MISSOULA — A national government ethics group filed a lawsuit Monday against Montana for failing to release public records of a Thompson Falls legislator it had requested a year ago.
Arguing that Montana violated the right to know guaranteed by the state constitution, the Campaign for Accountability filed a lawsuit in district court against the Legislative Services Division and Republican Sen. Jennifer Fielder for failing to release records requested under the Montana Open Records Act, which says “every person has a right to examine or obtain a copy of any public information.”
“Sen. Fielder has defied Montana government transparency laws apparently to avoid revealing the extent of her actions for the American Lands Council. Given her intransigence, the Campaign for Accountability had no choice to file a lawsuit,” Acting Executive Director Daniel Stevens said.
The nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., submitted a records request on Feb. 11, 2016, for copies for emails, calendar appointments, travel expenses and other records since 2013 related to Fielder’s work as a legislator on issues “related to federal lands, oil, gas, coal, mining, mineral products, timber, forestry, Utah State Representative Ken Ivory, ALC, Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Federalism in Action.” As a result of a similar request in Utah, the group had revealed that Ivory, who was then president of the American Lands Council, had used his state email address and authority as a legislator to encourage counties to purchase memberships to the group. Fielder took over leadership of the council as Ivory came under public scrutiny.