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NH Vanity Plate GAGGED

2000 Nov 30
A week or so ago the DMV sent me a pair of ordinary number plates. I guess they expect me to put them on the van, but they're so boring I don't. Instead, I go to the town hall to try to snare IH8DCYF. However,the clerk says that the computers haven't caught onto the seven character vanity plates yet and she'd have to call Concord and deal with a human. I figure that would be a waste of time, so I fall back on Plan B and ask for GAGGED. That's available, so I walk out with a temporary paper plate officially gagged. This is okay, as the back of the van has enough signs to leave no doubt as to the details.

The metal plates arrived yesterday! Clearly it would be disingenuous for my plate to sport the state motto "Live Free or Die", so I'll just cut and fold over the "Live Free" part of that. As for the Old Man's profile, he needs a padlock over his mouth. The Wooley v. Maynard decision should extend to that without difficulty. Time to declare victory. The campaign is not over, we have a couple projects left....

The complaints about H8DCYF are becoming significant elsewhere, so I went the the DMV on Jan 2 to find Virginia Beecher. However, she was out, but I was asked to fill out a form asking for the information I sought. The form was wholly inappropriate, but I figured they might find it harder to ignore a requested form rather than a letter out of the blue. I waited as long as I could, but Ms. Beecher never showed up. However, she sent the following letter the next day.

State of New Hampshire
Department of Safety
James H. Hayes Bldg. 10 Hazen Dr.
Concord, N.H. 03305

January 3, 2001

Ms. Paula Werme
Attorney at Law
83 North Main Street
Boscawen, NH 03303

Dear Attorney Werme:

Please be advised that the Division of Motor Vehicle's [sic] is returning the Release of Motor Vehicles Records form (DSMV 505) filled out by you on January 2, 2001, for the following resaon: The request, "I want to see my entire file on H8DCYF," seeks access to a record or records that do not exist. Motor vehicle records kept by the department include "all applications, reports required by law, registrations, histories, certificates, and licenses issued or revoked by the department and the information, including personal information, contained in them." See NH RSA 260:14, I(a). If your request, however, is for your motor vehicle history, such a request under RSA 260:14 is for your driver record. A request for a driver record, however, was not made in this case. Moreover, you have asked to meet with the Commissioner of Safety regarding an alleged "violation of RSA 260:14, VIII." I assume you were referring to RSA 260:14, VII, shich provides that an individual shall have access to motor vehicle records relating to such person upon proof of identity. Again, such a request would refer to motor vehicle records as described above, and you would have to make a specific request under section III of the DSMV 505.

Please also accept this letter as a reaponse to your request for public records under RSA 91-A. Your request for "a listing of all NH license plates with 'H8' any where in the configuration" is more properly a request made under the driver privacy law, RSA 260:14, since this request is for motor vehicle records. Pursuant to NH RSA 260:14, II(a), the legislature has determined that motor vehicle records are not public records under the right-to-know law, Thus, your request must comply with the terms of RSA 260:14, and the rules contained in Saf-C Chapter 5600. Because it does not, the request can not be met.

[The privacy issue arose after the Union Leader printed the names of the holders of numbered license plates 1 to 9999. Not only are NH drivers fond of vanity plates, but we also hold low numbered plates special for their prestige and purported ability to ward off speeding tickets. However, the holders appear to want anonymity too! A more serious issue was that stalkers were using using these records to get the names and addresses of the drivers they wanted to pursue. In my case, I don't care about names, I just want to know what H8 plates are out there so people can be offended by them.]

In the past, you have asked for information concerning complaints made to this agency by private citizens concerning your registration listing at the time. You did not reference this request as being one for public records under RSA 91-A, Nevertheless, I will assume that the request was for such public records kept by the department. One of the complainants did reduce comments to writing and, thus, such written correspondence has become a public record of the Department pursuant to RSA 91-A. A copy of this complaint can be obtained by contacting Evelyn Sargent at 271-2559, and after the submission of a fee of $1.00 pursuant to Saf-C 203:13. There is no cost for the inspection of the public record.

[This is a little curious as it means that the DMV accepts verbal requests to the DMV to recall plates. So much for accountability.]


Virginia C. Beecher, Director
Division of motor Vehicles
NH Department of Safety


2001 Jan 5
Well, at least we can find out who one of the complainants is, or so I thought. In Email to various people interested in this, I wrote:

Subject: She lies, too!

