Ed Naile: About the Windham Bait and Switch - Call a Special Meeting - Granite Grok

Ed Naile: About the Windham Bait and Switch – Call a Special Meeting


Since it has now gone from “Incident” to “Public Servants turned Public Masters:  Ed’s take on what just happened; from “Breaking Windham Election Audit News: Police Activity – A Large Crowd Has Formed At the Windham Town Hall [Update].” Use existing state statutes to call a special Town meeting so voters regain some control.

Ed is interested in meeting with people in person, in Windham or at CNHT’s Offices, if they want to learn more about how to proceed, but first, this.

RSA 39:3
Call a Special Town Meeting.
Good old-fashioned NH tradition.
Then voters have some control.

So, here is the above mentioned RSA 39:3 (slightly edited for easier readability)

39:3 Articles. – Upon the written application of 25 or more registered voters or 2 percent of the registered voters in town, whichever is less, although in no event shall fewer than 10 registered voters be sufficient, presented to the selectmen or one of them not later than the fifth Tuesday before the day prescribed for an annual meeting, the selectmen shall insert in their warrant for such meeting the petitioned article with only such minor textual changes as may be required.

Such corrections shall not in any way change the intended effect of the article as presented in the original language of the petition. For the purposes of this section, the number of registered voters in a town shall be the number of voters registered prior to the last state general election. The right to have an article inserted in the warrant conferred by this section shall not be invalidated by the provisions of RSA 32.

In towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants upon the written application of 50 or more voters or 1/4 of the voters in town, whichever is fewer, and in towns with 10,000 or more inhabitants upon the written application of 5 percent of the registered voters in the town, so presented not less than 60 days before the next annual meeting, the selectmen shall warn a special meeting to act upon any question specified in such application.

The checklist for an annual or special town meeting shall be corrected by the supervisors of the checklist as provided in RSA 654:25-31. Those persons qualified to vote whose names are on the corrected checklist shall be entitled to vote at the meeting. The same checklist used at a recessed town meeting shall be used at any reconvened session of the same town meeting. In no event shall a special town meeting be held on the biennial election day.

And, since we’re on the topic of special meetings, you might need this too.

31:5 At Special Meetings.

    1. (a) No money shall be raised or appropriated or shall any appropriation previously made be reduced or rescinded at any special town meeting except by vote by ballot, nor unless the ballots cast at such meeting shall be equal in number to at least 1/2 of the number of legal voters borne on the checklist of the town entitled to vote at the annual or biennial election next preceding such special meeting; and such checklist, corrected according to law, shall be used at any meeting upon the request of 10 legal voters of the town. This section shall not apply to money to be raised for the public defense or any military purpose in time of war. In case an emergency arises requiring an immediate expenditure of money, the selectmen may petition the superior court for permission to hold a special town meeting which, if granted, shall give said meeting the same authority as an annual town meeting.

(b) “Emergency” for the purposes of this section shall mean a sudden or unexpected situation or occurrence, or combination of occurrences, of a serious and urgent nature, that demands prompt, or immediate action, including an immediate expenditure of money. This definition, however, does not establish a requirement that an emergency involves a crisis in every set of circumstances.

(c) To verify that an emergency exists, a petitioner shall present, and the court shall consider, a number of factors including:

(1) The severity of the harm to be avoided.

(2) The urgency of the petitioner’s need.

(3) Whether the claimed emergency was foreseeable or avoidable.

(4) Whether the appropriation could have been made at the annual meeting.

(5) Whether there are alternative remedies not requiring an appropriation.

    1. On or before the date of filing the petition with the superior court, the selectmen shall forward a copy of the petition and the warrant article or articles, by certified mail, to the commissioner of the department of revenue administration. The petition to the superior court shall include a certification that the commissioner of the department of revenue administration has been notified pursuant to this paragraph.

III. In the event that the legislative body at an annual meeting amends or rejects the cost items or fact finder’s reports as submitted pursuant to RSA 273-A, notwithstanding paragraphs I and II, the selectmen may call one special meeting for the sole purpose of addressing all negotiated cost items without petitioning the superior court for authorization. Such special meeting may be authorized only by a contingent warrant article inserted on the warrant or official ballot either by petition or by the governing body. The wording of the question shall be as follows: “Shall (the local political subdivision), if article __________ is defeated, authorize the governing body to call one special meeting, at its option, to address article __________ cost items only?” The refusal of the legislative body to authorize a special meeting as provided in this paragraph shall not affect any other provision of law. Any special meeting held under this paragraph shall be combined with the revised operating budget meeting under RSA 40:13, XI, if any, and shall not be counted toward the number of special meetings which may be held in a given calendar or fiscal year.

