7-19-16 – Obeying the Public Records Act

by John McClaughry

A lawsuit against Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell over a refusal to deliver public records has prompted different reactions from the two candidates seeking to replace him.

In March, 19 Democratic AGs, including Sorrell, announced a plan to apply the antiracketeering Act to fossil fuel companies for not telling the world what they knew about global warming three decades ago.  In response, two nonprofit legal centers requested that the Vermont Attorney General’s Office turn over documents from private email accounts that discuss the plan in more detail. Sorrell blew it off.

Deborah Bucknam, the Republican candidate to replace Sorrell, said “The public records statute is very simple and straight forward: if you get a request for public records, you have to provide them… There are some exceptions, but they are very limited. … The attorney general didn’t even bother to respond to say somehow that there was an exception”

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, Bucknam’s Democratic opponent, twice refused to comment on Sorrell’s inaction, citing a possibility that litigation is pending.

Bucknam told Vermont Watchdog that she will follow Vermont’s public records law if elected. The law requires a timely response to requests and allows for a delay of only 10 business days.

It seems pretty straightforward to me that AGs are required to comply with legitimate public records requests. Bucknam affirmed that, and I don’t know why Donovan wouldn’t at least say as much.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

H. Brooke Paige July 20, 2016 at 5:11 am

Vermont’s “Eternal General” has always had a casual relationship with the law when it is applied to him. Just like when Brady (Toensing) raised questions about Billy’s fast handedness with donors being contracted to assist the state with various legal work. Sorrell is one of those who see themselves as governmental royalty – “the law applies to thee, but not to me !”

Thomas “TJ” Donovan has clearly stated this agenda, if elected, will continue the bad practices established by his newly minted buddy, Bill Sorrell. Bill has recently taken to escorting Donovan around to various donor “honey holes,” including the Democratic Attorney General’s Association meeting in Boston, like a father introducing his son to the clients of the family business.

Certainly, Donovan will have no appetite for investigating the “bad practices” of either Peter Shumlin or William Sorrell, once they have left office. Too bad as there is a virtual treasure trove of missteps to be looked into, something I would be pleased to do if I were elected to the Attorney General’s office.

H. Brooke Paige
Democratic Candidate for Governor and Attorney General

(postscript: For those voting on the Republican ticket, I would encourage you to consider a write-in vote for me on for Attorney General, as I believe I am the only candidate who will return responsibility, discipline and ethics to the Vermont A/G office.) .


jim bulmer July 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Whowee, Billy Sorrell uses Hillary’s playbook. If he does not obey the laws he was sworn to uphold, he should be impeached. The bad news is that it will never happen, and the GOOD NEWS is he’ll be toast at the end of the year. When will Vermonters get fed up with these clowns and destroy the super majority on election day?????


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