Supreme Court rules on privacy of Dean’s schedule

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(Host) The Vermont Supreme Court says Governor Howard Dean must release his daily schedule that relates to his presidential campaign. But the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to decide whether Dean can continue to keep the other parts of his schedule to himself.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The court ruled in a case brought by three Vermont newspapers. The papers wanted to know how much time and taxpayer’s money Governor Dean was spending on his campaign around the country. Dean had argued for a broad exemption under the state’s access to public records law. This law says that any documents produced or acquired by a state agency are public.

The Supreme Court didn’t give either side exactly what they wanted. Dean wanted to keep secret his internal schedule that includes his travel and private meetings. But the Supreme Court says he must disclose records related to his presidential bid. It sent the case back to a lower court to decide how the doctrine of executive privilege should apply to the rest of his schedule.

Governor Dean declared victory in the case:

(Dean) “I think it upholds the right of future governors to be able to do business with confidentiality when they need to, in the best interests of the state. And the example that we always used was IDX or IBM or Husky. And having those kinds of discussions privately in the office when we’re trying to bring jobs in and it’s important for competitors not to know about that. And that has been protected by the court.”

(Dillon) Dean says he’s essentially already complied with the court’s order, since his campaign web site now has a schedule of his public appearances.

But Robert Hemley, the lawyer for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, says the newspapers wanted to know both the public and the private parts of the campaign schedule. He says more information will now be released under the court’s order.

(Hemley) “What drove this case in the first place is a legitimate interest in understanding how the governor was spending his time, as between service to the people of the state of Vermont or seeking of national office, which does not have a direct benefit to the people of the state of Vermont. And that has clearly been stated to be public and ought to be known to the people who have elected these officials. So that’s very important.”

(Dillon) Hemley says Governor Dean wanted a broad ruling that would exempt the governor’s office from the public records law. He says the high court has now clearly stated that the office is covered by the law.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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