According to his lawsuit, Craig Merrill accuses the first-term representative of failing to provide “public records of official correspondence between your office and the residents and businesses of House District 6, which you represent.”
[Boswell staffer Beth] Strandberg first told Merrill in late April that “documents in the custody of a legislator are treated uniquely under the law.” Documents between legislators and legislative staff are not public record, she argued, also citing “legislative immunity” that protects lawmakers’ speech within the General Assembly.
All that’s irrelevant to his request, Merrill responded in an email a few days later. He reiterated that he was requesting correspondence between Boswell’s office and constituents, arguing those clearly fall under the public records law.
Bart Goodson, chief of staff and general counsel for Speaker Tim Moore, then gave Merrill a different reason for denial of his request. He argued that public records are defined as not only involving public officials and public business, but must also be generated “pursuant to law or ordinance,” as stated in the law defining public records.
In his email to Merrill, Goodson said “it is the long-held position of the General Assembly bipartisan central staff that constituent emails do not meet the definition of public record.” He cited no state law or court precedent that supported that position.
…After Merrill made more than a dozen requests for records, the ACLU decided to support a lawsuit against Boswell’s office because of the organization’s “longstanding commitment to transparency” in government, Legal Director Chris Brook said in an interview Thursday. He also warned that Boswell’s interpretation of public records law could give other lawmakers cover to skirt public records law and deny the public insight into their activities.
Unexpected twist in the saga of the bag ban.