Maine state agency holds back a simple record, flouting public access law

A state agency withheld a public record from the Bangor Daily News even as it emailed the same record to the state’s public access watchdog. Such unexplained instances of withholding records are “becoming the norm,” according to the attorney who helped write Maine’s freedom of access law.

The small case over a simple record — a request to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development for a log of public records requests made of the department in 2017 — highlights how state agencies can hold up the release of records to certain requesters if they feel like it.

There’s little oversight, limited recourse for requesters and language in the law that gives agencies substantial leeway to respond slowly even to a simple records request.

The law requires only that an agency acknowledge the request within five days and then fulfill it within a “reasonable” amount of time.

The BDN on Dec. 15 requested the list of 2017 public records requests sent to the DECD, along with any such records it had provided to the state’s public access watchdog. Read more…