February 2013    
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  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 

Follow NEFAC's ongoing First Amendment conversation as it develops across New England 
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Live, from Augusta,
'Maine Capitol Connection'
Is on the Air

   There are no numbers yet on how many people are tuning in, but public TV's live coverage of Maine's statehouse got under way Feb. 5. 
   "We had some little glitches ... but you have to expect that when you're starting something new," said Mal Leary, director and managing editor of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network's pilot project. 
   The six-month, $300,000 effort is for now offering up to five hours of daily coverage, live or recorded on a free MPBN sub-channel.
   Programming after 7 p.m. includes reruns of committee meetings or floor sessions broadcast during the day. 
   The project is supported by MPBN's 2013 operating budget and private donations. No state money is involved, said Mark Vogelzang,  MPBN's president and CEO.
   The coverage is also available on the Internet for those who do not have access to the sub-channel carrying the feed.       

Keep up with First Amendment issues via NEFAC's blog

   It's a forum for citizens, journalists, students, public policy advocates and government officials to have their say on First Amendment issues.
   The blog is maintained by the staff of the New England First Amendment Center at the School of Journalism at Northeastern University.
   Submit comments to Laura Crimaldi:
Press Herald Asks Court to Open 911 Transcripts in Fatal Maine Shootings
By Cliff Schechtman 

   A teenager calls the Biddeford, Maine, Police Department and says his landlord is threatening him.
   An officer promptly arrives but soon leaves after determining it's a civil issue.

  Three minutes later, the teenager and his girlfriend lie dead, his mother 
Cliff Schechtman
shot and the landlord about to be arrested and charged with murder.
   Why did police leave the scene and what exactly did the victim tell dispatchers when he called? Did the caller say that the landlord had a gun? Did the responding officer know the landlord had a firearm?
   These are some of the questions the Portland Press Herald has been trying to answer but has been stymied by law enforcement's refusal to release the 911 tapes.
   Does the public have the right to know how well law enforcement is doing its job? Apparently not in Maine.
VT State Trooper's Downfall Started with a Newspaper's Records Request
By Mike Donoghue 
   It started off as a simple public records request by the Burlington Free Press to learn the 150 highest paid state officials in Vermont.
   Less than a year later a veteran Vermont State Police patrol commander was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of false timecard claims and
neglect of duty for pocketing almost $213,000 he was not entitled to receive.
   It is a case  that demonstrated the shortcomings of the Vermont State Police to properly monitor its workforce and the state to ensure proper payments to employees.
   State Police Sgt. James Deeghan, who was assigned for much of his 22-year career to the Chittenden County area, pleaded guilty in January to two felony charges of false claims, filed in July 2012, concerning his two time sheets for the previous month.  Read more 
Maine Proposal to Solve Doyle "Problem" Seen as Overreach
By Judith Meyer
There is a man living in Falmouth, Maine, who is perceived as a singular nuisance to public officials.
   Michael Doyle, who has lived in this toney coastal community for more than 30 years, submit
Meyer, Judith
s a lot of public records requests under Maine's Freedom of Access Act. Enough that Mr. Doyle has uncovered significant overspending that had previously escaped official notice, and so many that the town has instituted special rules when responding to his requests.
   Last year, Mr. Doyle submitted a request to the town for access to all email addresses contained in a database used by town officials to send transitory communications - newsletters and the like - to townspeople.  He got the list. 
Sandy Hook Massacre Focus of One of Two Major Conn. FOI Cases      
By James H. Smith
    Virtually every news organization in Connecticut has joined a friend of the court action to the state Supreme Court asking it to overturn a lower court restriction on how much information police must release in a criminal   in
Smith, James
   At the same time, The News-Times of Danbury, joined by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and Gannett Westchester newspapers are asking a Connecticut Superior Court judge to unseal search warrants and all related court records in the Sandy Hook School massacre.
   The prosecutor opposes unsealing the warrants even though the mass murderer, Adam Lanza, is dead and there will be no prosecution.  Read more
   We welcome contributions to The NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, adademics or other advocates of government transparency.
   If you have something to add to the conversation, please let me know. Your  stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value. - - Larry Laughlin, NEFAC Report editor. (lmlaughlin@gmail.com).