- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - In a story March 13 about the Maine Freedom of Access Act, The Associated Press incorrectly reported how many public records requests are received by Gov. Paul LePage’s office. It gets one to two per week, not one to two per day.

The Republican governor typically gets one or two public records requests each day

A corrected version of the story is below:

Maine FOA requests can take days, weeks, months

Maine law says public records must be made available to the public within a “reasonable” amount of time

By TOM BELL

Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine law says public records must be made available to the public within a “reasonable” amount of time.

But that could mean hours, days or even months, depending on the volume of material requested and other factors.

Senate President Michael Thibodeau produced his email and calendar records four days after the Republican lawmaker received a request from The Associated Press.

But a staffer for Gov. Paul LePage said it would take two months to provide the same type of records requested of the governor.

The administration has a backlog of about 17 requests and is handling them in the order they were submitted, said Jennifer Tarr, who oversees public record requests for the Republican governor. The oldest, filed at the end of 2014, has produced 2,700 pages of documents so far.

The Republican governor typically gets one or two public records requests each week, Tarr added.

Sigmund D. Schutz, a First Amendment attorney in Portland, said there’s room for improvement.

“There’s a lot of variation in how much priority agencies put on transparency and public access. Some view it as a hassle or a nuisance, while others welcome it and view it as an important priority,” Schutz said.

Part of the reasons some agencies are allowed to become obstructionists is that the Maine Freedom of Access Act is “somewhat toothless.” He said he’s not aware of anyone being fined for a violation in recent history. The maximum fine is $500. Also, attorney fees may be awarded, but the legal standard for that to happen is extremely high.

In the governor’s office, Tarr tries to juggle working on the new requests while processing the old ones. She said she spends about half her workweek processing them. She has to review every document and redact any information that is exempt from the state’s public records law.

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act has more than 300 exemptions, such as medical information, personal contact information, performance evaluations of state employees and complaints against them.


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