AG will go to court to defend refusal to turn over internal records in double-pay case

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The Guam Attorney General will go to court to defend its decision not to provide attorney Tom Fisher with emails and other documents that he wants for his lawsuit seeking double-pay for GovGuam frontliners fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

On Monday Superior Court Judge Elyze Iriarte “commanded” the Attorney General to comply with Fisher’s Freedom of Information Act request “and disclose requested documents” or come to court and show cause why the request should not be honored.

In response the Attorney General today issued a statement accusing Fisher of trying “to use (a) FOIA as a backdoor to obtain information outside of the rules of discovery in court proceedings.”

The statement goes on to point out that “the court’s alternative writ is a standard response that is not limited to a command to produce records, as Attorney Fisher misleadingly characterizes it to be” and “while the court’s writ requires production of records as one alternative, the other alternative is for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to justify why documents were not produced.”

The statement concludes by affirming that the Office of the Attorney General “will file a response to the court’s writ providing its justification.”

Judge Iriarte has ordered the AG to appear before her court at 3 p.m. next week Thursday, July 23, “to demonstrate your compliance or show cause why you need not comply.”

Fisher responds:

In response to the Attorney General’s response, attorney Tom Fisher issued a statement in which he “reminded” the Attorney General “that every person has the right to inspect and take a copy of any public document on Guam and public records are open to inspection at all times.  Public records include those generated and preserved on platforms such as WhatsApp.”

In addition Fisher accused the AG of “hostility to transparency” which he said “is a threat to the Sunshine Reform Act and an invitation to violate the Open Government Law using WhatsApp or similar platforms.”

READ the AG’s statement in FULL below:

Please see below statement from the OAG in response to Attorney Fisher’s press release issued late yesterday afternoon:

The court’s alternative writ is a standard response that is not limited to a command to produce records, as Attorney Fisher misleadingly characterizes it to be. Instead, while the court’s writ requires production of records as one alternative, the other alternative is for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to justify why documents were not produced. Attorney Fisher has filed a lawsuit against the Government of Guam involving employee pay, and then tried to use FOIA as a backdoor to obtain information outside of the rules of discovery in court proceedings. The OAG will file a response to the court’s writ providing its justification.

READ attorney Fisher’s statement in FULL below:

For Immediate Release: (Hagåtña, Guam) Today the Attorney General responded to the Superior Court’s issuance of a Writ of Mandate in Fisher v. Camacho, SP 0080-20.  Attorney Thomas J. Fisher issues the following statement:

“In his response, Mr. Camacho indicated he would not release for review and inspection documents which belong to the public.  The Attorney General is reminded that every person has the right to inspect and take a copy of any public document on Guam and public records are open to inspection at all times.  Public records include those generated and preserved on platforms such as WhatsApp.   

This hostility to transparency is a threat to the Sunshine Reform Act and an invitation to violate the Open Government Law using WhatsApp or similar platforms. 

Moreover, while Camacho insinuates the request is for a specific purpose he is further reminded that the purpose of the request is none of his business.  I suggest he read Guam law, particularly 5 Guam Code Ann. §10110 which states “[t]his Chapter does not allow limitations on access to a public record based upon the purpose for which the record is being requested”.