August  2013    
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  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 

Follow NEFAC's ongoing First Amendment conversation as it develops across New England 
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RI Groups Push for More Info on State Hedge Funds

   PROVIDENCE - Four public access groups are pushing the state treasurer  for details on the state's hedge fund portfolio.
    A letter to Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo protested her sending redacted records to The Providence Journal, which was preparing a story about the state's $1 billion stake in hedge funds.
   The newspaper also was denied full copies of due-diligence reports on each fund by Cliffwater, the state's hedge fund consultant.
   "Given that the reports are paid for with public funds and detail how the state is investing the public's money, we feel they should be made public in their entirety," the protest letter contended.
   It was signed by executives of the ACLU of Rhode Island, Common Cause Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Press Association and the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island.
Keep up with First Amendment issues through  NEFAC's blog
  It's a forum for citizens, journalists, students, public policy advocates and government officials to have their say on First Amendment issues.
   The blog is maintained by the staff of the New England First Amendment Center at the School of Journalism at Northeastern University.
   Submit comments to Laura Crimaldi:

Who's Counting? Globe Probe Raises Doubts on Public Meeting Quorums     

By Todd Wallack

   BOSTON - While writing a story recently about the Massachusetts state pharmacy board, I noticed something odd: Only half the board members Todd Wallack showed up for a meeting last summer -- too few for a quorum -- but the board members went ahead with the meeting anyway and voted on one item after the next.

   It turns out it was part of a much wider problem, raising questions about how frequently obscure boards comply with all the rules for public meetings throughout New England. 

   Usually, boards need a majority of members to show up for a meeting for any votes to count. But when I checked past Massachusetts pharmacy board minutes, I found at least two other cases where at least half the members were absent, but the rest of the members voted on items anyway. 

Read more

Unsealed Spader Files Provide Insight into a Troubled Mind - and a Surprise

By Joseph Cote
   NASHUA, N.H.- You never really know what a Right-to-Know request - or a motion to unseal documents - will turn up.
 Cote, Joseph   When The Telegraph filed a motion with the Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester to unseal documents prior to Steven Spader's second sentencing hearing we expected to learn more about Spader.
  We did, but we also learned a lot more about Spader's life at home before the Oct. 9, 2009 murder of Kimberly Cates and even more about his adoptive parents' herculean efforts to save their boy.
   We learned a little bit more about the sometimes tragic failures of the state's mental health system. We also learned Spader has a child of his own.

Judge Says RI School Board Must Open Talks on "High Stakes" Testing 

By Steven Brown
   PROVIDENCE - A judge agreed with the ACLU of Rhode Island in blocking the state Board of Education from meeting in private to hear from invited "experts" on its "high stakes testing" requirement for high school seniors.
   Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini said allowing such a discussion to take place in private during a board retreat would significantly undermine the purpose of the state's open meetings law.
   The "high stakes" testing issue has received extraordinary public attention in recent months. As a result of the testing requirement, which is scheduled to take effect in 2014, approximately 4,000 students face the risk of not graduating because of their scores on the standardized test being used. 
  Read more 

Handling of Garage Project Roils Tiny Mount Holly, Vt. 

By Rob Mitchell
   MOUNT HOLLY, Vt. - An ongoing fracas over plans for a new town garage in Mount Holly, a town of 1,237 between Killington and Okemo mountains in Vermont, illustrates the challenge to the public process inherent with the attitude and relationships of small New England towns.

   When the town needed a new fire station a few decades ago, townspeople brought their own tools and materials and built a new station under the supervision of a few contractors - a far different and much more informal process than was required when the need for a new town garage, and the attendant cost of at least $500,000, arose about five years ago. 

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   We welcome contributions to The NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, adademics or other advocates of government transparency.
   If you have something to add to the conversation, please let me know. Your  stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value. - - Larry Laughlin, NEFAC Report editor. (