EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 10, 2014

Timberlane Budget Committee to review rules

Members to consider whether to adopt same rules

PLAISTOW — Members of Timberlane School District’s Budget Committee will weigh in on proposed rules at its meeting tonight.

Members will address the “Committee Operating Procedures” that the School Board instituted on March 20 and amended on April 3.

The original rules were passed out to the Budget Committee March 27 by district business administrator George Stokinger. The discussion was tabled until tonight to allow members time to review the rules.

After the rules were adopted by the School Board, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union challenged the constitutionality of two of them, which its lawyer said restricted members’ free speech rights. Under one rule, only the chairman was allowed to address the press. Under the other, members were directed to speak with a unified voice, regardless of how they voted on a specific issue.

Last week, the School Board substantially amended those two rules after the NHCLU threatened legal action.

Tonight, the Budget Committee’s discussion will center on “whether or not we will adopt them, period,” Chairman Diane Rothwell said yesterday.

The committee is more likely to discuss the amended rules, she said.

Rothwell and committee members Cathleen Gorman and Jason Grosky said they were unsure where the discussion would go.

Grosky said everything about the rules is “to be determined.”

“Everyone is respectfully looking through them to see what they’re comfortable with and what they’re not,” he said. “What we’re trying to do as a Budget Committee is make sure our meetings don’t turn into free-for-alls.”

While the original rules were perceived by many as a gag order on board members, Grosky said he was “the last person that would try to restrict anybody’s right to say what they think or feel.”

Grosky is Salem’s police prosecutor.

“I’d be surprised if the Budget Committee moves at all toward anything like that,” he said. “I can only speak for me. I think the intent isn’t a clear voice, but that information getting out there is correct and clear.”

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