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Guest view: Media are selective about public-records outrage
GUEST VIEW

Guest view: Media are selective about public-records outrage

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Crickets are chirping throughout the forests and plains of Big Sky Country, but the sound is not announcing the long-awaited blossoming of spring in the Rockies.

Instead the crickets’ eerie noises are all that can be heard in the midst of complete and total silence from Montana’s newspapers and other public right to know advocates.

As a major scandal involving Montana’s judicial branch of government continues to develop, the people normally at the forefront of open records, freedom of information, and the public’s right to inspect government documents are conspicuously absent.

What did we hear from them when the state’s Supreme Court Administrator deleted public record emails?

Crickets.

When Supreme Court Justice Dirk Sandefur wrote to the Legislature that he routinely deleted emails “for the past 18 years,” what did we hear?

Crickets.

Instead of calls to release public records, demands for explanations about deleting government emails, and questions about the Supreme Court’s activities, we’ve heard…

Crickets.

When the legislature launched an investigation into the deleted public records and other misconduct by the judicial branch, what did we hear?

Crickets, from everyone except the Butte paper’s editorial board, which told the Legislature to “knock it off” without saying a word about the judiciary destroying public records.

That same newspaper, along with a dozen other Montana media outlets, went so far as to sue the Legislature just a couple months earlier when lawmakers had one private meeting without a quorum of a committee.

A single private meeting with too few lawmakers to cast any votes resulted in an immediate lawsuit from a dozen public right to know advocates. The Billings Gazette also keeps touting winning a different lawsuit with the Public Service Commission over public records. Yet when Supreme Court justices and their employees admit to destroying public records we don’t hear a peep from any of the same folks.

Maybe the difference is that Republicans control the Legislature and PSC but liberals control the judicial branch. Montana’s media is always quick to claim they aren’t partisan and are committed to holding everyone in power accountable regardless of political affiliation.

And yet every day the crickets’ chirps become more deafening in the silence of those who should be raising their voices about the Supreme Court’s supreme misconduct.

Senator Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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