January 5, 2011

Decision Expected on Quorum Requirement

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- A decision regarding the constitutionality of the school district’s quorum requirement is expected to come in time for the Feb. 11 deliberative session.
On Tuesday morning, attorneys representing the Londonderry School District and school moderator and citizens Al Baldasaro, Sean O’Keefe and Brian Farmer appeared in Rockingham County Superior Court for a temporary hearing.
Baldasaro, a state representative, O’Keefe, a town councilor, and Farmer, a former town councilor, alleged the district’s 500-voter quorum requirement for the school district’s deliberative session, is not authorized under state law.
In their court petition, Baldasaro, O’Keefe and Farmer requested a declaratory judgment on the matter, as well as reimbursement for their attorney fees.
Yesterday afternoon, Baldasaro said the hearing went well, and the school district would be required to file a written appearance by Feb. 1.
“But we have reason to believe a decision could be made before then,” Baldasaro said,
 noting the ultimate goal is to halt the quorum requirement in time for this year’s deliberative session. 

Attorney Dan Sherwood of Hooksett, who is representing Baldasaro, O’Keefe and Farmer in the lawsuit, said the ultimate goal would be to obtain a judge’s preliminary order before a full hearing. 
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Sherwood said last night, noting that in instances where a judge feels a strong likelihood of success on the petitioners’ behalf, an early decision is sometimes made. 
Sherwood noted that the school district had provided the court with requested materials before the Feb. 1 deadline. A court decision will be made within 21 days, though Sherwood said he wouldn’t be surprised if a decision was granted within the coming week. 
“We’re expecting some decision soon, based on the merits and facts of this case,” he said. 
On Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said: “The purpose of the filing was for an injunction affecting this year’s deliberative session. So if the judge grants that injunction, we will be going into this year’s deliberative session without a quorum. If not, then we’ll just move ahead and do as we’ve done for the last 10 years.” 
The school district’s quorum has been in place since the charter was approved at the March 2000 ballots.  
On Dec. 6, Baldasaro, Farmer and O’Keefe filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief in Rockingham County Superior Court against school district moderator John Michels. 
The topic of quorum requirements has been a touchy one in recent months, with the question of the school district’s governing initially raised during meetings of a Charter Commission, formed during the March 2010 Town Meeting to take a closer look at the town’s governing methods. 
As the result of the Charter Commission’s findings, voters will be asked on the March ballot whether they’d like to replace the March Town Meeting with official ballot voting. 
During several of the commission’s meetings last summer, the topic of the school’s quorum arose, with commissioner Steve Young, also a school board member, noting that last year’s attempts to reduce the quorum size during school deliberative sessions ultimately failed, with the board opting against reducing the 500-person mandatory quorum to 350. 
Over the past few years, attendance at the school deliberative session hasn’t come close to 500. On average, attendance has been around 200. 

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