Fundamental to a free democracy is the principle of open government.  We celebrate our commitment to freedom of information with "Sunshine Week" next week.  Unfortunately, just as Governor LePage signed an executive order in honor of Sunshine Week, he also signed an executive order hiding from view all meetings and discussions of a new Business Advisory Council.

As I shared in an interview with the Press Herald yesterday, this just doesn't make any sense.  If a businessperson has strong public policy concerns, then presumably he/she would want to make those concerns public.  At the same time, if there's information that's exchanged that is truly sensitive, Maine's Right to Know laws contains exceptions to cover those circumstances.

Mal Leary, who chairs the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition of which I am a member, said it best:

"It's like he's using a sledgehammer here when he could have used a scalpel," Leary said. "The blanket exemption means we can't even use the (access law) to find out who's advising him on this group. The point is, it's important to know who has the ear of the governor, whoever the governor is."

This isn't a partisan issue.  Chris Cinquemani of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center said to the Press Herald:

"We believe that any information that might be raised in those meetings that would be considered confidential under the current law could be redacted from any freedom of access requests, and it's a little disappointing that the administration would choose to exempt these meetings from the Freedom of Access law."