Maine Civil Liberties Union Says Commission Investigating Government Misconduct Should be Subject to Public Scrutiny
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PORTLAND, ME – A commission established by the state Attorney General to investigate alleged government misconduct should be subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), according to an amicus brief filed by the Maine Civil Liberties Union today in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The panel of three prominent Maine lawyers was convened to investigate possible prosecutorial and law enforcement misconduct related to the investigation and trial of Dennis Dechaine for the 1988 murder of Sarah Cherry.
“The decision to keep the public in the dark about an investigation into alleged government misconduct raises a red flag,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “This state’s Freedom of Access laws guarantee the people of Maine the opportunity to shine a light on government proceedings of public concern.”
On August 30, 2006, James P. Moore, a private citizen, issued a FOAA request addressed to the three members of the commission as well as the Attorney General. A trial court found that the records he sought do not qualify as ‘public records’ and are not subject to the FOAA. According to the MCLU brief, the investigation was a matter of public interest and therefore, the records should be made available to the public.
“Commissions that are established by and report to the Attorney General should be subject to the same public scrutiny as the Attorney General himself,” said Sigmund Schutz, an MCLU cooperating attorney with the law firm Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau and Pachios. “Otherwise, we create back door routes for the government to operate in secrecy.”
The MCLU’s amicus brief can be read online at www.mclu.org
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