Maine’s Continued Attempts To Quash Government Transparency

Courtesy of Larry Fillmore

FREEDOM OF ACCESS ACT (FOAA) PROGRAM

“Title 1 General Provision, Chapter 13: Public Records and Proceedings, Subchapter 1: Freedom of Access, Statue 402 Definitions outline the Public Records which can be obtain by individuals. This Statue also outlines the exceptions that cannot be obtained.

So why is this statue part of Maine Law? Lawmakers established this program as the tool to be used by citizens when transparency in government no longer exists. This program was created as a check and balance procedure to ensure residents of Maine would be able to find out what is going on in their towns and at the state level. The program provides for the people to get answers to their questions when our elected officials do not want to divulge this information.

Representative Mary Nelson (Falmouth) and Judy Meyer, Chairlady for the Right to Know Advisory Committee are representing the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) and trying to change the current procedures. Mrs. Meyer went so far as to state she felt the court should stop any and all requests deemed a NUISANCE. I cannot understand why any FOAA requests that mean the requirements of the law can possibly be considered a NUISANCE. It is the individual’s right, under the law, to request any documents that meet the provisions of the law. Apparently, Representative Nelson and Mrs. Meyer has something to hide; why else would they want to deny the right of any Maine citizen to submit a FOAA request that qualifies under the Maine law.

The provisions of Representative Nelson bill are totally ridiculous. Representative Nelson’s bill would eliminate the $15.00 per hour after the first hour as the fee and allow the agency to dictate how long and what price they can charge for completing the FOAA request. I had this situation happen to me. I requested information that could have been extracted from the computer system in a matter of seconds. However, it took the Finance Director several hours to gather the information and then the town charged me for each hour the Finance Director stated it took her to retrieve the information. There are no checks and balances to ensure the accuracy of the time it takes to complete any requests. Leaving it up to the agency is like having the fox guard the hen house. There has to be guidelines established to ensure the integrity of the program.

I, like Mr. Michael Doyle (Falmouth) utilize the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) program when my elected officials refuse to provide information. I am sure my FOAA requests are a NUISANCE to town employees but it is MY RIGHT under the law and who is going to judge if my request is a NUISANCE or not. My thought process is much different than anyone else, so who is going to deny me my right? Who has the right to deny Mr. Doyle and others their right to request information under the law? In both Mr. Doyle’s case and my own, we have discovered abnormalities in our local government.

Representative Nelson and Mrs. Meyer should be ashamed for trying to make it impossible for individuals to submit requests under the FOAA program. It is easy to understand why Maine Municipal Association wants to make it harder for citizens to challenge local government because they represent the municipalities. But the bottom line is, there is a program in place that allows residents of Maine to request information from their town and state under the law. And as long as these individuals meet the requirements of the statue, they should be able to submit as many as they want without any interference from the state or anyone else.

Mrs. Meyer is the Chairlady of the Right to Know Advisory Committee and she is supporting Representative Nelson’s bill. How is this possible because if Mrs. Meyer is stating that these requests by Mr. Doyle and I are NUISANCE requests; then she is talking out of both sides of her mouth at the same time.

You no longer have the Right to Know if you cannot submit a request for information under the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA).”

Larry Fillmore

LD 104 – “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Public Records”, HERE.

Title 1, Chapter 13: PUBLIC RECORDS AND PROCEEDINGS
Subchapter 1: FREEDOM OF ACCESS, click here.

Falmouth Today article “MAINE MUNICIPAL ASSOCIATION READIES ANOTHER ATTACK ON THE FREEDOM OF ACCESS ACT (FOAA)” February 4, 2013, click here.

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Published in: on February 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. They continue to hide behind the mask…..this administration was going to be “transparent”…”people before politics”…when will this happen?

  2. Maine has one of the worst records in regards to FOI requests, and the MMA wants to make it WORSE? Hope The Guvnah steps on this 🙂

  3. Wow this change would be horrible. I have done 3 Freedom of Information acts from 2009 until 2013.

    The City of Ellsworth allowed a Salvage yard owner to put a salvage yard in a rural 2 zone on 635 North Street, my home was 645 North Street. The promise of no fluids, no tires, etc. from the code enforcement officer and the owner. They also promised logs to be kept.
    After the first year I requested a copy of the Logs of the salvage yard’s removal of fluids, batteries, mercury switches, Etc. they told me it was private information. Although it was a public health risk to our ground water, we were denied the records.
    3 years later we find out that no fluids had been removed. There had always been tire piles, and batteries, mercury switches had gone to the
    crusher, over a gravel pad with no protection to the ground water.

    There was police harassment to us while this was all going on. We were falsely reported on and were stopped at gun point by the local police. Later they said it was a false report, yet refused to give our attorney an incident report of the incident. They said they didn’t have
    to give us an incident report because it was an on going investigation.
    NO! what this was, was an attempt to scare me. After 3 false calls we moved 102 miles away. It worked.

