Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ administration has met secretly with lawmakers and others in recent weeks, violating Maine’s open meetings and public records laws, a newspaper says.
Mills and members of her cabinet have held multiple online or telephone briefings with large groups of state lawmakers during the pandemic, the Portland Press Herald reported.
The administration canceled additional meetings with lawmakers and the labor and corrections departments after the newspaper raised concerns about violations of the Freedom of Access Act.
A spokeswoman for Mills said that the coronavirus has “temporarily shifted the way that government business is conducted” but she said the administration is committed to transparency.
“The administration is temporarily postponing any further meetings until it is able to work with the Legislature to determine the best process to respond to their questions in a transparent way as we all work to adapt to changes driven by the virus,” said spokeswoman Lindsay Crete.
Mills’ staff made no attempt to document or record the meetings it held with lawmakers. The administration also did not give any public notice of the meetings, or allow public access as required by law.
Maine lawmakers modified the Freedom of Access Act to allow for remote meetings of state, county and local government during a civil emergency declared because of the pandemic. But the new law also requires that the public be able to observe such proceedings.