Judge issues warning in Stone case
Whether or not former Claremont Police Officer Jonathan Stone’s disciplinary records will be made public could be determined in coming weeks, according to an order issued this week by Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker.
Stone, a current Claremont city councilor and past candidate for state representative, maintains that the police records on any potential wrongdoing he may have committed as a police officer cannot be released because of a union-negotiated confidentiality agreement.
Tucker ruled this week that unless either the city or Stone requested further oral arguments in the case within 20 days, he plans to issue a final ruling. Tucker has had the case for more than a year.
This reporter has been seeking the disciplinary records concerning Stone’s time as a police officer since June of last year. After filing a Right to Know request with the City of Claremont, the city initially went to court in order to have Tucker rule on whether or not it had to release any documents.
Tucker ordered the city to follow RSA 91-A and review the records to determine if any should be made public under the law. City Manager Ed Morris then sent this reporter a letter in August of 2020 detailing the findings of the review, and stating there are 11 internal affairs investigations with sustained findings involving Stone that can be released under the law.
Stone is now fighting to keep those records from going public, arguing that a union-mediated agreement bars the release.
Stone’s attorney, Peter Decato, argued in a previous hearing that at least four internal affairs investigations are bound up in a confidentiality agreement between Stone and the city, which was reached in 2006 after an arbitration hearing. Decato argues that the city cannot release information that is supposed to have been purged from Stone’s file, per the agreement.
Tucker has expressed skepticism in court that a union agreement could take precedence over state law. Tucker’s latest order, issued on Tuesday, indicates he plans to rule on whether or not the records that were supposed to be destroyed are subject to a Right to Know request, if any such agreements can override state law, and determine Stone’s privacy rights weighed against the public interest.
A similar case involving State Trooper Samuel Provenza and the Town of Canaan is due for oral arguments before the State Supreme Court later this month.
In that case, The Valley News is seeking a report from an outside investigation into Provenza from his time as a Canaan police officer. Provenza is currently being sued by resident Crystal Eastman over her claims that he assaulted her during an arrest.