Business & Economy

Fast Forward Event: Why isn’t the state an open book? RSVP today

Join VTDigger for a panel discussion with journalists, experts and state representatives about Vermont’s right to know laws.

These laws are designed to give taxpayers access to information about state and local government. But too often, journalists have to sue in order to obtain information that should be freely available to the public.

The Center for Public Integrity has given Vermont an “F” for public access to information. While the federal Freedom of Information Act has only nine exemptions, there are 260-280 exemptions in the Vermont Public Records Act. The actual number of exemptions to Vermont’s public records law is unknown, but the ACLU of Vermont has estimated that there are upwards of 500 more exemptions buried in state agency statutes. 

When government hides, people suffer. The government has withheld records for 18 months regarding a jail superintendent’s abuses. That secrecy allowed systemic misconduct to continue unabated for more than a year. 

More than 550 local vendors and contractors were out $12M during the state coverup of the fraud at Jay Peak. Had the state released records in 2014 about the extent of the financial improprieties at the resort, companies could have protected themselves from bankruptcies and layoffs. 

At VTDigger’s next Fast Forward event, “Why isn’t the state an open book?” a panel of journalists, government officials and experts will debate a new Vermont Supreme Court ruling that reaffirmed the public has a right to “inspect” documents for free and can only be charged when a “copy” is requested.

What: “Why isn’t the state an open book?” 

When:  6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tues., Feb. 18th

Where: The Montpelier Room, Capitol Plaza, Montpelier

Please let us know you’re coming here. Submit a question below.

Featured speaker Peter Teachout of Vermont Law School will give an update on Vermont’s current public records and exemptions. 

Panelists include Rebecca Kelley, communications director, Office of Governor Phil Scott; Jim Condos, VT Office of the Secretary of State; Charity Clark, chief of staff, Office of Vermont Attorney General; Jay Diaz, an attorney with the ACLU of Vermont

Sen. Jeanette White (Windham) and Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (Orange) will give a legislative update. 

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to let us know you’re coming.

If you have trouble with the RSVP, please contact [email protected]

“Why isn’t the state an open book” is the second in VTDigger’s Fast Forward series of free, public events centered on proposed legislation and critical issues facing the state of Vermont. The next event, “Should Vermont ban vaping?” takes place at 6:30 p.m., Tues., March 24 at Burlington High School.

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You can submit a question for the panelists here:

Questions for "Why isn't the State an Open Book?"

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Anne Galloway

About Anne

Anne Galloway is the founder and editor of VTDigger and the executive director of the Vermont Journalism Trust. Galloway founded VTDigger in 2009 after she was laid off from her position as Sunday editor of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. VTDigger has grown from a $16,000 a year nonprofit with no employees to a $2 million nonprofit daily news operation with a staff of 25. In 2017, Galloway was a finalist for the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors FOIA Award for her investigation into allegations of foreign investor fraud at Jay Peak Resort.

Email: [email protected]

Follow Anne on Twitter @GallowayVTD

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Bruce S. Post

This event should be held here in Essex, a textbook example on how elected officials and Town staff try to hide information. Once, a Village trustee told me that he and his colleagues were concerned about an individual running for the trustees. “We’re afraid that he’ll spill the beans about what goes on in executive session,”he told me. “Why worry if you do things appropriately?” I asked. His answer: “We say one thing about why we are going into executive session, and then, once there, we talk about anything we want to talk about.”

sandra bettis

By law, they should be an open book. When they are not, they are hiding something.

Tom Wheaton

Is this being filmed so people who cannot attend can watch later?

Peter Everett

Why would a politician want constituents to know the shady things they’re doing to us? Kind of like when a kid trys to put something over on their parents. When they get caught, the consequences aren’t very good for them. This has never been more true than right now. Congress is screwed up, our Legislature is following in their footsteps. No matter what, nationally or statewide, we, the taxpayers get the consequences of their buffoonery. Somehow, this is working backwards. They’re the ones who should be paying for their actions, not you or I. Ain’t it great the way government works…for them, not us??

Thomas Anderson

My wife and I support VTDigger for this exact reason – the fact that the “fourth estate”, has to sue the government of the state in order to gain access to public, yes public information, is ludicrous. “Government by the people, for the people” has been forgotten in today’s environment of money/power being held by a few. Transparency is not the order of the day. Years ago in our little town selectboard meeting a woman volunteered to take the open position of tree warden, the board thanked her and after she left the head selectman said “one of us will take it, we don’t want just a citizen in that position”, I pointed out that he was “just a citizen too”. It is too prevalent a view of people in power.

Jerry Kilcourse

Great Anne…”executive session” seems to be the go to excuse usually citing “privacy concerns.” And of course the state’s mishandling (or no handling at all) in the case of the EB-5 scandal at Jay Peak.

John Farrell

It seems that “executive session” often times really means …..we do not want the “people” to know what we are doing.”

 

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