One is to reduce potential liability in personnel matters, he said.
“But I’m guessing a lot of these boards and councils find it more efficient not to get caught up in debate with the public,” Spiliotes said. “They would rather not get bogged down with gadflies, other groups or the press.”
Boards may risk aggravating local activists, but these situations may be lost on the average, busy voter, Spiliotes said.
“In some situations, there is nothing to be gained by the board member from getting into it with an individual who has a bone to pick,” Spiliotes said.
Whether officials like being questioned or not, that’s all part of the job, Eyring said.
“That’s what they sign up for,” he said.
Another concern for boards may be limiting infighting among themselves, Spiliotes said.
“This maximizes control,” Spiliotes said. “It keeps order internally.”
Daniel Bromberg, a University of New Hampshire assistant professor who teaches public administration, said he doesn’t know it to be a common practice.
But the purpose is for boards to get the same message across, he said.
“It’s not necessarily a terrible thing,” Bromberg said.
He pointed out a different trend for boards to use technology to be more transparent in their actions.
“They are putting more up online,” he said.
In Derry, four of the councilors — Mark Osborne, Phyllis Katsakiores, Neil Wetherbee and Al Dimmock — responded to calls requesting comment about their gag order.
Disobeying the gag order is not an option, they said.
“I believe we needed to go through the proper channels,” Dimmock said.
Dimmock and Katsakiores said as public officials elected by the people of Derry, it’s difficult for them to remain mum on a significant local issue.
Katsakiores said some people have approached her in church to ask about the situation.