More staff needed to manage Dean records requests

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(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says her office is being inundated by requests concerning former Governor Howard Dean’s official records. Markowitz will be asking the Legislature for additional funds to keep up with the growing demand on her office.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Life is getting very hectic these days at the state archives division of the Secretary of State’s office in Montpelier. Everyone, it seems, is anxious to peruse the official gubernatorial papers of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the demand parallels Dean’s rise as the front-runner in the Democratic race:

(Markowitz) “In the beginning of the summer we would have, you know one or two people and they would stay a long time and really look at everything, and that was burdensome. Now we’re having five and six people looking at everything, staying a long time. And, for example – right before the Christmas holiday in a period of two and a half or three days we made 7,000 copies of Dean records to send to folks and that, for our office – the archives is staffed with four people – that’s a lot of work for us.”

(Kinzel) Roughly half of Dean’s official papers are open to the public and the remaining half are sealed for a 10-year period under an agreement reached between Markowitz and the Dean administration. Those sealed records have become an issue in the Democratic presidential race and one conservative legal group is suing to get access to the documents.

At a recent debate Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman challenged Dean to sign a letter unsealing all of the private papers. Dean replied that he wanted the issue to be decided by a judge. Markowitz says the Lieberman challenge is not grounded in reality because some records – such as documents relating to Vermont Yankee – have been ordered sealed by the federal government:

(Markowitz) “That’s actually not accurate. While it’s true that there’s an agreement entered into to keep particular records confidential, there’s a lot of other privileges and this is an example of one situation where there’s documents that a governor can’t open up. And so it’s really on some level not up to the former governor to open up the records.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz is asking lawmakers to allocate additional funds to her department so that she can hire another full-time staff person to work in the archives division. That request will be part of this year’s supplemental budget bill.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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