Washington, D.C. – In the latest of a series of rather strange press releases today, the Vermont Office of Attorney General once again waves its rhetorical hands about a non-existent pursuit of “private emails”, with breathless chest-beating about “rights to privacy” and worker rights” as it strains to change the subject from the actual subject before the courts, and what former Attorney General William Sorrell will be questioned about in a deposition later this month: his use of a non-official GMail account for official business, which correspondence he and the current OAG continue to fight to keep from the public that owns it.
At issue is the latest in a series of litigation E&E Legal has been forced to file to enforce Vermont’s sunshine law, seeking reveal “official records created by or in the custody of former employees”, specifically described public records “which records relate to the Office of Attorney General.” Vermont’s public records law which only covers public records, as OAG and Mr. Sorrell are aware.
The clarity of E&E Legal’s requests, stonewalled now for a full year and a half, only makes the desperation of the stonewall and its attendant campaign to change the subject more of a sad footnote at the end of a long career than anything else.
We again note that, given how misrepresenting these facts only serves to change the subject from the admittedly unflattering one of using non-governmental accounts for official business, that must be the objective of this continuing exercise.
“The Public Records Act covers public records kept on nongovernmental accounts,” said Matt Hardin, E&E Legal’s lead attorney on this case. “State employees should not be permitted to violate and evade the law by putting public records on nongovernmental accounts. That is the important issue that should not be obscured with inaccurate claims.”
The specific public records E&E Legal seek relate to the misuse of government power for political purposes. The Office of the Attorney General refuses to even ask employees whether they have public records on nongovernmental accounts, even when given evidence that nongovernmental accounts have been used to conduct state business. It is already now established that former-Attorney General William Sorrell used a Gmail account to conduct public business and to evade the reach of Vermont’s Public Records Act, which allows for full discovery to ensure that public records have been properly searched for and produced.
E&E Legal has been waiting more than a year for these public records to be produced as required by the law. The Attorney General’s Office, however, has engaged in attrition warfare to prevent access to these public records. By a press release today, it also seeks to change the subject. Its request to appeal to the Supreme Court, after Mr. Sorrell failed to show for a properly noticed deposition last week, despite publicly vowing his willingness to do so, is just the latest maneuver in order to further delay having to produce these public records. Unfortunately, this attrition warfare which, like inaccurate press releases, is paid for with taxpayer money, has become the reflexive response of the Attorney General’s Office to obstruct the public access to government records.
About E&E Legal
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.