letter to the editor

Doing their own bullying

Mon, 02/17/2020 - 5:00pm

Dear Editor:

Sara Gideon's comment (Feb. 13, 2020) “I do know how to stand up to a bully, but maybe more importantly I know how to work around someone like that” raises the question: Is that by she or her staff doing their own bullying? The Freedom of Information Act and Maine's Public Access Law exist to create transparency in government. Speaker Sara Gideon, her Director of Communications Mary Erin Casale and her Chief of Staff Jonathen Asen are required by law to uphold it.

In February 2018, I sent a Freedom of Access (FOIA) request to the Maine Office of Information Technology. General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works had presented a 60 million dollar tax break bill. Would the money cover retirement/ bonuses or was BIW seeking essential funding? To look at bill development, I requested email communications from new hire Mary Erin Casale.

Jonathan Asen responded I was confusing the federal documents under the Freedom of Information Act with Maine public documents. After forwarding Maine's Public Access laws, limiting my request to electronic emails from Oct. 31, 2017 and Jan. 31, 2018, then contacting Maine's FOIA Ombudsman, Mr. Asen finally replied in May 2018. The Office of Information technology pulled 12,978 documents from the 93-day period: 140 emails daily from Ms. Casale, 17 hourly in an 8-hour day, 7 days a week. Mr. Asen said I needed to send him a $3,000 down payment to cover the cost to redact “personal” information, only possible, after each page was printed at $.25 per page.

Maine's law says the fee is $15 per hour after the first hour of staff time, not $3.000 down payments.

Nov. 5, 2018 (Election Day eve), Mr. Asen denied my redacted electronic copies request. To receive the documents, I would pay $.25 a page for printing plus $615 for the cost for Ms. Casale to delete/redact printed documents plus over $2,000 in printing. He now signed his letters “Jonny.”

Ms. Gideon or her staff bullying- financially or otherwise- when FOIA and Maine Public Access requests are made is not transparent public access.

Susan Cook

Bath, Maine