Maine's governor leaves behind spotty legacy on transparency

Source: 
Washington Times
MARINA VILLENEUVE

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Republican Gov. Paul LePage promised to fight for citizens’ rights to access information from Maine’s government and kicked things off with a vow that his transition would be “the most transparent” in history. As he prepares to leave office eight years later, he leaves behind a spotty legacy on transparency.

While LePage made state spending more open and pushed lawmakers to give more detail about their finances, he regularly declined to release his public schedules, took months to release the membership of a secretive wind energy panel and argued his working papers and handwritten notes shouldn’t be open to public scrutiny. During LePage’s tenure, a whistleblower claimed that Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention ordered her to shred public documents, leading to a lawsuit that was settled.

The governor even claimed he was careful to avoid producing written records that could be requested.

When there were records available, critics have said LePage’s administration was slow to respond to public record requests, which grew from 969 in 2015 to 1,328 last year. Those figures include 14 state agencies but not LePage’s office, which doesn’t have to report such figures.