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Governor’s office ordered to release telephone and scheduling records

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         MARYLAND         Freedom of Information         Sep 15, 2000    

Governor’s office ordered to release telephone and scheduling records

  • The Washington Post wins partial access to the governor’s office records after the state’s high court rejected an executive privilege claim.

After a nearly four-year battle with the governor’s office, The Washington Post has won access to some, but not all, of the governor’s telephone records and calendars.

In a partial victory for The Post, Maryland’s highest court rejected Gov. Parris Glendening’s claim of an executive privilege and ordered his office to hand over six months of Glendening’s calendar, his phone call records and the same from two high-ranking staff members. However, the court did find public policy reasons to strike certain types of calls and calendar items from the records prior to public disclosure.

The Court of Appeals decided to redact portions of the documents because the phones are used by staff and visitors. As a result, the court only ordered the office to release phone call records that were likely to belong to the governor or the two staff members listed in the newspaper’s complaint. In its original complaint, the newspaper requested all phone records of the governor and his staff from 1994 to 1996 placed from the State House, an annex, and the Washington D.C. and Baltimore offices. In addition, the newspaper’s records request included the governor’s appointment calendars from the same two-year period. The newspaper ultimately agreed to narrow its request to Feb. 1 to July 31, 1996.

The court determined the only records covered by the request originated from one of 14 State House lines feeding directly into the offices. Records of calls from the Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Shaw House offices, along with calls made on other lines in the State House, were not released.

Citing additional privacy concerns, the court did not grant access to records of calls originating from the governor’s personal residence, calls identifying home telephone numbers of employees, calls made by state police using the governor’s cell phone and any scheduling of the governor’s personal meetings or family engagements.

The governor’s office only partially complied with newspaper’s original request under the Maryland Public Records Act by releasing records of the aggregate cost of telephone calls and the governor’s public agendas. These records failed to give any details about individual calls or the governor’s daily schedule.

(Washington Post Co. v. Office of the Governor; Media Counsel: Patrick Carome, Washington, D.C.) CC

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© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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