2017-05-25 / Front Page

Resident to challenge city in court over docs

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – Biddeford resident Matt Lauzon, representing himself, has filed a complaint against the city of Biddeford in York County Superior Court regarding access to what he says is public information.

Lauzon sought records from the city of Biddeford under the Maine Freedom of Access Act on May 5 and May 9. Biddeford City Manager Jim Bennett rejected both requests citing an ongoing lawsuit between the parties as the reason for denial, and said Lauzon required an attorney to access the public records he wished to see.

Lauzon initially filed the two FOAA requests after he discovered municipal employees discussing matters of his lawsuit using personal email addresses.

“I believe the residents of Biddeford deserve to know what safeguards are in place to prevent persons elected, appointed and employed by the city from using personal accounts to circumvent inspection of public documents. It’s a shame city officials seem to disagree,” Lauzon said in an email.

According to Mainelegislature.org, a public record is anything that discusses or concerns government business and is in the possession of a government official, personal email account notwithstanding.

However, an exception to the term public record under title I section 402 subsection three of the Freedom Of Access Act includes one 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.”

Prior to these most recent requests, Lauzon had filed more than 50 requests and never appealed a rejection.

Biddeford City Manager Jim Bennett said in a written statement that since Lauzon filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Biddeford, the federal court has placed a control on the amount of document requests both parties are allowed to make.

“That being the case, the city, through this office, suggested that Mr. Lauzon work with his attorney to make the requests through the litigation process and in compliance with the federal court’s order regarding discovery,” Bennett said.

Lauzon, in the complaint, wrote that he’s representing himself because he cannot afford for his attorney to pursue this matter.

Bennet said in his written statement that the city will not comment on the issue any further and all of Lauzon’s future requests for public documents with any possible connection to his ongoing litigation will also be denied.

“I’ve not experienced stonewalling like this until now. This behavior and approach from the city is new, which has led me to file an appeal with the superior court,” Lauzon said in a text message.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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