CfA Sues Montana State Senator for Failing to Respond to Open Records Request
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 13, 2017
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
HELENA, MT – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) filed a lawsuit alleging Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder and the Montana Legislative Services Division have violated the Montana Constitution by failing to produce documents related to the senator’s work with the Utah-based nonprofit, the American Lands Council (ALC). CfA submitted the request a year ago, on February 11, 2016.
“Sen. Fielder has defied Montana government transparency laws, apparently to avoid revealing the extent of her activities with the American Lands Council,” said CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens. “Given her intransigence, CfA has no choice but to file a lawsuit.”
CfA filed the original request in February 2016 after Sen. Fielder assumed the role of CEO of ALC, a controversial group that advocates national lands be transferred to state control. Sen. Fielder’s predecessor, Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory, stepped down after CfA uncovered documents showing he repeatedly had misused his legislative email and other state government resources to promote the interests of ALC, leading to an investigation by the Utah Attorney General.
CfA asked the Montana State Senate for copies of Sen. Fielder’s legislative emails relating to several public lands issues and ALC. Between February and July, CfA exchanged emails with Montana State Senate staff to secure the records. Susan Fox, Executive Director of the Legislative Services Division, claimed she was working with Sen. Fielder to provide the requested documents. Sen. Fielder, however, did not assist Senate staff to produce the records.
In July 2016, five months after CfA’s initial request, Ms. Fox wrote that IT staff had collected documents and forwarded them to Sen. Fielder to review. Sen. Fielder responded:
“Now that I have this document I will get through it as soon as I am able, although it is nearly 400 pages and I will have to work on it when I can find free time….As I understand it there is no specific time frame in which it must be completed but I will try to get it done before the election.”
To date – more than one year after CfA submitted the original request and six months after Sen. Fielder promised to produce the documents – CfA has not received the records.
Mr. Stevens continued, “Sen. Fielder’s refusal to abide by the state’s constitution and open records law suggests she has something to hide. Montana citizens deserve to know whose interests Sen. Fielder is protecting, theirs or her own.”
CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.
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