Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stonewalling - AG’s office: ‘If I had it, I wouldn’t give it to you’

Published in the Portland Phoenix

For someone whose government job is to handle media inquiries, Brenda Kielty, special assistant to and spokeswoman for Maine Attorney General William Schneider (a Republican), sure says some strange things on the record.
For example, when I was asking her how much taxpayer money the AG's office spent prosecuting fraud cases in Maine's welfare system, she told me her agency doesn't track attorneys' work by time spent on specific cases. When I asked why this government organization didn't use an extremely common business practice (private-sector attorneys bill in fractions of an hour as small as six minutes), she told me she was no longer going to help me.
And the information I had asked for? "Even if I did have it, I wouldn't give it to you," she said. "Because right now I don't like your tone." (It was quite obvious that it wasn't my calm tone she was objecting to, but rather the content of my questioning.)
I'd been taking notes through our conversation and double-checking things she said to me to make sure I got them right. So I wrote those two startling lines down and then read them back to her. "Excuse me, that's not a quote," she said, saying she would not cooperate with my inquiry into public expenditures "if you're going to be threatening to be putting my every word in print."
As I said, very strange for a person whose assigned job is to speak to the media. For his part, Schneider did not return calls seeking comment. As for the actual information we were seeking, we'll keep asking.