When a Portland law firm requested public information from the LePage administration last year, it got a response that would be familiar in newsrooms around the state.

The silent treatment.

No documents have been turned over. No explanation has been given for ignoring the request. The governor’s office acknowledged receiving the request in January, but that was it.

The incident is just one of many examples of an administration that treats public information as if it’s private property. Although it likes to pretend that it is just fighting back against what it paints as a hostile and biased news media, the administration gives the same treatment to private citizens who are looking to get the information they are by law entitled to receive.

The Andrew Schmidt Law firm has filed suit against the state to get the governor’s office moving. We hope that others will keep the pressure on as well. Bad things happen when powerful institutions believe that they can do public business in secret.

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act makes almost all government records public, and required the government entity to make a “good faith effort” to deliver the information within a “reasonable” time frame.

Those plain sounding words have been twisted and stretched beyond recognition by the LePage administration. There are many horror stories.

The Portland Press Herald fought for months in 2015 and 2016 in an unsuccessful attempt records of communications between the Maine Warden Service and a television production company, which was filming undercover police operations here. The agency even resisted releasing a policy manual, at one point turning over a document that was almost entirely redacted.

Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Brunswick, recently complained that the has been denied answers to questions about a public health program that is the subject of legislation he will be asked to vote on.

The Bangor Daily News reported that a Maine Department of Health and Human Services employee, whose job it was to disseminate public information, was fired. The cause? Turning over a public report to the newspaper.

Peter Mancuso, an attorney with the Andrew Schmidt firm, requested information about Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to join two out-of-state lawsuits and to withdraw Maine from a refugee resettlement program. These should not be complicated records to obtain, and there should be no reason to keep them sealed.

The fact that they haven’t been produced in five months should show that this administration has a definition of “reasonable” and “good faith” that does not correspond with reality.

The law firm may win their case, but that won’t be enough to fix the problem.

Maine needs tougher laws with strict deadlines that will force this administration and its successors to meet its public disclosure obligations. The silent treatment has got to end.