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Doyle v. Town of Scarborough

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

July 15, 2016

MICHAEL DOYLE
v.
TOWN OF SCARBOROUGH

          ORDER AFTER IN CAMERA REVIEW

          Joyce A. Wheeler, ARJ Maine Superior Court Justice.

         Plaintiff Michael Doyle submitted a FOIA request for all emails between Robert Moulton and three women, Lori Bedor, Cathy Chandler and Linda Fowler. The Town produced some documents and did not provide other documents on the grounds that these email communications fell within an exception to the definition of public records as set forth in 1 M.R.S. §402. At the court's request, the Town produced the disputed documents for in camera review and set forth the basis for protection of each set of documents. The court has completed her FOIA review.

         The Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), 1 M.R.S. §400, requires that public actions and records be made available to the public. 1 M.R.S. §401. "Public records" is defined in 1 M.R.S. §402(3). The FOAA is to be liberally construed. Dow v. Caribou Chamber of Commerce and Indus., 2005 ME 113, ¶9, 884 A.2d 667. The burden of proof falls on the agency to establish "just and proper cause" for the denial of a Freedom of Access Act request. See 1 M.R.S §409(1)(2015)(stating that, on appeal to the Superior Court, the court must enter an order for disclosure if it determines "denial was not for just and proper cause").

         Section 402(3) defines "public records" to include:

[A] ny written, printed or graphic matter or any mechanical or electronic data compilation from which information can be obtained, directly or after translation into a form susceptible of visual or aural comprehension, that is in the possession or custody of an agency or public official of this State or any of its political subdivisions, . . . and has been received or prepared for use in connection with the transaction of public or governmental business or contains information relating to the transaction of public or governmental business, except:
A. Records that have been designated confidential by statute;
B. Records that would be within the scope of a privilege against discovery or use as evidence recognized by the courts of this State in civil or criminal trials if the records or inspection thereof were sought in the course of a court proceeding;
N. Social security numbers; [and]
O. Personal contact information concerning public employees, except when that information is public pursuant to other law.

1 M.R.S.A. §402(3)(Emphasis supplied).

         The Town argues that most of the documents that are marked for in camera review are not pubic records under 1 M.R.S §402(3), §402(3)(B), 402(3)(N) & (O), 30-A M.R.S. §2702(1)(B)(1) and (4), and 30-A M.R.S. §2702(1)(A).

         The court hereby finds that the Town established just and proper cause for the denial of a FOIA request and orders that the following documents are protected from the FOIA request as follows:

         1. Documents marked in camera pages 1-280, 293-304, 306-389, 392-620, 623-819, 821-858, 861-866, 869-873, 875-877, 882-883, 886, 889-896, 902-906, 908-920, 931-964, 969-970, 974-977, 980-986, 989, 1005-1049, 1052-1112, 1125-1169, 1172-1185 and 1188-1193. Pursuant to 1 M.R.S. §402(3), the court concludes the foregoing documents are not public records because they were not received or prepared for use in connection with transaction of public or governmental business and do not contain information relating to the transaction of public or governmental business.

         2. Documents marked in camera pages 283, 284-285, 305, 965-968, 898-901, 907, 921-923, 926-927. Pursuant to 1 M.R.S. §402(3)(B), the court finds that the foregoing documents are not public records because they are protected from public disclosure because they would not be subject to discovery in a civil proceeding because they are irrelevant to the information sought by plaintiff and would reveal confidential information and in some cases highly personal information regarding a non-party, 3. Documents marked in camera pages 390-3 91, 621 -622, 867-86 S, 874, 897, 1170-1171, Pursuant to 30-A M.R.S. ยง 2 702(1)(B)(1)(4), me court finds that these documents are protected from public disclosure because they involve information pertaining to an identifiable ...


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