Gov. Janet Mills, seen fielding a question from the media Dec. 21, 2023, in Skowhegan in the wake of the December storm that caused extensive flooding throughout the state, is being sued by a media outlet that alleges her administration violated Maine Freedom of Access Act law. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

AUGUSTA — The editor of a conservative media outlet has sued Gov. Janet Mills for allegedly breaking the law by not providing him copies of her schedule for three December days at the height of a damaging wind and rain storm, which he formally requested through the Maine Freedom of Access Act.

Steven Robinson, editor-in-chief of the Maine Wire, says in the lawsuit filed Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court that on Dec. 19, 2023, he submitted a Freedom of Access Act request to Mills seeking copies of her schedule for Dec. 17, 18 and 19, 2023, with a stated purpose of gathering information to inform his reporting on the governor’s activities and whereabouts during the first days of a violent storm, and her response to the disaster, that caused extensive flooding.

The lawsuit states Mills’ first public statement on the disaster was released Dec. 19, 2023, in which Mills declared a state of civil emergency in 14 Maine counties. The release from the governor, the lawsuit states, said Mills’ “Administration has been in close and constant communication with local and federal officials throughout this storm” and that she told her administration since the beginning of the storm to assist and support local officials.

Robinson said the governor’s office acknowledged the request by email Dec. 27, saying they estimated those records could be collected and reviewed in less than two hours and could be provided in two to three weeks.

Robinson said Monday he still hasn’t gotten a response, nor a single public record that he sought in the request. It has been more than 195 days since he was told it would take two to three weeks, he said.

“For 195 days, Gov. Mills has refused to turn over her schedules for three days in Dec. 2023, blatantly disregarding the spirit and letter of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act,” Robinson said in a news release, adding that state employees are also failing to respond in good faith to other public records requests. “Responding to (Freedom of Access Act requests) is not some added burden or nuisance; it’s an essential and core function of all government agencies.”


Ben Goodman, Mills’ press secretary, said the governor’s office does not comment on pending litigation.

The Maine Wire is an online media outlet that is a division of the conservative Maine Policy Institute.

The lawsuit, filed for Robinson by attorney Patrick Strawbridge of the Boston law firm Consovoy McCarthy PLLC, notes Maine’s public records access law requires state agencies to respond to a request in a timely manner unless the agency has a good-faith basis for withholding or delaying access.

“If allowed to stand, the Governor’s unreasonable delays threaten to unravel FOAA’s robust protections for open government,” the lawsuit states. “Allowing a government agency to acknowledge a request but never produce documents would put all records out of the public’s reach, stymie local journalism, and deal a grave blow to public transparency and accountability.”

The complaint demands copies of all documents sought in the Dec. 19, 2023, request, attorneys’ fees, and “such other relief as the Court may deem equitable and just.”

Related Headlines

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.