When a Portland law firm requested public information from the LePage administration last year, it got a response that would be familiar in newsrooms around the state.

The silent treatment.

No documents have been turned over. No explanation has been given for ignoring the request. The governor’s office acknowledged receiving the request in January, but that was it.

The incident is just one of many examples of an administration that treats public information as its private property. Although it likes to pretend that it is just fighting back against what it paints as a hostile and biased news media, they give the same treatment to private citizens who are looking to get the information they are, by law, entitled to receive.

The firm Andrew Schmidt Law has filed suit against the state to get the governor’s office moving. We hope that others will keep the pressure on as well. Bad things happen when powerful institutions believe that they can do public business in secret.

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act makes almost all government records public, and requires the government entity to make a “good faith effort” to deliver the information within a “reasonable” time frame.


Those plain-sounding words have been twisted and stretched beyond recognition by the LePage administration. There are many horror stories.

This newspaper fought for months in 2015 and 2016 in an unsuccessful attempt to secure records of communications between the Maine Warden Service and a television production company, which was filming undercover police operations here. The agency even resisted releasing a policy manual, at one point turning over a document that was almost entirely redacted.

State Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, recently complained that he has been denied answers to questions about a public health program that is the subject of a bill he is sponsoring.

The Bangor Daily News reported that a Maine Department of Health and Human Services employee whose job it was to disseminate public information was fired. The cause? Turning over a public report to the newspaper.

Peter Mancuso, an attorney with the Andrew Schmidt firm, requested information about Gov. LePage’s decision to join two out-of-state lawsuits and pull Maine out of a refugee resettlement program. These should not be complicated records to obtain, and there should be no reason to keep them sealed.

That they haven’t been produced in five months should show that this administration has a definition of “reasonable” and “good faith” that does not correspond with reality.

The law firm may win its case, but that won’t be enough to fix the problem.

Maine needs tougher laws with strict deadlines that will force this administration and its successors to meet its public disclosure obligations. The silent treatment has got to end.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: