The City of Portland, Maine has been slow to respond to open records requests about its spending, its public officials unpaid tickets, and how much the city has paid in settlements for wrongful deaths.
1. What records have you requested?
A: In early February, we requested traffic tickets/summonses that were issued to the mayor, city council members and district attorney.
In mid-February, we requested records detailing any payments made as a result of wrongful death claims against the Portland Police Department for the years 2015 through 2022.
A mid-January request for credit card spending records was fulfilled this week, after two months.
We also requested in mid-January for the Portland Public Schools to send their credit card spending records. And we are still waiting.
2. What have Portland officials said about the requests?
A: We followed up with the city earlier this week.
Our request for traffic ticket records hasn’t elicited a response from the city.
About our request for wrongful deaths, a city spokesperson told us on Thursday that “This one will take a few weeks more given the workload of the person who needs to compile and review.”
Portland schools also hasn’t told us why it’s taking this long.
And as mentioned, we just got the city’s credit card spending records after two months — after our inquiry this week.
3. How does this compare to other cities?
A: Cities that have a well-managed public records process, like the City of Henderson, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, send records quickly, with details and officials have a willingness to answer follow-up questions and be transparent about their spending.
Other cities, like Baltimore, deny reasonable requests for public records, or slow-walk the production, and in the worst cases, don’t ever respond or send us the records, which of course, goes against the open records law.