2014-05-23 / Letters

Secrecy allowed, not required

To the editor:

The common misconception is that government officials are prohibited by law from discussing in public the details of a previous closed-door meeting.

Not true in almost every instance.

The Freedom of Access Act merely allows officials to keep such information to themselves, except when it comes to records the law specifically protects from disclosure, such as health.

But it does not require such secrecy except in rare instances – and usually not in government affairs.

In the Sentry’s recent account of the South Portland council’s discussion whether to reduce the number of secret meetings, it quoted a former councilor as “being careful not to divulge anything actually said behind closed doors.”

Again, such divulgence would in most every case be legal.

Government officials too often and conveniently claim legalisms when they are forced to defend going behind closed doors to do the public’s business.

And after they meet secretly they claim they can’t discuss publicly what they talked about.

Not true.

The law allows them to keep it to themselves, but it doesn’t require it.

They often use the law, which they pretend to understand, as an excuse to keep their lips sealed, and reporters who also don’t understand the law quake in misplaced fearful reverence that they have overstepped their bounds even if they consider posing a question.

Ted Cohen
South Portland

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