Publisher files suit for budget records
ALASKA — A Juneau publisher filed suit in mid- October against the governor’s office, claiming officials violated the state constitution and Public Records Act when they refused to disclose documents relating to the proposed annual state budget.
The denial is “designed to further an executive branch secrecy policy established more than one year ago to prevent a buildup of public pressure that might influence the governor’s decisions on the operating budget and proposed legislation,” the complaint, filed in Juneau superior court, said.
The documents were prepared as part of the annual budget process that leads up to the governor’s submission of the proposed budget to the legislature Dec. 15. They included draft legislation and correspondence between various state departments and the governor’s office on how the proposed budget would affect each department. The publisher, Capital Information Group, intended to use the information in its newsletters on government issues.
The publisher’s request was denied based on the “deliberative process privilege,” which protects communications between the governor and his or her aides about policy matters.
Gregg Erickson, editor of the Alaska Budget Report newsletter, told the court by affidavit that for more than five years Capital Information Group easily obtained most executive branch documents by verbal request.
In October 1992, the Office of Management and Budget within the Governor’s Office began denying the group’s oral and subsequent written requests, Erickson said. The OMB position, according to Erickson, was that the budget did not exist in terms of documents available for public disclosure until approved by the governor.
(Capital Information Group v. State of Alaska, Office of the Governor; Media Counsel: Jeff Bush, Juneau)