    1. When the selectmen vote to petition the superior court for permission to hold a special town meeting, the selectmen shall post notice of such vote within 24 hours after taking the vote and a minimum of 10 days prior to filing the petition with the court. The selectmen shall post notice of the court date for an evidentiary hearing on the petition within 24 hours after receiving notice of the court date from the court. Such notices shall be posted at the office of the selectmen and at 2 or more other conspicuous places in the town, and in the next available edition of a local newspaper with a wide circulation in the town.

Source. 1876, 2:1. 1881, 69:2. PS 40:4. 1917, 161:1. PL 42:5. 1927, 56:1. RL 51:5. 1943, 37:1. RSA 31:5. 1989, 172:1. 1991, 166:1, eff. July 26, 1991. 1997, 317:1, eff. Aug. 20, 1997; 318:1, eff. Aug. 22, 1997. 1998, 55:1, eff. July 4, 1998.

31:5-b Legalization of Meetings. –

    1. I. In the past, irregularities and procedural defects in actions of municipal legislative bodies have been cured by actions of the general court. The procedure in this section is an alternative approach which enables municipalities to effect legalization by local action.
    2. Whenever the legislative body of a municipality has voted by the requisite majority, by written ballot or in any other manner legally authorized, to take any legal actions and the vote is subsequently discovered to be procedurally defective, such defects may be cured and legalized by a vote at a special meeting called for the purpose of ratifying the procedurally defective action. Procedurally defective actions shall mean minor procedural irregularities such as failure to comply with statutory requirements regarding time or place of notice, vote, hearing, or wording, or with any procedural act not contrary to the spirit or intent of the law. The ratification of the procedurally defective action shall be subject to the following requirements:

(a) The municipality may, on the authority of the governing body, call a special town meeting for the exclusive purpose of curing such defect.

(b) The special town meeting called for that purpose may not take place less than 21 calendar days after the original vote.

(c) Not less than 7 calendar days prior to the special town meeting, not counting the day of the special town meeting, the governing body shall conduct a public hearing at which the reasons for the special town meeting shall be explained.

(d) The municipality shall comply with all statutory notice and procedural requirements for holding special town meetings.

(e) The necessary majority required to cure the defects shall be the same as the majority as required for passage of the original article.

III. When any procedural defect has been cured under this section, actions of the voters shall be valid as if all statutorily required proceedings had been complied with.

Source. 1988, 284:1. 1989, 287:1, eff. July 28, 1989.

40:16 Legalization of Meetings. – When irregularities or procedural defects in the actions of a local political subdivision are discovered in a local political subdivision using the official ballot, the local political subdivision may, on the authority of the governing body, call a special meeting for the exclusive purpose of curing such defect according to RSA 31:5-b with a single session for deliberating and voting to cure such defect.

Source. 1999, 86:4, eff. Aug. 2, 1999.


41:8-d Revocation. – A town which has voted to enlarge its board of selectmen may rescind its action in the manner described in RSA 41:8-b, except that the question shall read: “Are you in favor of decreasing the board of selectmen to 3 members?”

Source. 1967, 325:1. 1979, 410:8. 1983, 180:2. 1990, 192:2, eff. June 26, 1990.

31:39-a Conflict of Interest Ordinances. – The legislative body of a town or city may adopt an ordinance defining and regulating conflicts of interest for local officers and employees, whether elected or appointed. Any such ordinance may include provisions requiring disclosure of financial interests for specified officers and employees, establishing incompatibility of office requirements stricter than those specified by state law or establishing conditions under which prohibited conflicts of interest shall require removal from office. Any such ordinance shall include provisions to exempt affected officers and employees who are in office or employed at the time the ordinance is adopted for a period not to exceed one year from the date of adoption. The superior court shall have jurisdiction over any removal proceedings instituted under an ordinance adopted under this section.

Source. 1981, 221:1, eff. Aug. 10, 1981.