State sends clear message to public

SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE

In withholding Mike Pence’s emails and being vague about their reasons for doing so, Indiana officials have sent a message of their own to the public.

Nothing to see here, folks, please move along.

It’s a message that’s at odds with the former governor and current vice president’s self-professed commitment to open government and a free press.

Pence’s successor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, has released more than 1,300 pages of emails from Pence’s private AOL.com accounts that he used for state business. For the most part, though, there isn’t much to the emails that were released. They include staff correspondence sharing press releases and news stories and heavily redacted documents that are barely readable.

Nothing substantive or revealing about any of the weighty issues that helped shape Pence’s tenure as governor, including the religious objection and abortion laws he signed and the state’s response to an HIV outbreak that claimed national attention.

Holcomb’s office says it can withhold records deemed “advisory” or “deliberative.” Officials are not saying if the vice president’s lawyers have influenced which messages should be withheld. And they declined to say how many emails were withheld because state law doesn’t require it.

All of this comes after the vice president delayed turning over the emails.

His delay was a costly one for Hoosiers, as the state paid a law firm $100,000 to help deal with a backlog of public records requests, most of them seeking access to emails from Pence’s tenure as governor.

At the time, advocates for government accountability expressed concern over Pence’s campaign attorney’s role in deciding which emails to release.

Looks like those concerns were valid. Also clear is that the state is comfortable withholding official documents related to the tenure of a former governor’s time in office from the public he served. And it does so with vague excuses and heavily redacted pages.

Well, that’s one message that’s been received.

Also clear is that the state is comfortable withholding official documents related to the tenure of a former governor’s time in office from the public he served.

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