By APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Londonderry’s 500-member school deliberative session quorum is unconstitutional, a Rockingham County Superior Court judge ruled this week.
On Tuesday, Judge Tina Nadeau issued a ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor following what has become an unpleasant, three-month legal battle between the Londonderry School District and three dissenting citizens: Al Baldasaro, a state representative; Brian Farmer, a former town councilor; and Sean O’Keefe, acting Town Council chairman.
School officials vowed yesterday to continue seeking a legislative solution in the wake of Tuesday’s ruling.
“Twice our voters reaffirmed this style of government. Clearly this is what they wanted,” Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said.
On Wednesday, several school officials said they would continue weighing their options and planned to consult their attorneys, as well as local legislators, regarding Nadeau’s decision.
As School Board Chairman John Robinson noted, the court has provided the district with 30 days to officially respond to the judge’s ruling.
“We will take a position on future actions after consulting with our attorney,” Robinson said, noting those options would be publicly discussed during the April 5 School Board meeting.
“It is unfortunate that the petitioners could not seek other options to this issue of the quorum,” Greenberg added. “Rather than working this through the court system, the solution would have been to have our legislative representatives help us with enabling legislation.” With that, Greenberg said the district still planned to work closely with local lawmakers in hopes of enabling a legislative response to this week’s court decision.
Before the lawsuit was filed, school officials had already been discussing ways to legally maintain their present form of government with state Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry.
“Her efforts are ongoing, and we hope will be fruitful and provide that enabling legislation,” Greenberg said.
Carson did not immediately return calls seeking comment yesterday afternoon.
Rep. Al Baldasaro, one of the three residents who filed the lawsuit, said he was pleased with Nadeau’s decision.
“I’m impressed with the court rule on constitutional voting rights,” Baldasaro said. “We gave the district the opportunity to solve this problem without having to go to court, but they refused. So today, I think, is a good day for all of those in town who still believe in their simple constitutional rights.”
The three residents filed the lawsuit in early December 2010 after alleging the current 500-member quorum required during the annual deliberative session was unconstitutional. The school district’s quorum requirement had been in place since the charter was approved at the March 2000 ballots.
During last month’s school deliberative session, many residents paused to question the quorum, after a total of 508 voters were initially counted at the Feb. 11 meeting. When the time came to vote on an article, however, just 446 residents filled the seats at the high school, invalidating all votes and causing the quorum to once again come up shor
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