New Law Requires Elected Officials to Get Training on Maine’s Freedom of Access Laws




For Immediate Release
For more information contact:
Senator Barry Hobbins Judy Meyer
Chair Education and Training Subcommittee
207-282-5985 207-689-2902
[email protected] [email protected]

New Law Requires Elected Officials to Get Training on Maine’s Freedom of Access Laws

Beginning July 1, 2008, certain elected state and local officials must complete training on the requirements of Maine’s Freedom of Access laws relating to public records and proceedings. The law, enacted upon the recommendation of the Right to Know Advisory Committee, requires that those elected officials serving in office on July 1, 2008 must complete the training by November 1st. Public officials elected after July 1st must complete the training within 120 days after the official takes the oath of office.

“Our elected officials are conducting the people’s business and our citizens have the right to expect transparency of public records and public proceedings,” said Senator Barry Hobbins, chair of the Right to Know Advisory Committee. “The way to ensure transparency is to make sure elected officials understand their obligations under the Freedom of Access laws.”

Elected officials can meet the training requirement by reviewing the Frequently Asked Questions section on the State’s Freedom of Access website or by completing a training course that includes instruction on the general legal requirements regarding public records and public proceedings, the procedures for complying with requests for access to public records and the penalties and other consequences for failure to comply with the law. Training must be designed to be completed in less than 2 hours. Statewide associations of elected officials like the Maine Municipal Association and Maine School Management Association are expected to provide training sessions for their members in October 2008.

The following elected officials are required to complete the training:

  • the Governor;
  • Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer of State and State Auditor;
  • Legislators elected after November 1, 2008;
  • Commissioners, treasurers, district attorneys, registers of deeds, registers of probate and budget committee members of any county;
  • Municipal officers, clerks, treasurers, assessors and budget committee members of municipal governments;
  • Officials of school units and school boards; and
  • Officials of regional or other political subdivisions, including officials of water districts, sanitary districts, hospital districts, transit districts or regional transportation districts.

After completing the training, elected officials are required to make a written or electronic record attesting that the training has been completed. The record, which will be available to the public, must be kept by the elected official or filed with the public entity to which the official was elected. A sample training completion form will be available on the State’s FOAA website for use by elected officials.

“The requirement that public officials undergo freedom of access training is a real opportunity for everyone to better understand the law and better respond to constituent requests for access to records and meetings,” said Judy Meyer, member of the Advisory Committee and chair of the Education and Training Subcommittee. “Anything we can do to facilitate public access and create greater government accountability boosts the public good, and we all benefit.”

The Right to Know Advisory Committee is an on-going advisory council with oversight authority and responsibility for a broad range of activities associated with the purposes and principles underlying Maine’s Freedom of Access laws. The Right to Know Advisory Committee was created to serve as a resource and advisor about Maine’s Freedom of Access laws to State Government and the public.

More information about the training requirement and Maine’s Freedom of Access laws can be found on the State’s Freedom of Access website at

Remarks on the award of the 2008 MFOIC Sunshine Awards

By Mal Leary, President MFOIC

It’s appropriate on this first day of spring that Maine joins with groups across the country celebrating Sunshine in Government Week.

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition was founded eight years ago by individuals and groups concerned about openness in government, or the lack of openness. Groups as diverse as the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, The Maine Press Association, The Maine Broadcasters Association and the Maine Civil Liberties Union all came together with one goal: to advocate for open government in our state.

The coalition conducted a statewide public records audit in 2002, and the results were an eye opener to lawmakers. Compliance with the state public records law ranged from good, to dismal.

As a direct result of that audit, lawmakers unanimously voted to establish a legislative study commission on public access that made many suggestions to the legislature and some very important changes were made to Maine law.

That panel found over 600 exceptions to the public records law, scattered through out Maine laws, many so archaic that they left lawmakers and advocates alike wondering how they ever made their way into law.

As a result of that study group’s work, Maine now has a process in place that requires any legislation proposing an exception to the law be separately reviewed by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee using a clear set of public interest standards. It also sets up a schedule to review all of those exceptions that are still in place.

It is first in the nation legislation that is being considered as a model by other open government advocates across the country.
The study group also recommended, and the legislature created, a permanent advisory committee on public records and open meetings issues, also a unique approach to safeguarding the public’s right to know.

It is for their work as the co-chairs of that first study group, and their steadfast support of open government legislation through their legislative careers, that the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition is pleased to present the inaugural MFOIC sunshine awards to Sen. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston and Rep. Ted Koffman of Bar Harbor.

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