries, and defense counsel.
The ACLU-NH and the Concord Monitor filed this lawsuit seeking access to unredacted copies of these documents. We do not know the nature of the secret equipment or what it does. But we do know that the City and the vendor have agreed to keep everything as secret as possible, thereby leaving Concord taxpayers in the dark. The public has a compelling interest in knowing what the City and its police department spend its money on, and the public has an interest in knowing why the City wants to keep secret communications equipment hidden from public (and judicial) view.
On December 20, 2019, the Superior Court dismissed the case. This decision is on appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.