Manchester, NH – Laurie Ortolano of Nashua is this year's Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications' First Amendment Award honoree, and will be saluted by the School on Thursday, October 26, 2023. The annual event honors New Hampshire individuals or groups that have advanced or exercised their First Amendment rights in some special or extraordinary way. Ortolano was nominated for her Right to Know advocacy in Nashua and statewide.
The Loeb School’s First Amendment Award judges are 2022 First Amendment Award Honoree and Legal Director for ACLU-NH Gilles Bissonnette, Retired NH Supreme Court Justice Richard Galway, Attorney Gregory Sullivan of Malloy & Sullivan, LPC., and NH Bulletin Senior Reporter Annmarie Timmins.
About the Honoree
Laurie Ortolano's commitment to open government has been unwavering since her first encounter with right-to-know requests as a member of the Litchfield School Board in the early 2000s, where transparency was embraced without legal disputes. However, her move to Nashua in 2014 marked the beginning of a different journey.
City officials in Nashua have met Ortolano's numerous right-to-know requests for tax assessment, finance, and development information with denials, court battles, and even an arrest for criminal trespassing when she visited city hall during the pandemic without an appointment (the arrest was later annulled).
Undeterred by these challenges, she has consistently taken her fight to court, accumulating legal fees and costs totaling $270,000. Her persistence has paid off with victories in three cases, two cases still pending, and three awaiting judgments from the state Supreme Court. In 2023, a Superior Court judge ordered the city to pay Ortolano $63,400 in legal fees and mandated that Nashua city officials undergo remedial right-to-know training to avoid "future violations."
The city appealed to the state Supreme Court. In August, the justices upheld Ortolano’s victory. In their decision, they quoted a portion of the state’s right to know law, “The purpose of the right-to-know law is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions, and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.”
About the Event
Ortolano will be honored at The First Amendment Award Event on October 26m from 4pm-5:30pm at the NH Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. The program will feature guest speaker Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Maggie Haberman, senior political correspondent for The New York Times, a political analyst for CNN, and the author of the best-selling “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.”
This event is open to the public, but space is limited, and tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets are $100.00 each and will include admission to the event, and a copy of Haberman’s book.
First Amendment Award Event sponsors include Keynote Speaker Sponsor CCA Global Partners and The Brodsky Prize for Excellence in Student Journalism, Free Press, Free Speech, Free Classes Sponsor Eversource, Community Partner Sponsor M&T Bank, and Connections Sponsor AT&T. Friends of the Nackey S. Loeb School Sponsors include Bank of America, Citizens Count, The Duprey Companies, The Elliot/Solution Health, The McQuaid Family, Spectrum Marketing, Saint Anselm College’s NH Institute of Politics, the Tamposi Foundation, and the Union Leader Corporation. Five Freedoms Sponsors are AARP-NH, Anagnost Companies, The Bernstein Shur Group, GIlles Bissonnette, Borislow Insurance, Brady Sullivan, Business & Industry Association, Catholic Medical Center, Cross Insurance, Curbstone Financial Management, Darby Field Advisors, Pamela Diamantis and Morey Goodman, Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., Fidelity Investments, Joyce and Daniel Levesque, Louis Karno & Company Communications, Sean & Kirsten Mahoney, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, McLane Middleton, Montagne-Powers Communications, NBT Bank, NH Beverage Association, St. Mary's Bank, Betty Tamposi, Northeast Delta Dental, Sheehan Phinney Capitol Group, Laconia Daily Sun, University of New Hampshire, Wash Street, Wieczorek Insurance, and WIPFLI.
For more information about the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, the 2023 First Amendment Award event, or to purchase event tickets, visit loebschool.org.