Maine and D.C. officials aim to hide communications; Calif. opens more records

Maine: Governor Paul LePage is proposing a measure to hide all working papers from public access, reports the Bangor Daily News.  The state legislature currently enjoys such protection of its working papers, or “anything written down that could contribute to proposed legislation.” The state’s right-to-know advisory committee has approved the proposal by a vote of 10 to five. Dissenting members of the committee advocate not only for the governor’s proposal to be rejected, but for the legislature to lose its current protections of working papers.

Judy Meyer, co-chairperson of the committee and managing editor of the Lewiston Sun Journal, said that “this runs completely contrary to what the governor has said about transparency.” The governor’s deputy counsel, Michael Cianchette, argues that the proposed protection “doesn’t cut against transparency because as soon as a bill is presented, all documents become public. This just protects the decision-making process.”

Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post reports that some top city officials in D.C. have used personal email accounts for work purposes. Speaking for Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, who testified at a deposition last month, Gandhi’s chief of staff said, “There may have been an issue that we wanted to discuss, but did not necessarily want it to be FOIA-able to the press and, so, we would have perhaps had a conversation on personal email.” Gandhi explained at the deposition that he used his personal email account when emailing colleagues from home, citing difficulty accessing his work account. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray may also be under fire after the Post uncovered several emails he had sent to aides from his personal account.

California: In good FOIA news, a California state senator has introduced a bill that would require more transparency and ease of access to public files among government agencies. Rather than posting graphics and scans of documents, which are not keyword-friendly, Sen. Leland Yee’s bill would require public documents and data to be uploaded in user-friendly formats such as word-processing and spreadsheet files. On Saturday, a conference/”hack-a-thon” was hosted to allow software developers to create applications that can help the government open and streamline its operations. Read the story from the Central Valley Business Times.

– Abby Henkel

Abby Henkel is SPJ’s communications coordinator and a 2011 graduate of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs master’s program. Reach her at ahenkel@spj.org.

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