Vermont government corruption
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Montpelier, VT On Friday, April 29, 2011, in a 4-1 decision, the Vermont Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Price v. Town of Fairlee establishing that there was sufficient public interest in election ballots that they be considered public documents. The court held that election ballots must be concealed for 90 days after the election and could then either be destroyed at the discretion of the town clerk or must be released to the public. However, the court did note that records held in a pending request could not be destroyed. 
Washington, VT On Friday, January 7, 2011, a Vermont superior court judge issued a ruling establishing that the state is not permitted to charge for records if the record requester only wishes to inspect the records. The ruling came about due to a lawsuit filed by the Vermont State Employees Association against the state Department of Human Resources over the recent purchase of software designed to monitor and limit employees access to the internet. It is unclear if the state will appeal the decision.
"There's little point in opening government records to the public if the information is too difficult to find, sort through or taxes the everyday understanding of the average Vermonter. Too often that's the case with what we get from Montpelier, especially when it comes to the budget.
In keeping track of our government, the budget is always a good place to start. There's little Montpelier can do without spending our money. That means the spending plan often speaks more clearly and loudly about how state government affects our lives than all the public pronouncements of our elected officials and bureaucrats combined."
"Vermonters who are curious about the people in their community now have a new way to access criminal records.
Thanks to a new service launched Dec. 15 by the Vermont Criminal Information Center, private residents and businesses are able to retrieve criminal conviction documents over the Internet. Anyone can access the service through he state's official Web site, http://www.vermont.gov.
In 2008, the Vermont Legislature passed a new law allowing for Vermont criminal conviction records to be purchased and retrieved online."
"Vermont may be the last strong hold of participatory democracy, but Montpelier keeps proving that it understands little when it comes to open government.
The latest transgression is a scheme to charge Vermonters -- and charge them dearly -- to access criminal conviction records online, a proverbial case of one step forward, two steps back. The whole idea of easy access to a public record is marred by the charge of $20 per request, a fee that's scheduled to go up to $30 on July 1.
There is no way to justify charging $30 or even $20 on the basis of how much it costs to retrieve information from an existing electronic database. The fee is nothing more than a tax, and the fee bump on July 1 is a tax increase. What other tax do they plan to raise by 50 percent?"
"A Fair Haven teacher is in the process of filling a lawsuit against Speaker of the House Gaye Symington – the Democratic candidate for governor – over access to her correspondence.
The lawsuit may settle a gray area in the law that has periodically arisen for several years: How much access should the public have to lawmakers' correspondence."
"The ruling that withheld e-mails written by Burlington city employees -- on city computers on city time -- from the public, despite recognizing that they are public documents, show just how much further Vermont has to go with its open government laws.
Washington Country Superior Court Judge Brian Grearson said the e-mails show a relationship that constitute a conflict of interest, but they will be kept from the public because the exchanges are of a "highly personal nature.""
"Judge Brian Grearson has declined to release e-mails exchanged between the former Burlington city attorney and city employees because of the highly personal nature of the correspondence.
The Burlington Free Press filed lawsuit in 2007 in Washington Superior Court asking that the city of Burlington be compelled to release e-mails exchanged between former City Attorney Joe McNeil and zoning consultant Owiso Makuku and between McNeil and former interim Chief Administrative Officer Karen Wingate."
"Curt Hier has been trying to find out if a teachers’ union influenced lawmakers’ votes on a school funding bill, but says his requests for public records from the Vermont Legislature have produced nothing but frustration.
Hier, a Fair Haven teacher who chairs school reform group First Class Education-Vermont, said he has been trying to investigate the Vermont National Education Association’s failed efforts to get lawmakers to repeal a 2007 law designed to put the brakes on rising school costs."
"Whether local activist Mike Bethel was on a "fishing" exhibition in seeking e-mails exchanged be-tween local school board members is beside the point as far as the public's right to know is concerned.
Mr. Bethel's request was denied by the boards, and now Superior Court Judge David Howard has dismissed Mr. Bethel's suit against the officials to obtain those e-mails."
"The Douglas administration extended an olive branch Wednesday to the state workers' union in an ongoing access-to-public-records dispute, but the Vermont State Employees Association said the administration's offer came up short."
"The Douglas administration is demanding $1,700 from the Vermont State Employees' Association if the union wants to look at public records related to the 400 state job cuts Gov. Jim Douglas has ordered.
"The time (and associated cost) are high because the request will require review of many thousands of e-mail messages to or from the named individuals" -- named in the union's request for access to the documents, wrote Harold Scwartz, administrative services director at the Department of Human Resources.
The union, which had sought e-mails and other internal documents related to the cuts dating back to last fall, called the charge exorbitant."
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