In a February 21st Exeter News Letter article we learned that Alan Bailey, Jim Knight and 9 other residents filed a lawsuit against the Town of Exeter in regards to the amendments that were made to the citizen petition warrant articles at Deliberative Session on February 5th.
In their lawsuit, Bailey, Knight and others requested injunctive relief asking for a judge to reverse the amendments that were overwhelmingly supported and have the citizen petition articles appear on the ballot as they were originally submitted. Further, they asked for a judge to grant them “all of their costs including attorney’s fees”since the conduct of the citizens and officials of Exeter violated New Hampshire law and their constitutional rights. As if that weren’t enough, they also wanted a judge to specifically find that the actions of the citizens at Deliberative Session, the conduct of the moderator and the conduct of the Board of Selectmen was illegal and unconstitutional.
They filed their lawsuit in the Rockingham County Superior Court on February 17th. On February 23rd, Judge Kenneth R. McHugh issued a two-page order dismissing their “request for injunctive relief both temporarily and permanently.” In his ruling, Judge McHugh writes that “since its passage, SB-2 has had both positive and negative comments and criticism” however he acknowledges that the law does “give great power to those who attend the deliberative session.” Judge McHugh found that “if the citizens at deliberative session wish to adopt amended language that completely reverses the intent of those that crafted the warrant article in question, they are free to do so.”
You would think that is where the story would end. But less than twenty-four hours after the judge’s ruling, Mr. Bailey, Mr. Knight and the 9 other residents filed an “Ex Parte Motion for Reconsideration” to the Superior Court. In their motion, the plaintiff’s claim that the judge was wrong and that the court “overlooked” information that was relevant to their claims. The plaintiff’s continue their lawsuit in claiming that the actions of the citizens at Deliberative Session were “clearly illegal” and in violation of the new law signed by Governor Lynch on February 4th (the day before the meeting) regarding amendments to the subject matter of warrant articles. They have asked the Court to hold a hearing on the matter prior to the town vote on March 8th since “irreparable harm will come to the voters of the Town of Exeter” as a result of the actions at Deliberative Session.
The Court has granted their request for a hearing and it is scheduled for Friday, March 4th at 9:00AM in Courtroom 2 of the Rockingham County Superior Court on Route 125 in Brentwood. Let us not forget that the amendments in question were supported overwhelmingly at Deliberative Session. Article 17 was amended by a vote of 158-49. It appears that Mr. Bailey and Mr. Knight and their 9 co-plaintiffs believe that I was wrong to offer the amendment, that the 157 other people present that agreed with me were wrong for supporting it, that the Town Attorney was wrong in his opinion on the legality of the amendment, that the Moderator was wrong in accepting the amendment and now the judge was wrong in dismissing their lawsuit. Well, I believe that Judge McHugh got it right the first time in his order dated February 23rd where he wrote that the “will of the people at the deliberative session was to pass amendments to their petitioned articles that had the effect of negating the intent of those articles.”
Let’s let the will of the people stand.