Thursday, June 24, 2010

Court: Gov. Wrongly Withheld Documents from Wyoming Tribune Eagle

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In her decision this week in Freudenthal et al. v. Cheyenne Newspapers Inc. (Case Nos. S-09-0813, S-09-0814) Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn C. Kite wrote that Gov. David Freudenthal violated the Wyoming Public Records Act ("WPRA") [Wyo. Stat. Ann. secs. 16-4-201 through 16-4-205] when he refused to produce budget documents requested by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

The Tribune Eagle on May 5, 2009, requested budget reduction plans prepared at the governor's behest by the state Department of Family Services and the Department of Health. The government's refusal to comply was based on what it asserted was a "deliberative process privilege" exemption within the WPRA.

In upholding the decision of the Laramie County District Court, the Wyoming Supreme Court said "the budget reduction plans contain factual information, rather than opinions, deliberations or thought processes and are not, therefore, the sort of documents protected by the deliberative process privilege."  Justice Kite said the facts of the case did not allow for an evaluation of whether the alleged privilege exists.

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