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Littleton businessman's right to know case filed in Supreme Court


December 14, 2011
LITTLETON — An appeal in a right to know case between an area businessman and the Town of Littleton officially reached the state Supreme Court on Dec. 5, but still faces a number of hurdles before it can go before the justices.

Gold House Pizza owner Jim Sourgiadakis has been seeking all documents from the town having to do with a State Employee's Association (SEA) boycott of about a dozen businesses in Littleton last spring. The union was protesting large cuts in the voter-approved budget, which eliminated one police officer position and underscored a division in town — some people felt the town paid for too many services, while others wanted the service level to remain the same.

Other positions also eliminated included two firefighters, three highway department employees, one transfer station employee, the tax collector and the town manager.

Sourgiadakis believes the Littleton Police Department used town property to help plan the boycott and the withheld documents will prove it. SEA has been fighting the request, saying that any release of those documents would violate a contractual agreement with the town.

Grafton County Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein ruled Sept. 2 that only six records — consisting of mostly newspaper clippings and SEA newsletters — should be released, while all others contained personnel information and were exempt.

Later that month, Sourgiadakis' attorney, John Clifford, submitted a motion to search for and produce additional records — specifically targeting the hard drives of 22 town computers. The town said it was willing to have the hard drives searched, if the plaintiff bore the burden of the cost. On Nov. 3, Bornstein decided that Sourgiadakis would be responsible for the $4,180.

The appeal filed with the state Supreme Court says that the superior court was wrong in:

- Ruling that Sourgiadakis has to pay the costs to search for records

- Not awarding attorneys fees and costs to Sourgiadakis

- Deciding that some requested records were exempt

- Granting SEA intervener and/or party status

Even though the appeal was filed as "mandatory," which means that it is automatically accepted for review by the court, a clerk said Wednesday that the case still needed be screened to make sure it meets all of the criteria. After that, mediation could be required and a number of other matters will need to be put in order. All in all, the state Supreme Court process can take about a year, the clerk said.

Also recently, Patrol Officer Michelle Soares, who was demoted from detective after budget cuts last year, resigned last week as the fifth officer to do so this past year. Sourgiadakis' right-to-know complaint makes direct mention of Soares, who is alleged to have played a role in the boycott since she was the union chapter president

Interim Town Manager Fred Moody said Thursday he had not yet done an exit interview and could not say for certain why she was leaving. The patrol officer position had not been filled internally by Thursday and was going to be advertised.

Garnett Hill
Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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