Freedom of information is a right, not a suggestion

Published on Monday, 12 February 2018 21:33
Written by The Kennebec Journal, Maine

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act isn’t really a law - it’s more of a suggestion.

While statute says that governments must fulfill requests for public records in a timely manner - so that citizens can be informed in real time of what is being done in their name and on their dime - it just isn’t built to deal with officials who have no interest in keeping the public informed.

If others have exploited this law before, the LePage administration has elevated it to an art form. In the latest example of opaque governance, Gov. Paul LePage’s office has ignored for 11 months requests by the Portland Press Herald for receipts that would show how the governor is spending public money when he travels. Such flouting of the open records law is nothing new for the administration, which has regularly attempted to subvert the open records law in how they communicate internally, and how they process requests for information.

Maine law makes that easy - it says only that requests should be fulfilled within a “reasonable” time, without defining what that means, or providing much in the way of recourse short of a lawsuit.

Officials who respect open government would make public information as public as possible. They would place some of it online automatically as a matter of course. The rest they would turn over when asked, “in a reasonable time.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Monday, 12 February 2018 21:33. Updated: Monday, 12 February 2018 21:36.