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By the Bozeman C

In response to recent requests for public documents, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has maintained he is exempt from the state’s open records laws. According to a recent Montana Free Press report, he claims his office’s “deliberative process” means documents he uses in the development of policy do not have to be shared with the public.

For those of us less legally informed, let’s get this straight: When the Montana Constitution says, “No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions,” it doesn’t apply to the very pinnacle of state government, the governor’s office?

Though that seems ridiculous on its face, it gets even worse when viewed in the context of a larger pattern.

Add to Gianforte’s counterintuitive claim a lawsuit filed recently challenging his administration’s Fish and Wildlife Commission for conducting of business out of public view via email. And then add to that committees in the GOP-controlled Legislature holding secret meetings with one less than a quorum of lawmakers so they can shut the public out. Taken together these practices and have the makings of government by cabal.

The cases involving Gianforte’s office include a request from an individual for bill monitoring forms that include information about constitutional issues and veto recommendations stemming from particular pieces of legislation. Also sought by the Montana Environmental Information Center were emails, letters, reports and other communications related to mining in the state.

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