Worcester Telegram covers GAO lawsuit against @MassAGO office
Massachusetts AG and Supervisor of Public Records are targets of records lawsuit
By James F. Russell, Correspondent
Posted Jun 12, 2019 at 2:49 PM Updated Jun 12, 2019 at 4:30 PM
BOSTON – A multimillion-dollar fund established by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat with a net worth Forbes.com estimates at $56 billion, is at the center of a lawsuit filed against two Massachusetts Democrats who hold statewide offices.
Approximately $6 million was gifted from a foundation established by Mr. Bloomberg to the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, based at New York University School of Law, The The Washington Post reported in August 2017.
A principal aim of the lawsuit is to shine light on whether Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has accessed private attorneys who would be paid from that fund – instead of the state picking up the tab – regarding environment enforcement actions – and whether such an arrangement is proper. The plaintiff in the case says the complaint was filed to try to force the attorney general to release records about possible arrangements between her office and the Impact Center.
The Impact Center’s website says they “support state attorneys general in defending and promoting clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies. The non-partisan State Impact Center provides assistance to attorneys general in a number of ways.”
That includes: “Working with interested attorneys general to identify and hire NYU Law Fellows who serve as special assistant attorneys general in state attorney general offices, focusing on clean energy, climate and environmental matters.”
During a March 5 press conference organized by the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, Ms. Healey said, “We are proud to work with the Center. … Our work is about combating climate change. … In the face of efforts to take us backwards, to ruin the health and well-being of the planet, we will continue to see this administration in court,” a reference to the myriad lawsuits she is involved with targeting President Donald Trump’s administration.
Ms. Healey and Secretary of State William F. Galvin are being sued for allegedly failing to uphold the state public records law – Ms. Healey for allegedly not providing public documents, and Mr. Galvin for allegedly not compelling her to do so.
The complaint also alleges their offices worked in tandem to withhold information – what the lawsuit claims were “ex parte” communications.
Citing the active litigation, the Secretary of State’s office declined to comment.
It sought, “all opinions. … concluding that a Special Assistant Attorney General, or anything else provided by NYU, does or does not constitute an impermissible gift,” and “all correspondences sent to, from” Ms. Healey’s chief of staff, involving New York University.
Assistant Attorney General Lorraine Tarrow denied the request, stating on Feb. 22 in a letter that the information is “not subject to disclosure. … as they are records specifically exempted … by statute … as they are personnel files … some of these records are privileged attorney-client communications that are likewise protected.”
Mr. Hardin appealed the Tarrow denial to Supervisor of Public Records Rebecca Murray.
In her six-page determination issued on March 15, Ms. Murray wrote: “To deny access. … a records access officer must identify the record, categories of the records, or portions of the record it intends to withhold … Therefore, the AGO (attorney general’s office) must provide additional information regarding the nature of the responsive records.”
Suffolk Superior Court ordered the DAs to provide the records, back in November, but the three refused, and appealed the decision.
The case is expected to go before the state Supreme Judicial Court later this year.
Full story HERE