Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ten Years Ago:

This ten years went by fast.

Gray editor appointed to legislative committee

Matters of record | Lewiston Sun Journal
Thursday, November 6, 2003

AUGUSTA - State Senate President Beverly Daggett announces that Monument Newspaper editor and publisher Elizabeth Prata of Gray has been appointed to the Committee to Study Compliance with Maine's Freedom of Access Laws.

The committee was established by the 121st Legislature after a state-wide freedom of access audit conducted among state municipalities, school departments and police departments last November revealed that the law was being unevenly applied. Trained volunteers who had requested various public documents were asked to show identification, questioned as to their motives and in some cases denied access to the information.

As a result, the Legislature filed the bill in December, "Resolve, to Study Compliance with Maine's Freedom of Access Act."

Rep. Susan W. Austin (R-Gray) nominated Prata, saying that, "Elizabeth's work as an educator, journalist and publisher has signified her as a protector of our precious freedom of speech. Her extensive travels around the world have given her invaluable experience and greater perception of the importance of American freedoms. She will prove to be a valuable asset."

The committee has 12 appointed members from among various constituencies, including a member of the Senate, member of the House of Representatives, Maine Press Association, Maine Chiefs of Police Association, the School Management Association, the Attorney General, Maine Association of Broadcasters, Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, and two members of the public.

The committee will meet to study state and local government compliance with Maine's freedom of access and other issues relating to citizens' access to public records and public proceedings. The members will produce a report that contains its findings and recommendations, including suggested legislation.

Prata launched the weekly newspaper, The Monument, in March 2000. Since then, it has increased its circulation twice, its distribution area twice, and has become Gray and News Gloucester's newspaper of record.


Hakam Adam said...

Neeeeeat. What were your conclusions or recommendations?

Elizabeth Prata said...

The Legislative Committee's final report on Maine Freedom of Access Law is quoted here

"...lawmakers have passed over 500 exceptions to the law. In November of 2002, the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition conducted a statewide public records audit to find out how well government agencies compiled with the law. The results were mixed.

The Legislature recognized the problems highlighted by the audit and established a study committee that recommended a more rigorous review of proposed exceptions and a systematic review of all existing exceptions. Lawmakers adopted those proposals in 2003 and, earlier this year, enacted legislation creating a permanent advisory committee on access issues.

This follow up audit was conducted in May and, while there has been some improvement, it indicates there are still compliance problems all across the state."

One thing we did recommend is that there should be a Maine Freedom of Access (MFOA) ongoing advisory committee. To their credit, they did establish one and it is still going. Maine was responsive to the audit and the Legislative committee I was appointed to, and the advisory committee established after, were two of the results.

I think Maine did better after. Freedom of Access to government information was looser after the events had come into public attention and the town I lived in did very well with being more open.