In a win for government transparency and access to public records, Stephen Coteus recently obtained a favorable ruling from Washington County Superior Court Judge Timothy Tomasi, for Vermont Journalism Trust, owner of the news outlet VTDigger. For the past two years, Stephen and VTDigger have been fighting to obtain records relating to the investigation and demotion of prison superintendent Edward Adams, whose fall from power coincided with a lawsuit and anonymous complaints alleging widespread sexual misconduct at prisons that involved Adams and occurred under his watch. Judge Tomasi’s latest order makes clear that the Department of Human Resources’ internal policies and personnel manual, which the State has long relied upon to withhold records that it claims are confidential, are not “rules” under the Vermont Administrative Procedures Act and do not operate as exemptions under the Public Records Act. The ruling also rejects the State’s use of 12 V.S.A. Sec. 1691a, Procedure for production of employee personnel records, as an exemption to disclosure under the PRA. Judge Tomasi ordered the State to remove some redactions in documents already disclosed in this litigation relating to Mr. Adams and the State recently produced those modified documents.
Read the VTDigger article on the win here.
Opinion and Order on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment.