I have been one of Charlestown’s State Representatives for 7 years. During that time, I have never gotten involved in local elections, and I’m not starting now. This communication is strictly to inform you of something that happened and is not an endorsement or criticism of any candidate.
NH towns are required to perform audits at least annually by TITLE III CHAPTER 41 Section 41:31-c. There are three ways you can get an auditor. Some towns elect one, some cities have an employee, and in small towns like Charlestown, you hire a CPA to do it. This is authorized in TITLE I CHAPTER 21-J Section 21-J:19. This matters because the first two types of auditor are government agents. The hired CPA is not. Part of the audit is making sure that money collected for motor vehicle transactions are correct and properly accounted for.
NH also has the strongest government record privacy laws in the nation. We have very strict criteria for who can get your information and what they can do with it. RSA 260:14 is known as the Driver Privacy Act and is enforced strictly and uniformly. I’ll admit… many NH laws are a mess and open to wide interpretation. This is not one of them. There are multiple court cases that make it clear that if a method or person is not detailed in 260:14, it simply is not allowed.
Now we tie these together. In preparation for a town audit, Kelly Stoddart read the laws before turning any records over to a private auditor. She could not find authorization in 260:14 to release DMV records to a nongovernmental contracted agent. You should know that violating 260:14 is a misdemeanor. Kelly called the Dept. of Safety and asked what she could release. They said that she could release nothing.
So, 41:31-c says that you have to do an audit. 21-J:19 says that you can hire a private CPA to do it. 260:14 says that you are guilty of a crime if you give the CPA any DMV information. Headache yet? You are probably wondering how town audits for municipalities in our situation have been happening at all (since we didn’t pass the Driver Privacy Act yesterday). The incredible answer is that it never occurred to the Dept. of Safety to ask what kind of auditor a town was using. There is no issue with the first two types. Why is it an issue this time? Kelly Stoddart is the only municipal clerk in the state who read the law for authorization before turning over your records and information. Kudos to her.
What happens now? We’re going to fix it. I was told about this problem a little less than two weeks ago. On Monday I wrote a new section for 260:14 that will let our auditor do their work. I amended it to a bill I had in my committee (being the Chairman has a few advantages). On Wednesday the House Transportation Committee passed it unanimously. The bill is on the next House Calendar for a full vote. It then goes to the Senate and should be law by June. Problem found, problem solved.
Steven, cool move!