Maine Freedom of Access Act
- 1 Proposed changes
- 2 Maine's transparency report card
- 3 Features of the law
- 3.1 Declared legal intention
- 3.2 What records are covered?
- 3.3 What agencies are covered?
- 3.4 Who may request records?
- 3.5 Must a purpose be stated?
- 3.6 How can records be used?
- 3.7 Time allowed for response
- 3.8 Fees for records
- 3.9 Records commissions and ombudsmen
- 3.10 Role of the Attorney General
- 4 Open meetings
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 References
- 8 Relevant legal cases
The Maine Freedom of Access Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Maine.
The Maine Open Meeting Law legislates the methods by which open meetings are conducted.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Maine FOIA procedures.
LD 1353 -- "An Act Regarding Salary Information for Public Employees," sponsored by Senator Lisa Marraché, sought to forbid the release of salary information by name, and allow it only by position.
Maine's transparency report card
A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Maine 41 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 32 out of the 50 states.
Features of the law
- Compare States: Sunshine variations
- Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.
Declared legal intention
The declared legal intention states, "The Legislature finds and declares that public proceedings exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the Legislature that their actions be taken openly and that the records of their actions be open to public inspection and their deliberations be conducted openly."
What records are covered?
- See also: Defining public records
The Maine Freedom of Access Act defines public records as:
"[A]ny written, printed or graphic matter or any mechanical or electronic data compilation from which information can be obtained, directly or after translation into a form susceptible of visual or aural comprehension, that is in the possession or custody of an agency or public official of this State or any of its political subdivisions, or is in the possession or custody of an association, the membership of which is composed exclusively of one or more of any of these entities, and has been received or prepared for use in connection with the transaction of public or governmental business or contains information relating to the transaction of public or governmental business."
Exceptions to this include:
- Records identified as confidential by statute (402-3-1).
- Legislative papers and reports until the legislature deems them fit to circulate (402-3-C).
- Bargaining information (402-3-D).
- Memorandum and office papers for State universities and colleges (402-3-E).
- Medical records (402-3-H).
- Juvenile records (402-3-J).
- Security information that protects individuals, infrastructure and telecommunications networks (402-3-L and M).
- Social Security numbers and personal contact information (402-3-N and O).
- See also: Deliberative process exemption
What agencies are covered?
- See also: Defining public body
The Maine statute includes all government bodies at both the state and local levels.
- See also: Legislatures and transparency
The expansive definition of public body found within the Maine Freedom of Access Act at Maine Statute 1-402 includes the state legislature. However, the act does have exemptions for the working papers of legislatures under a deliberative process exemption.
Privatized governmental agencies
Private agencies that were created by a public entity and are controlled or managed by public entities are considered public bodies and fall under the scope of the Maine Freedom of Access Act. In addition, Town of Burlington v. Hospital Administrative District No. 1 established a test incorporating four factors, including funding, public function, whether or not the entity was created by a public body and if the entity is controlled by a public body. The test is a loose test that does not require any single factor to be met but considers the totality of factors.
- See also: Universities and open records
The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state.
Who may request records?
Must a purpose be stated?
- See also: States requiring a statement of purpose
The law does not require a statement of purpose.
How can records be used?
- See also: Record use restrictions
The law does not restrict the use of public records.
Time allowed for response
- See also: Request response times by state
The law does not specify a time limit with regard to positive request responses. However, a rejection must occur within five business days of the receipt of the request.
Fees for records
- See also: How much do public records cost?
The Maine FAA allows for the charging of fees for both copying and duplication. Any costs estimated over $100 must be paid in advance. Fees may be waived if the request is made on behalf of the public good or if the person requesting lacks the money to pay the fees. Agencies may not charge fees to inspect public records.
- See also: Sunshine laws and search fees
Agencies may charge fees to cover the staff time involved in the search not to exceed $10 an hour and only after the first hour of searching. Agencies may also charge fees for translating documents, but cannot charge fees for inspection.
Records commissions and ombudsmen
The Right to Know Advisory Committee was established by the Maine Freedom of Access Act in order to better assist the state in developing public records policy and training, as well as settling disputes concerning questions of law.
Role of the Attorney General
- See also: Role of the Attorney General
Although the state Attorney General may enforce the Act, prosecutions are virtually unheard of.
"Except as otherwise provided by statute or by section 405, all public proceedings shall be open to the public, any person shall be permitted to attend any public proceeding and any record or minutes of such proceedings that is required by law shall be made promptly and shall be open to public inspection."
- Maine Right To Know Advisory Committee
- Maine FOIA procedures
- Maine transparency advocates
- Maine transparency legislation
- Private agency, public dollars-Maine
- Maine Open Meeting Law
- Text & Status of LD 1353
- Kennebec Journal, "Bill hides names from list of state worker salaries," April 10, 2009
- 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
- States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
- Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
- Maine Revised Statutes 401. Declaration of public policy
- ME Rev. Stat. 1.13.402
- Maine Statute 1-402
- Maine Statute 1-402
- Maine Revised Statutes, 408(1)
- Maine Statute 1-409-1
- Maine Statute 1-408-5
- Maine Statute 1-408-5
- Maine Revised Statutes 403. Meetings to be open to public
Relevant legal cases
Here is a list of relevant lawsuits in Maine (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).
|Town of Burlington v. Hospital Administrative District No. 1||2001|
State of Maine
|State executive officers||
Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Commissioner of Education | Superintendent of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Commissioner of Conservation | Commissioner of Labor | Chairman of Public Utilities |