Activist tossed from hearing

Jasper: Rules allow video recording

CONCORD – A libertarian activist and self-styled journalist says the law was broken when he was prohibited from recording a public hearing.

David Ridley, a member of the Free State Project, was asked to leave a House Finance Committee work session on Monday when members of the committee became uncomfortable by his actions.

The Free State Project is a libertarian effort to change New Hampshire’s politics by having like-minded people move to the state and become involved in government.

Ridley didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but said in an email that this is the first time hasn’t been allowed to record a public meeting in Concord.

“In roughly 40 camera-wielding visits to the House complex this is the first time I can recall ever being ordered not to film inside a scheduled meeting … with the exception of Party caucuses,” Ridley wrote.

Lynne Ober, the Hudson Republican representative who chaired the hearing, said Ridley was asked to leave mainly because he was yelling and interrupting the work session.

“I don’t know what was wrong with him,” she said.

Ober said that people who are disruptive at public hearings are asked to calm down or step outside. She said a couple of the other members of the committee were unnerved by Ridley’s action of video recording the hearing, and she asked him to stop.

Ober said she isn’t sure of the rules for videotaping, but said it would’ve been common courtesy for Ridley to have stopped the recording when asked.

The video shows Ober asking Ridley to stop video recording. He then speaks loudly and interrupts, demanding an explanation. One member tells Ridley the House rule allows the committee members to ask him to stop the recording. A House security officer also tells Ridley that House rules mean he can be asked to stop the recording.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, speaking in general and not about this incident, said there is no House rule that keeps any member of the public from recording a public hearing or work session.

“We do allow recording,” Jasper said. “I’m not aware that we have any prohibition on that.”

Jasper said people can be asked to leave if they’re being disruptive to the process, but that as a whole, people can make recordings in the Statehouse, except for caucus meetings.

Ridley said that being asked to stop recording is a violation of the New Hampshire Constitution. He said he never intended to be at the meeting for long in the first place.

“I had planned to only spend about 3 minutes in the meeting itself and leave with maybe 35 seconds worth of video of it … just enough to show people what the meeting looked like,” Ridley wrote. “The questionable restrictions made the meeting itself suddenly interesting.”

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245, dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.