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Alert: Amendments to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act Will Impact Municipalities


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Alert: Amendments to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act Will Impact Municipalities

Philip R. Saucier

By Philip Saucier

The Maine Legislature recently enacted several important changes to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act that are now in effect. The new law contains a number of new provisions that will impact how municipalities respond to FOAA requests. Municipalities should be aware of the following amendments:

  • Each municipality must designate a public access officer to complete a course of training and ensure, among other duties, that requests for public records are acknowledged within a reasonable period of time.
  • An agency or official must provide access to an electronically stored public record (either a printed copy or in the medium in which the record is stored) at the requester’s option. The agency or official is not required to provide access to an electronically stored public record as a computer file if the official does not have the ability to separate the file to prevent disclosure of confidential information contained in or associated with the file.
  • Agencies and officials are not required to provide access to a computer terminal.
  • The agency or official may charge a $15 fee per hour (up from $10) after the first hour of staff time to cover the actual cost of searching for, retrieving and compiling a requested public record. If the estimate is greater than $30 (up from $20), the agency or official must inform the requester before proceeding with the search.
  • When purchasing and contracting for computer software and other information technology resources, an agency shall consider the extent to which the technology will maximize public access and the exportability of public records while protecting confidential information from unauthorized disclosure.

THE TAKEAWAY:

With the recent amendments to FOAA, it is important for municipalities to review policies to ensure compliance. Bernstein Shur’s Municipal and Regulatory Practice Group has closely followed the amendments to FOAA and is prepared to assist municipalities with FOAA-related questions as well as the process of updating policies to comply with new FOAA amendments.

If you have questions regarding this issue please contact Philip Saucier, psaucier@bernsteinshur.com or 228-7160, or any member of our Municipal and Regulatory Practice Group at our Portland office, 774-1200, or Augusta office, 623-1596.