    We hired a few attorney’s but they just threw the case after receiving thousands of dollars. Does anyone know an honest attorney who would take a look at the case? It cost me all my savings, my home, and ended up costing me my job that I loved very much. We still pay for the house that no one can live in. This year our taxes on that house went up 300.00. This house that can’t be lived in because of the access is narrow (10 feet) and by state law it has to be 24 feet. The city attorney told the Planning board they didn’t need to go by state law. When it is environment or public safety the more stringent law needs to be applied.

    The city of Ellsworth charge us for any and all copies that we need. They have refused to give me a copy of our tax card which was accessed in 2006. How can they do, what they do????

    I believe more access, with no charges, to all public documents needs to be available, to all to public records, from what I can see this keeps everyone honest. It stops the good old buddy system from doing illegal things to help their friends make money while polluting the ground water and not obeying laws for public safety. This will be Ellsworth’s 3rd super fund site. I guess when
    the Federal government has to pick up most of the tab, who cares, about a few farmers, and individual home owners ground water.

    The super fund site at the Boggy brook location in Ellsworth, made people sick, and destroyed their wells, the City of Ellsworth, bought the homes at the value, of what the town assessed the homes and drilled some home owners wells. They have dug 37 feet and shipped the gravel down south to be baked to remove the pollution, they still haven’t found the bottom and clean soil. Did Ellsworth learn their lessen from the practice of what contaminants can do when dumped on gravel surface??? NO, you have a code enforcement officer who got up in front of the City council and told them that crushing over a gravel pad is the best practice. He needs to be removed from his job.

    Why wouldn’t Ellsworth want to ensure proper logs were being kept?
    When they found out the owner was crushing cars over a gravel pad with no protection to our ground water, they allowed it to go on for 2 years after the planning board ordered proper testing and a filter system to protect our ground water? After no compliance to their own ordinances and regulations, they refused to test the abutters water. Why? They we were told if the salvage owner destroyed our water supply it was up to us to prove it and take him to court. Why???? After allowing him to operate illegally the city should be held accountable for all testing to our ground water.

  4. Hi!

    First of all, who is to determine what a nuisance is as it relates to the FOA (Freedom of Access – Title 1, Chap. 13, Sec. 408-A))?

    Second, what is the definition of nuisance?

    I have sent several FOA requests to many “fake” judges here in Maine requesting a copy of their commissions which they have admitted that they don’t have.

    They inform me that they are “appointed” only, and that they are happy to send me their “certificates” of which I NEVER asked for them. I was very, very specific in asking only for their commissions and nothing else.

    Neither an appointment nor a certificate provide a “title” and “vests an office, a public office, and are NOT under “seal” of the state.

    The function of a “commission” is to provide the person so named in his commission with a “title,” for example, Chief Justice, and “vests an office, a public office, and the commission is under “seal” of the state.

    Perhaps they can’t read, and perhaps they don’t have any comprehension skills.

    Who knows?

    When I don’t ask for a certain document, then it must mean that I don’t want a copy of it.

    Right?

    Of course, but these impostors don’t seem to get it.

    Thank you!

    • Didn’t you send a packet of info to Gov. LePage on this? Did he respond to you?

  5. The Judiciary hides from the FOAA. They do the little pass the buck and not answer routine. Let’s see they should be fined over $1,500.00 from my FOAA’s. Then the scholarly Matt Pollack tries and pass off a certificate as an updated Commission? Maybe in their legalese playwright of fraud!

  6. Hi!

    Yes, I sent a packet to Governor LePage that HE ASKED FOR last August (2013).

    I did NOT “volunteer” to send him anything while I was on a “conference” call with him; he asked for my “evidence,” and I did send my evidence last August (2013), and NEVER heard
    back from him.

    So what does that say about him?

    Common courtesy would dictate that he at least send a “thank you” note but “oh no!,” not from him. He could have at least sent a note to say that he received it but “oh no!” once again.

    I guess he doesn’t seem to have any common courtesy. Perhaps he wasn’t taught that being “out in the streets” of Lewiston.

    Who knows?

    I wasted my time and money sending him my evidence.

    Perhaps he needs to attend “courtesy” school. The media seems to think so as well as many others.

    Thank you!

    Lise from Maine

  7. bjmac10: I served on the city council with some of the people still there, believe me a severe lack of brain power is prevalent in that group I once asked the other council members if any of them had ever read the constitutions they swore an oath to and none I repeat none of them had, one of them a college grad said he did not know the state had a constitution and he had sworn an oath to it, by the way he is at present the mayor, another one of these brain thrust who was there when I was 20 years ago said “I don’t know anything about the constitution but ill be damned if I want to learn it from “Richard Kane”.
    so good luck, as for lawyers they first protect the “SYSTEM” second the State and federal government then the client see where you fit in third place just there to be plucked much like has been done to you already.


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