By David Cuillier | May 28th, 2010
So far: 22 states, 9,273 miles, 41 sessions, 727 people (see schedule)
Portland, Maine — Jeff Inglis always comes prepared for a public record.
Tip No. 40: Jeff, president of the Maine SPJ chapter, copied the Maine Freedom of Access Act (cool name for a state public records law) and pasted it to a piece of paper, about 4-point font, and folded it up in a way so it fits in his wallet. When an official denies a public records request he simply pulls out the law and asks politely where in the law it says the record can be kept secret. If the official doesn’t believe that he has the whole state public records law on the double-sided sheet of paper he shows them the law on a website. If you can, carry along a copy of the law printed by your state’s association of cities, which government officials are going to trust. Great idea, Jeff!
It was great to meet with the Portland, Maine, SPJ chapter tonight, including former SPJ President Irwn Gratz. Earlier in the day I stopped at the Telegram and Gazette in Worcester, Mass., for a session (they tell me you pronounce the city “Wousta” or “Wista”). The papers, owned by The New York Times, recently went to battle for records regarding disciplinary records of a police officer. With enough perseverance they got the city to yield. Good job!
Tip No. 41: Shaun Sutner, a member of the paper’s investigative reporting team, said that when he requests a record via e-mail he’ll often cc others, such as the person’s supervisor or the state public records supervisor, so the official knows that others are aware of the request. It’s more difficult to ignore or deny a request when others are aware of its existence.
Thursday: I drive to Montpelier, Vt., to talk with access advocates and journalists. My first time to Maine and Vermont. No Waffle Houses on these highway interchanges!