She wrote me a letter I received yesterday in which she said that I could go in and look at the file with the complaint letter in it. Instead, a clerk handed me a copy of the letter with the name of the author whited out, and would not let me inspect the original file. I demanded that the commissioner either make an appointment to see me right there or that I see the file. They refused. A hearings examiner was called in and explained to me that it was not permitted to knock on the commissioner's door. Flynn has not called me for two days despite two messages to call. He's a very busy man. I loudly stated that it was a public file and I had the right to see it. Was escorted out of the building by a nice man in a green uniform who looked as though he was going to deck me when I attempted to walk behind him to retrieve my coat and purse. It must be nice to have state troopers handy to assist you in breaking the law.

The author of the letter was a DCYF employee who stated she saw me driving around Concord. She didn't date the letter but it's stamped November 12, 1999. There was a review hearing in Laconia on November 11, 1999, the first time the plate was parked near court. That was the hearing that we assumed someone from DCYF saw the plate and called the DMV.

The letter:
Virginia Beecher
Director Motor Vehicles
10 Hazen Drive
Concord, New Hampshire

Dear Ms. Beecher,

I am writing this letter to ask for your assistance and to express my dismay regarding a hate message that I observed displayed on a New Hampshire motor vehicle license plate.

While in Concord, I observed a van type vehicle with a license plate that read "H8DCYF." Clearly this translates to Hate DCYF, DCYF is the acronym for New Hampshire's Child Protection Agency a Division of the Department of Health and Human Services. An agency legislative mandated to protect children who are abused and/or neglected and to provide services to both the children and their families.

Hate messages are certainly not productive and ones that are issued by the state at the request of citizens should not be authorized.

As a person who is dedicated to helping children and families as a paid employee of the Division and as a private citizen I am distressed. Hate Messages do not promote healthy responses, hate messages can be dangerous, and hate messages should not be promoted by government.

Is there a law, an administrative rule or a policy or procedure that dictates the messages that are allowed on vanity plates? Are there currently an plans by your department to propose regulations on messages allowed on license plates.

I look forward to your response.

[Name redacted for "Privacy" by Virginia Beecher]

2001 April 16
Well, well, well. Excerpts from the April 12 Union Leader:

NH officials relent, let man H8TAXS on plate
Union Leader Correspondent

HOPKINTON - Albert Prisco has a plate that reads "H8TAXS," which to him stands for "hate taxes." When he tried to register a new car and get a new moose vanity plate, he was at first told by an employee at the Division of Motor Vehicles that he could have the plate.

But early yesterday, he received a registered letter saying the plate had been approved in error and was being recalled. State officials asked Prisco to return the temporary paper plate, which also has the characters H8TAXS, to DMV.

Prisco called and left messages for the motor vehicles director Virginia Beecher, state Reps. Richard Kennedy and Sylvia Larsen, U.S. Rep. Charles Bass and U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg.

Before the day ended, however, Prisco's problem had been resolved.

"Someone by the name of MaryAnne, from the DMV, called here after 4 p.m. and left a message saying the plate I want is going to be released today," Prisco said yesterday. "I have no idea what made them change their mind. Maybe what I said made a difference. I told them I was going to make some phone calls to see if the plate recall was legal or not."

Before he received the telephone message, Prisco, who characterized the recall of his vanity plate as a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, said he planned to fight the state in court.

"After having this plate for three years, now they are telling me it was given to me in error. There's a big tax debate going on in Concord right now and they are preventing me from expressing my view on taxes - this is a free speech issue," said Prisco.

The problem started in February when Prisco registered a new car and decided to order his vanity license plate in the new moose design. Prisco says he placed the order at the Division of Motor Vehicles in Concord on Feb. 14, where a clerk processed the request and took the purchase order "upstairs for approval".

The clerk told Prisco, even though he had been using the plate for about three years, any license plate number reflecting the word hate had to be approved by a supervisor before she could place the purchase order.

Prisco said the supervisor approved the purchase order, and he was told there wasn't a problem. "She came back and said everything is fine as long as you don't use the word hate as in hating people or anything like that," said Prisco.

Neither Beecher nor her boss, Richard M. Flynn, commissioner of the Department of Safety, could be reached for comment last night.

Yeah, but H8DCYF refers to an agency, not the people in it. (And technically they aren't people, but government actors.)

The Union Leader's editor remembers H8DCYF:

We H8TAXS too: DMV's thought police strike again

INCOME TAX WEEK, is an appropriate time to congratulate Albert Prisco of Hopkinton for fighting for his right to hate taxes. For three years, Prisco has driven around the state with a vanity plate that reads "H8TAXS." But on Wednesday morning he received a registered letter from the Division of Motor Vehicles demanding return of the plate because it had been issued to him in error.

Considering Paula Werme of Boscawen had her "H8DCYF" (hate Department of Children, Youth, and Families) vanity plate forcibly removed by DMV officials in November, we suspect that no "error" had been made three years ago. We suspect that since then, DMV has begun screening people's political opinions in New Hampshire. It's politically incorrect to hate taxes - especially during the education funding debate.

But Prisco was not intimidated by government bureaucrats. He warned the DMV he would call a list of state officials to complain that his First Amendment rights were being violated. In what appears to be a Holy Week miracle, he was contacted by DMV late Wednesday afternoon and told he could keep the plate.

Good for you, Albert Prisco.

- Bernadette Malone Connolly

2001 June 6
Well! I have NO idea why I never looked before, given that I've had more than my share of contact with the PCC committee.

It is one HELL of an irony that among the committee members who will be judging my fitness as an attorney is Virginia Beecher, head of the Department of Motor Vehicles. She lied to the Concord Monitor about my license plate matters by telling them that I failed to contact them after they contacted me about my H8DCYF plate, (see last November 9th, above).

That means it's time for another letter!

June 7, 2001

The New Hampshire Supreme Court
One Noble Drive
Concord, NH 03301

Re: Virginia Beecher Member, Professional Conduct Committee

Dear Honorable Justices,

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the presence of Virginia Beecher on the Professional Conduct Committee. You may or may not know that she, using the power of her office as Director of Motor Vehicles, sent two armed employees of the Department to my home last year to repossess my license plate. Despite the fear I had at facing two DMV employees who were willing to use lethal force in retrieving my license plates, the entire episode has, for the most part, been an amusing diversion for myself while involved in an otherwise stressful area of law. I was unaware until just yesterday that Ms. Beecher was a member of the Committee on Professional Conduct.

I am enclosing for your attention a copy of my web page on my license plate. You will note toward the end of it that Virginia Beecher represented to Steven Varnum of the Concord Monitor that "We've waited a year for her to contact us and tell us what she wants to do and will do and that's more than reasonable," said Motor Vehicles Director Virginia Beecher. I most certainly DID contact the Division of Motor Vehicles and tell them what I wanted them to do , which was to forward to me a copy of any rule or regulation on which they claimed the power to revoke my license plate, "so that I [could] choose another appropriate plate without running afoul of them." Those letters were not answered with meaningful information justifying her decision to "recall" my license plate, but with the letter of Sherry Seabury dated December 29, 1999, which contained no information on the legal authority for recalling my plate. I added the copies of the certified mail receipts for my letters to the DMV to the web page as a result of her remark.

While the matter of public officials lying to reporters is hardly a novel matter, it concerns me greatly that this woman, who is willing to lie to a newspaper to cover her bureaucratic tail, and further has the power to send armed thugs out to a citizen's home to retrieve something without legal authority, also has the power to sit in judgment on the ethics of lawyers.

I consider her behavior unworthy a member of a Supreme Court Conduct committee, and would hope that you would give serious consideration to removing her from the committee or in not reappointing her at the expiration of her term.

Thanking you for your consideration in this matter.

Paula J. Werme, Esq.

cc: The Honorable Jean Shaheen
NH Executive Counsel
Senate Judiciary Committee
Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct
Virginia Beecher

While I never received a reply, and Ms. Beecher remains on the PCC, I was told by Jim DeHart, the administrator of the PCC, that she recuses herself from my cases. She did not attend the November hearing on two of the PCC complaints against me.

One time-honored medium for political statements is the decorative quilt. Given that I'm a quilter, it follows that I should produce a quilt about my license plates, or rather, the political issues behind them. So I did:

The panels include articles from various sources printed on fabric and mixed in with Article 22, Part 1 of the NH State Constitution:

Free speech and liberty of the press are essential to the security of freedom in a state. They ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved.

What could I do? I was outnumbered and outgunned; it was two DMV officers armed with semi-automatic pistols and a screwdriver, against a middle-aged housewife armed with a camera and a pet rabbit!

Continue with the next license plate, AXDCYF.

Contact Paula Werme, Esq. or visit her Law Practice home page.
Contact Ric Werme or return to his home page.

Last updated 2007 April 4.