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Bill Seeks to Ban Non-Disclosure Agreements from Settlements Involving Public Money

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A new bill would prohibit the use of non-disclosure agreements in legal settlements involving public agencies or employees.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Representative Paul Berch, says people who bring suits against local or state government shouldn't be barred from speaking publicly about the dispute after a settlement.

Berch pointed to settlements that have been made here in New Hampshire by local governments. He also said cultural and political events on the national stage were on his mind.

"The me too movement was on my mind, the non-disclosure agreements that President Trump allegedly entered into with several women were on my mind, but what coalesced was reading about the Hillsborough jail situation," said Berch, referring to a series of legal settlements paid out by the Valley Street Jail over the last several years.

Others who testified at the bill's first public hearing on Wednesday argued that existing law already requires that settlements with government entities be made public. But Representative Berch says non-disclosure or non-disparagement clauses inserted into those settlements can leave the people afraid to speak out about public misconduct for fear of violating the settlement agreement.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.

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