Release: Mills Administration Continues to Dodge Freedom of Access Act Requests
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2022
Contact: Jacob Posik
Director of Communications
Mills Administration Continues to Dodge
Freedom of Access Act Requests
The governor’s office and Maine DHHS have failed to respond within one year to a FOAA request concerning the so-called ‘advocacy journalist’ policy used to kick reporters from The Maine Wire and Maine Beacon out of CDC press briefings in October 2021
PORTLAND, Maine – This week marks one year since the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled reporters from The Maine Wire and Maine Beacon “advocacy journalists” and kicked them out of their regular press briefings in violation of the First Amendment.
Since that time, neither Maine DHHS or the Office of Governor Janet Mills has fulfilled a Freedom of Access Act request concerning internal communications within the department and governor’s office related to removing specific journalists from its press events, or a copy of the alleged policy used to justify the decision.
The scope of the requests included communications between leadership in the governor’s office and Maine DHHS concerning the terms “The Maine Wire”; “Maine Beacon”’ “Maine People’s Alliance”; “Maine Policy Institute”; “advocacy journalism”; “advocacy journalist”; “credentialed journalist” or “credentialed reporter”. In addition, the FOAA request to Maine DHHS asked for a copy of the policy referenced by Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah during an October 6, 2021 press conference where they were asked about the dismissal of certain journalists.
The requests were submitted on October 8, 2021. The department acknowledged its request on October 12, 2021 and the governor’s office on October 20, 2021. One year later, no time or cost estimate has been produced by Maine DHHS or the governor’s office to fulfill the request.
“This whole charade flies in the face of the First Amendment. But to make matters worse, neither the governor’s office nor Maine DHHS can fulfill an extremely narrow public records request in one year’s time,” Maine Policy CEO Matthew Gagnon said.
In June, Maine Policy issued a press release sounding the alarm on the lack of transparency within the Mills administration concerning Maine’s public records law. At that time, Maine Policy had numerous outstanding FOAA requests that were at least one year old. The administration is adding to that list in failing to respond to this request.
“This problem is permeating across executive branch departments, yet the media refuses to pay attention to it. Never in this organization’s 20-year history have we had to wait in excess of one year on so many public records requests.
“This gross violation of government transparency is unacceptable. It’s time for Governor Mills – a former attorney general – to come clean on why her administration believed it was OK to define a ‘credentialed reporter’ and selectively remove journalists from their press briefings.”
Maine Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to expand individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Learn more about our work at www.mainepolicy.org.