- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana Gov. Steve Bullock took a month to hand over a week’s worth of emails and his schedule. House Speaker Austin Knudsen took a day. And House Majority Leader Keith Regier began providing documents just hours after The Associated Press sent him a request for public records.

It took some nudging to get Senate President Debby Barrett and Senate Majority Leader Matthew Rosendale, now a candidate for state auditor, to comply.

At first, Barrett asserted that the request for emails from her government-issued account must specifically state the subject matter being sought. The AP’s request asked for all emails sent and received via a state-issued email accounts or nonofficial accounts such as Gmail or Yahoo! through Feb. 1-7.

Barrett’s initial response came just a day after a legislative committee she co-chairs discussed the obligations legislators have in divulging email communications requested by the public. Members of the committee asked its staff for further clarification and guidance on the matter.

Despite national controversy over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email for government business, many of Montana’s elected officials do the same thing. The AP requested emails and calendars from the governor and legislative leaders from both parties.



As part of its Sunshine Week requests, The AP also asked for calendars for the same time period, including the names of people with whom they met, were scheduled to meet and the descriptions of the functions they attended.

The governor’s office redacted the names and phone numbers of his security detail from his calendar, as well as information regarding the governor’s children, because of privacy concerns, said Andy Huff, the governor’s chief legal counsel. But the governor’s office did not disclose all the information sought, including with whom he met and specific details of events he attended during the week in question.

Huff, who handles public requests for the governor’s office, said such requests consume about three-fourths of his work hours. Because of the number of requests, he said, it is taking longer to comply with requests.

“The right to know is fundamentally important,” Huff said.

An AP request for copies of all public records requests over the past year was still pending.

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