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The Maine Freedom of Entry Act (FOAA) has been in place for years. Having such a legislation shouldn’t be sufficient, nevertheless. It must imply one thing.
Exceptions and loopholes, notably associated to public data, have supplied too many off ramps for public officers and organizations to defend info from the individuals who fund them.
Even the Bangor Every day Information’ current courtroom victory (together with the Portland Press Herald) to entry full police disciplinary data demonstrated the Maine FOAA’s limits. The papers needed to go to courtroom, in a course of that took two years, to entry unredacted public data — a few of which ultimately proved to be written so vaguely that they obscured the precise misconduct.
It ought to go with out saying that last disciplinary paperwork ought to embrace details about the precise cause for the self-discipline.
Encouragingly, some present members of the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee have indicated a willingness to take this situation up sooner or later. Whereas the make-up of the Legislature will change after the upcoming election in November, these remarks provide good perception into how lawmakers might method freedom of entry points transferring ahead.
“I do suppose it’s necessary for a last written choice imposing disciplinary motion to comprise details about the explanation for self-discipline,” Democratic Sen. Anne Carney, a co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, instructed the BDN just lately. “I feel requiring details about conduct that’s the foundation of self-discipline is a vital situation for the Proper to Know Advisory Committee and Legislature to handle.”
Rep. Thom Harnett, a Democrat from Gardiner, is the opposite judiciary co-chair. Each he and Carney are members of Maine’s Proper to Know Advisory Committee. Harnett chairs the advisory committee and expects it to debate self-discipline data when it meets earlier than the brand new Legislature convenes in January.
“I feel the legislation we now have proper now could be good, but it surely’s been abused,” Harnett instructed the BDN. “The ultimate disciplinary doc, which isn’t a confidential doc, has to elucidate the conduct and the self-discipline. In the event that they’re not, I feel they’re being written in a manner that intentionally contravenes the aim of the Freedom of Entry Act.”
We’d once more argue that the legislation ought to be strengthened to restrict what Harnett has accurately identified as abuse. The truth that present legislation opens avenues for such abuse factors to a must replace the legislation.
The accountability of public establishments and officers shouldn’t be a Democratic or Republican situation. A minimum of it shouldn’t be. This is a matter of fine governance, and it’s one the following Legislature ought to take up regardless of which get together is in cost.
“My opinion is I belief the judgment of the superior officer if he doesn’t need to disclose what the misconduct is and retains it throughout the division,” Republican Rep. James Thorne of Carmel instructed the BDN. “In the event that they’re not violating the legislation, then they shouldn’t must. I’m leaving it as much as their judgment to say, ‘The truth that I disciplined them for misconduct is nice sufficient.’”
We’ve to respectfully disagree with Thorne right here. It’s not adequate if the general public doesn’t know why these public staff are being disciplined. And never in contrast to with police physique cameras, that is an occasion the place elevated transparency can truly assist police departments and different legislation enforcement companies.
When particular person officers are disciplined however info is withheld from the general public, it displays poorly on your complete group slightly than the person. Management clearly documenting officer misconduct and the way it’s handled, conversely, demonstrates what actions are usually not tolerated. Daylight, as former U.S. Supreme Courtroom Justice Louis Brandeis mentioned, is the perfect disinfectant.
Lawmakers can and will take steps, like ensuring last disciplinary paperwork truly comprise details about why a public worker is being disciplined, to strengthen the Maine public’s current proper to know. That proper must imply one thing.