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).”
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.